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CareersWc-Icon-4That’s right. From June 12 to July 13, the ‘beautiful game’ will light up TV screens and consume miles of newspaper column space. Bets will be placed, national honour will be at stake and, unfortunately, hearts will be broken. From an HR perspective, two things stick out glaringly and are food for thought.

The first is the makeup of the national teams. These consist of professional footballers who play in clubs and leagues around the world. Most often, they play against each other, especially the teams at the top. So how do they now put aside their professional rivalries and come together as a cohesive unit?

This is where the stuff we read about in HR and leadership literature comes into play: it is all about building the team through shared goals (no pun intended) and values. Since this is a national team now, the spirit is easily lit in the search for glory and immortality.

The other aspect that makes me wonder is back at club level: how does the management of these teams cope with the fact that everybody on the team is paid significantly different amounts? Some of these players are global superstars and their pay packages are the stuff of dreams. More importantly, this information is available to all and sundry. For us in corporate setups, we worry about ‘internal and external equity’.

Players know the system, so they understand that salaries will be different. This is a phenomenon in the sporting world and does not really surface as an issue. However, dealing firmly with behaviour that is not acceptable is the first and foremost priority for club management. The work ethic and team ethos cannot be overlooked and so the element of discipline is kept front and centre.

In my opinion, I think a lot of the management/leadership surrounding these stars has to do with creating a higher purpose – league championships or, in this case, World Cup glory. Who can resist that?

– Leon Menezes
The writer is a senior HR practitioner, professor-of-practice and executive coach.

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on June 8, 2014.