August 21 , 2017

Build a ‘Superteam’ — a Recruiting Strategy That Can Lead to Industry Domination!

The most powerful business strategy and the one with the highest capability for literally driving your firm to industry dominance may be building a Superteam.

If you are a recruiting leader who wants to have a significant strategic impact, approach your CEO with the idea of building a “Superteam” at your firm.

You don’t have to look any further than the Golden State Warriors or the New England Patriots to understand the tremendous long-term value that results from building a “Superteam.” This strategy has recently become the primary goal of many other sports teams because it allows an organization to dominate its sport within a relatively short period of time. And it is my contention that if corporate CEOs knew that this type of strategy could be implemented at their firm, they would immediately want to build one.

Sometimes the Simplest Solutions Are the Best Ones

If you’re not familiar with the term, a “Superteam” is an organization that succeeds because it is purposely populated with a handful of superstars. The focused recruiting strategy has its origin in professional sports, but it has also been used in the corporate world. The goal is to dominate an industry over the long term because of a firm’s concentration of powerful and even intimidating talent.

The strategy works because rather than the traditional approach of spreading very good talent equally throughout the organization, it focuses on attracting a relatively small amount of superstar talent and concentrating them in a few critical jobs. In the business world, this strategy can also be called “topgrading” or “continually raising the hiring bar.”

Firms like Google and Apple understand the value of recruiting superstars in part because they have calculated what is known as “the performance differential.” This is the multiple that exceptional performers produce above what an average performer in the same job would produce (at Apple that differential is 25 times more and at Google, it’s a whopping 300 times more). Jack Welch, while he was at GE, used this “continually raise the hiring bar approach, ” and Amazon uses it today.

Propose Building a “Superteam” to Your CEO

There are many benefits that accrue to an organization as a result of having a “Superteam.” They include:

  • The strategy is simple and easy to understand — identify the handful of jobs that have an exceptional impact on the firm. Fill them with superstars. What could be simpler? And because superstars don’t need any training or much supervision, everyone understands that the focus of the strategy is almost entirely on superstar recruiting.
  • The “Superteam” goal by itself will get the attention of superstars — whether they work in sports or another industry, superstars are obsessed with winning. As a result, merely announcing your strategic goal of building a “Superteam” will automatically attract the attention of all superstars in your industry. And that means that when they are contacted, they will already have a strong interest in learning more.
  • Identifying superstars is relatively easy — with the growth of social media and employee referrals, it’s relatively easy for a firm to identify the superstars in their industry. In today’s highly connected world, there simply are no hidden superstars.
  • You might be able to complete building your “Superteam” in 18 months — unlike sports leagues, business industries have no rules restricting the movement of individuals between organizations (in fact it’s illegal to collude to restrict this movement). That means that without employment contracts and with great recruiting, you can attract the few superstars who you need relatively quickly. Your firm can attract them even faster if you know how to do “team lift outs” (where you recruit an entire intact team all at once).
  • You will probably need to hire less than a dozen superstars — because the volume of superstars that you need is low (it was only 3 out of 12 players on the Warriors). And in the case of LeBron James, hiring a single superstar might be enough, because during the last seven seasons, whatever team had LeBron on its roster reached the NBA finals. So instead of using a broad recruiting approach, you can focus your limited recruiting resources and recruiting talent on a small number of recruiting targets. Incidentally, you will need to create some “always open” positions (aka evergreen jobs), so that you can immediately hire a superstar the instant that they become available. And in some cases, you will also want to “over-hire” a surplus number of targeted superstars so that they can’t join a competing firm.
  • Once you have a few superstars, they act like a magnet to attract others — this last year, only having two already established superstars on the Golden State Warriors was enough to attract a third superstar (Kevin Durant). So once you have a few superstars, “if you build it, the rest will come.” And in most cases, your current superstar employees themselves will help you recruit others (this happened with the Warriors). Superstars are so focused on winning that when they hire subordinates for their own team, they will likely only hire the best.
  • Superstars also bring innovation — because the top five firms in market cap value (Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook) are all serial innovators. It’s now clear to CEOs that serial innovation is also a requirement for market domination. Fortunately, superstars are usually innovators themselves, and as an added benefit, they will also inspire others to innovate.
  • The strategy only requires a few great recruiters — obviously, recruiting superstars requires exceptional recruiting talent that is capable of building relationships of trust. However, because you are focusing on such a small number of jobs and recruiting targets, you might only need 3-5 exceptional recruiters (depending on the size of your firm) in order to build your “Superteam.”

Yes There Are Problems, but They Can Be Overcome

Just like in sports, it also takes a great manager to build, manage, and retain a “Superteam.” And individual superstars often have huge egos that can be hard to manage. However, when they as a group realize that they are all committed to winning, the superstars themselves will likely contribute to keeping other superstars in line. And finally, hiring and paying superstars will be expensive, but the return that they provide will be so great that the ROI of the strategy will be extremely positive.

Final Thoughts

It takes big ideas to produce big results. So I urge recruiting leaders who are committed to making strategic business impacts to think big when it comes to selecting a recruiting strategy. And once you get over the myth that business can’t learn from sports, it’s easy to see how this “Superteam” strategy rises to the top. So, why not run the “Superteam” concept by your executives? It just may result in you becoming a corporate hero.

If you found that this article stimulated your thinking, please connect with me on LinkedIn.

image from rawpixel

As seen on ERE Media, July 31, 2017. 

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.