Challenges and Opportunities of Hiring in Sport Management

Published: 2021-09-14 16:30:08
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Today, the growing interest in sports events is undeniable. Sport is watched as much as it is played and when it is watched, it invokes passions that go beyond most experiences. To put this into perspective, consider the viewership statistics of the English Premier League. According to the Business Insider the 2014-15 season was broadcasted in 730 million homes, reaching more than three billion people. The organisation of such a global sporting league involves the participation of many as workers resulting in a broad range of roles that must be filled. Some areas in which sports managers are involved are event operations supervision, legal services, ticketing, team coordination, medical services, media and TV, marketing, licensing, hospitality services and IT solutions. Skinner and Stewart (2016) emphasize that each of these roles require varying levels of experience, technical, physical and emotional skill to carry out tasks in an effective manner with sport enterprises requiring the right person at the right place. There are numerous opportunities as well as challenges faced by sporting organizations in trying to identify the right candidate for a role; however this essay focuses on three opportunities and three challenges from the commercial and governance aspect of a sporting league. It explores the challenge of the inadequate supply of experienced and qualified workers in the sport industry, the difficulty in hiring a candidate with the right personality traits required for a particular role, and discusses the challenge of hiring to maintain gender diversity in the workplace. In terms of opportunities, the essay delves into the benefits of globalization and the opportunity of hiring international candidates, the use of the internet and social media in hiring and finally the opportunity of hiring former athletes and players to fulfil various roles in a sporting organization. One paragraph is dedicated to each challenge and opportunity below.
Challenges of hiring in Sport ManagementThe first challenge to be examined is the inadequate supply of experienced and qualified workers in the sport industry. The importance of having relevant educational qualification is that it enables one to perform job activities efficiently and effectively. It indicates to an employer that a candidate has the basis to gain the practical experience based on acquired knowledge and concepts. As one looks to gain expertise in a particular field, it is important that he understands the theoretical reasons for him performing a specific task. “Individuals with first-class degrees were almost twice as likely to be in employment than those with lower classifications. This suggests employers are valuing grades over other skills and experiences, perhaps because qualifications provide an apparently objective and ‘quantifiable’ metric.” In a survey conducted by Perron (2011) the skills most important to employers are communication, people skills, basic reading, writing, arithmetic and industry-specific skills. Many potential sport industry candidates initially work and gain experience in a different industry. For instance, a candidate may have been involved in marketing for a services company before then deciding to switch to a marketing role in the sports industry. He is then required to depend on skills he has not used before, in order to be successful, which in turn does not produce expected results in a timely manner for the organization. A comment from the respondent bulletin board in Perron’s survey says “There is no shortage of applicants when we open a position, but you still have to work to find the more qualified candidates with the appropriate skills and experience”. The requirement of relevant experience and qualifications is especially important in the sports industry due to its unique nature as compared to other industries. Distinguishing features such as the irrational passions of supporters and customers along with the fishbowl experience of athletes in sport require that employees of the sport industry understand these intricacies and also have experience in working in such an environment. Mullin (1985) supports this unique nature of sport by saying “Almost every element of marketing requires significantly different approaches when the product being marketed is sport. Predictably, the critical differences lie in the unique aspects of the sport product, and the unusual market conditions facing sport marketers.” There are a number of governing bodies in sport that have understood this need for a qualified and experienced workforce. One such body is the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) with one of its key focus areas being supporting partnerships between schools and sports in order to deliver attractive and relevant sporting experiences for the next generation.
Sport organizations are also faced with the challenge of hiring a candidate with the right personality traits required for a role that also fits into the overall culture of the organization. A new candidate should ideally fit seamlessly into the working culture. This would not only ensure that the company’s procedures and policies will be adhered to, but that the candidate is motivated to produce high quality results. Everyone has their own unique personality which is expressed through their beliefs, emotions and way of conduct. The organization workplace is a union of all these unique personalities which requires that employees interact with each other, and the exchanges that occur are influenced by each individual’s personality. Traditionally in sport, it is seen that players or officials create an impact by projecting personalities that are larger than life or unconventional. The presence of these ‘large’ personalities can lead to clashes at the workplace and hence it is imperative that sporting organizations understand how different people respond to different experiences. According to Skinner and Stewart (2016), one popular and engaging model that evaluates personality in relation to occupations is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator Model (MBTI). It evaluates personalities into four fields: energizing – extrovert versus introvert; attending – sensing versus intuition; deciding – thinking versus feeling; and living – judging versus perceiving. Using this mapping, the operations team of a sport organization would ideally want to hire a candidate who is an extrovert who relies on his senses over his intuition and bases his actions on his thinking and judgement. Each role may favour a different personality mapping that is best suited to accomplishing the requirements of that role. If the recruiter is able to understand the type of personality best suited for the position to be filled, it is likely that a candidate with that personality type excels at his job. Having said this, a common misconception that managers usually have is that they assume that if populate their staff functions with appropriate personalities, their workforce and employee performance problems will be resolved. Unfortunately this will not happen as overall job-performance is a multidimensional issue. Skinner and Stewart (2016) state that these dimensions include cognitive ability, motivation, emotional intelligence, past experience and various other job-specific skills and abilities. The fact that personality is complex and so varied and that a person may exhibit behaviours across personality dimensions, is what makes it challenging for sporting organizations to hire the ideal candidate for a specific role.
Another challenge in hiring which is under global scrutiny at the moment is that of maintaining gender diversity in the workplace. With worldwide laws moving away from a patriarchal, male dominated society towards equal working rights for women, human resource teams of all companies have a clear target of hiring to ensure the target of gender diversity in their organization is achieved. This is of particular importance in the sport industry where the labour force has traditionally been male dominated. The Victorian government identified that in 2016, only twenty two of the ninety nine state sport and recreation organizations funded through Sport and Recreation Victoria, have a female chief executive officer (Victorian Government, 2016). They have since prescribed a document titled ‘Guidelines for the recruitment and retention of women in leadership roles’ in which they ask that the unconscious bias of women being suitable only to supporting / caring and therapy roles, be challenged. Cunningham (2008) states that women have made significant progress in many areas of sport including all-time highs in participation rates and occupying high profile positions in organizations such as the International Olympic committee. He also stresses that despite these gains women are clearly under-represented in other areas. For instance, 42.4% of women’s collegiate teams and less than 2% of men’s collegiate teams are guided by a woman head coach. In the Australian high performance / sports science space, the workforce is predominantly young, male and relatively inexperienced. Some of the problems faced by women in sport are touched upon by Cunningham (2008). He mentions that relative to males, women are more likely to receive lower returns for their human and social capital investments, face obstacles in career progression, and encounter work-family conflict. There have also been numerous news articles and media reports of female employees being sexually harassed at work or subject to derogatory comments from various levels of management including CEOs of multinational organizations. As a way of tackling these problems, sport organizations should be proactive in that they adopt a broad view of diversity and value diversity to the maximum extent; have policies, procedures, and practices aimed at developing a diverse workforce; and are characterized by flexible organizational structures, with open communication lines, and power shared by diverse persons. Another practice that can assist recruiters in improving the gender diversity in sport is to focus solely and base their decision on the competency of the applicant so as to eliminate any conscious or unconscious gender bias.
Opportunities of hiring in Sport Management
Having considered some of the challenges in hiring in the industry, this essay will now shift focus to the opportunities that exist. The first opportunity is that of globalization of sport and its ability to transcend borders, race and religion. Sport is a universal aspect of modern culture that spans languages and countries to engross both participants and spectators, both as a pastime as well as a business.Thibault (2009)reminds us that the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) has more member countries, 208, than the United Nations (UN) with 192. This globalization has been beneficial in many ways to sport. Some evidences are: the diversity in origins of athletes participating in professional sporting leagues around the world (for example, the English Premier League and NBA); athletes crossing gender, religious and climate barriers such as Muslim women participating in football and the Jamaican bobsleigh team at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games.Using the example of the collaboration of Japan and South Korea in hosting the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Wilsey (2006) demonstrates the positive effect on politics that globalization of sport has created.
In less than half a century South Korea had gone from not allowing the Japanese national team to cross its borders for a World Cup qualifier, to co-hosting the tournament … Give the world another 50 years and we might see the Cup co-hosted by Israel and Palestine.
Using the lack of international boundaries as leverage, sporting organizations can target international fan bases in order to boost their revenues. Giant European football clubs such as Manchester United are tapping into the massive Indian and Chinese population of fans and have seen major successes with marketing strategies such as fan parks screening live games and official club memberships. With the large number of international students pursuing sports related courses in Australia, local clubs and organizations can look towards them as the link to tapping foreign markets. Hiring and then training new international student graduates to represent the organization as an ambassador or to drive the marketing strategy in their respective countries has potential for success. Another benefit of this cross regional collaboration is that strong, symbiotic relationships can be formed. Sporting organizations in different countries can examine the operating structures of each other, understand what makes each one successful and replicate the applicable strategies in their home country.
The second opportunity this essay will consider is the use of the internet and social media in hiring and making decisions on candidates. The internet is rapidly changing the way businesses operate and the hiring process is also part of this wave of change. The internet can be used to find and attract new graduates or skilled workers who are everyday users of technology with social media being an integral part of their daily routine. 73% of American adults engage in social networking with the percentage of young adults (18-29) being even higher at 83%. As a result of the vast number of users, social media usage has become intermingled with the workplace. Drouin et al (2015) refer to a Jobsite study from 2013 which showed that 93% of recruiters were likely to view social media profiles of applicants and 43% have changed their decision on a candidate, both positively and negatively, after viewing a candidate’s social media profile. The customizable nature of social media feeds, allows candidates to receive information only about companies that they are interested in. It also works in the reverse way where organizations can apply filters to search for candidates that possess certain required skill sets. Thus employers can make more informed decisions on fitment of a potential candidate using information from their social media activity. Another aspect of Internet usage that can be leveraged by sporting organizations is the ease with which information can be shared. There are a variety of forms of social media such as blogs, videos, podcasts, which engage different audiences. Many such audiences consist of current employees who share their experiences with prospective employees who then form their impressions on whether or not they would like to work with that organization. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn connect likeminded individuals and allow employers free access to potential candidates all over the world. Sport organizations can advertise for different roles and access a broader talent pool allowing them to potentially hire for multiple positions. In an interesting survey from Robert Walters 85% of job seekers held LinkedIn memberships but more than 20% of employers did not have any social media presence whatsoever. It is therefore clear that there is an opportunity for organizations to actively pursue building their online presence. This allows for a two-way benefit of organizations reaching their target candidates and candidates reaching their target organizations.
The third and final opportunity of hiring that is examined in this essay is one unique to the sport industry and is that of hiring former athletes and players to fulfil various roles in sporting organizations. Apart from having strong work ethic, being team players and being passionate about the sport, they have vital information on the culture of their organization and understand the intricacies on being successful in the sport. Former athletes are better able to assess the fit of other potential candidates, that they are able to provide more valuable contributions in a shorter span of time as compared to non-athletes, and that a pre-established trust exists between all parties. Sporting leagues and clubs also look to leverage the stardom and fan following of their former stars by hiring and appointing them as ambassadors to represent them in global promotional events. In the media and broadcasting space, there are a host of former athletes who get involved in live commentary which ensures large fan participation and viewership. Bearing all these advantages in mind, there is clear scope for sporting organizations to look at creating training plans for athletes to transition them into required roles once their playing careers come to an end.
There are always two sides to a coin and where there are challenges; there are most certainly opportunities that can be capitalized on. The sport industry is no different. This essay reflected on some of the challenges and opportunities in hiring in the sport industry from the commercial and governance perspective of a sporting league. First, it discussed the dearth of qualified and experienced labour in the sport industry and explained that it is essential due to the unique nature of the sport industry. Second, it examined the challenge of identifying candidates with the right personality traits required to perform a particular role. It showed that hiring the right candidate is a difficult task because of the complexity of people exhibiting traits across different personality dimensions. The third and final challenge discussed is that of maintaining gender diversity in the workplace. It is explained that this is an aspect being actively worked upon in the sport industry with focus from government authorities as well. The essay then went on to list some of the opportunities in hiring in the sport industry. The benefits of globalization in sport were considered and how organizations now have the opportunity of hiring candidates from different nationalities to leverage the lack of international boundaries. Next, the benefits of hiring using internet and social media were looked at with focus on the two way benefit. Finally, it concludes by discussing the opportunity and benefits of employing former players in sporting organizations.

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