The NBA, the NFL and Employee Engagement

One of the reasons employee engagement is a broad topic is that what engages one person won’t engage another person. Let’s take a look at a couple of instances in the NBA and NFL where employee engagement efforts actually resulted in positive ROI.

Kevin Garnett (KG) of the Brooklyn Nets, formerly of the Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves, was engaged during his rookie season. KG was 19 years old when he was drafted by the Timberwolves in 1995. Kevin McHale (McHale) was the General Manager of the Timberwolves at the time. McHale knew adjusting to the NBA would be difficult for a 19 year old, so he took KG under his wing and treated him like a son.

Because KG was under 21 years old, when the Timberwolves were on road trips, he wasn’t able to do a lot of the things his teammates did. In an effort to make KG feel like he was part of the team, some of his teammates stayed in the hotel playing video games with him. When McHale caught wind of this he suggested the entire team stay in the hotel to make KG feel welcomed.

Before his rookie contract ended KG re-signed with the Timberwolves for six more years. He said one of the major reasons he re-signed with the Timberwolves was because of the concern they demonstrated for him.

Pete Carroll is the Executive Vice President of Football Operations and head coach of the Seattle Seahawks (Seahawks). Before Pete arrived in Seattle, he was the head football coach at The University of Southern California (USC) from 2000-2009.

Prior to becoming a college football coach, Pete coached in the NFL. Being a college coach changed Pete’s perspective of football players. In order to coach college students, you have to be concerned about the mental and emotional health of your players. Pete’s experience at USC has translated into a holistic approach towards professional football players. The holistic approach Pete has brought to the Seahawks not only applies to the players but the entire Seahawks organization.

In the NFL, demonstrating concern for the mental and emotional health of your employees is not business as usual. Having grown men that are over six feet tall and weigh over 300 pounds, do yoga, and mediate is very different. Having a holistic approach to professional football players is a paradigm shift for most owners/coaches in the NFL.

The players in Seattle willingly talk to the media and other players around the league about the good things that are going on with their team. They appreciate having a boss that cares about their mental and emotional health.

Kevin McHale was the General Manager with the Timberwolves and Pete Carroll is the Executive Vice President of Football Operations for Seattle. In both instances, upper management took the lead in creating a healthy work environment for their employees.

If you want to engage your employees, treat them like human beings. Demonstrate a genuine concern for the mental and emotional health of your employees. It has a proven ROI. Like KG and the Seahawks, your employees will stay longer and willingly recruit for you.

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Analytics on Employee Engagement: Seriously?

When I started this series on employee engagement I intended to write three posts. But, while doing my research, I found there is so much information on this topic, three posts would not be sufficient to address all the important angles.

One of the ways organizations assess employee engagement is by collecting and assessing analytics. In the following three scenarios, organizations obtain the engagement level of their employees and do different things with the results. In each scenario, the company obtains analytics about their employees’ engagement. Determine which scenario is using analytics to benefit the organization.

Company One
Company One has a solid reputation and aspires to be one of the top companies in the industry. The company’s leadership knows in order to gain entrance into that top tier of companies, they’ll have do something to separate themselves from their competitors.

They understand that having the analytics done is what will propel them into the top tier of companies. Their motive has nothing to do with improving the level of employee engagement. They are only interested in positioning the company. Since the analytics were done with a selfish motive once the company leaders obtained the information it was ignored.

Company Two
The leaders of Company Two have a different perspective of the results of the analytics they obtained. Company leaders reviewed the accompanying recommendations and realized it will take a lot of energy and effort to make the necessary changes. But, because some of the suggested changes involved putting aside their personal views and drastically altering the way they do business, company leaders decided to ignore the results and not make any of the changes.

Company Three
Before the research was conducted, the leaders from Company Three were well aware of the culture they were dealing with. They knew the company culture was “we do things the way they’ve always been done.” After reviewing their analytics, they decided the best thing to do was to implement the recommended changes.

However, just before executing their plan, they discovered the culture of the company was such that the changes could not be implemented without a great deal of internal upheaval. Although they knew the changes needed to be made to fix their problems and return to profitability, company leaders decided that trying to implement such drastic changes could destroy the company entirely.

What Should They Do? You Decide.
Company One’s motivation for pursuing analytics is that it shows they care about their employees. Company Two’s initial motivation for obtaining analytics was to improve the company. But, when the rubber met the road, they were not willing to put their own opinions aside to implement the recommended changes. And the leaders from Company Three decided they were not willing to invest the time and energy to do what was ultimately best for the company.

Bottom line, the decision to engage employees or keep them engaged is always in the best interest of the company. And analytics is the best way of assessing your success or failure at doing this. But if you have analytics done on the engagement level of your employees, make sure you implement the recommended changes. Lack of implementation is why employee engagement is and will continue to be a hot topic in the business world.

If you have a question or comment leave it below.
I can also be reached at

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