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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