Managing talent – how do you stop Bale or Suarez from leaving?

It’s becoming a perennial problem in football: the agonising and seemingly endless speculation before the football season begins as football journalists grasp at anything to create a stir and grab headlines, however spurious.

But what can the contract negotiations of Bale, Suarez et al tell us about retaining talent? That it’s better to let star talent leave if they want to go rather than force them to stay and endure tantrums or a drop in performance? Why would a star performer hold themselves back to remain in a club or an organisation rather than move on to bigger and better things? How do you retain your game-changers when the rest of the organisation is still catching up and you’re a while away from making a breakthrough as a company?

To a certain extent it seems that football clubs can be held hostage by their star talent. And there are some who argue that this focus on star talent is a distraction from what makes football clubs truly great, which is homegrown talent. Is there a lesson for business in here?

Businesses are warned that when economic recovery comes we will struggle to hold onto our talent, and that with recovery will also come a ‘turnover spike’ in labour markets. Retention is going to be one of the biggest issues organisations face in the next five years as growth returns and labour markets pick up. We should look at our employees and proactively engage them in the organisation to prevent them becoming a flight risk.

I recently read a Forbes article which addressed the problem of why talent leaves, and the writer Erika Andersen boiled the reasons down to:

Top talent leave an organization when they’re badly managed and the organization is confusing and uninspiring.

It’s the management and organisational structure, mission and culture that need fixing if you’re going to hold on to your star performers.

To this we can add top footballing talent leave when the best come knocking with an open cheque book? Maybe there’s not a lot we can do about that?


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