Wednesday, June 09, 2010

What we can learn from the baseball draft

Longtime Major League Baseball commentator Peter Gammons was recently interviewed on National Public Radio. What does baseball have to do with recruitment and selection? Quite a bit, actually, but in this case the conversation was even more relevant because he was discussing the accuracy of the baseball draft.

I think you will agree with me after reading/listening to his observations that the draft has several lessons for all kinds of employers:

- More information is better. As scouts have been able to gather and crunch more data about prospects, the accuracy of predicting how a pick will fare in the big leagues has increased. We know from assessment research that more measures are better (up to a point) in predicting performance.

- The type of information matters. Scouts used to focus on relatively narrow measures such as running speed. Today they consider a whole host of factors. Similarly, modern assessment professionals consider a wide range of measures appropriate to the job.

- Personality matters. While lots of data about skills is important in prediction, personality/psychological factors also play a big role in determining success. Personality has also been one of the hottest topics in employment testing over the last 20-30 years.

- It's rare for a single candidate to shine head and shoulders over the rest. Making a final selection is usually a challenge.

- Assessment is imperfect. Even with all the information in the world, a host of other factors influence whether someone will be successful, including which team the person is on, their role, and how they interact with other teammates. This also means "low scoring" candidates can--and do--turn into superstars (Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals was a 13th-round draft pick).

- Ability to learn is important. We know from assessment research that cognitive ability shows the highest correlation with subsequent job performance (esp. for complex jobs), and many have suggested that it is the learning ability component of cognitive ability that matters most.

- Good recruitment and assessment requires resources. Organizations that take talent management seriously are willing to put their money where their mouth is and devote resources to sourcers, recruiters, and thorough assessment procedures.

By the way, 2009's first overall draft pick, Stephen Strasburg, had an excellent debut last night for the Washington Nationals, striking out 14.

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