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Grow Your Business Your Team

Hiring? Take a Lesson from the NFL

Hiring? Take a Lesson from the NFL
Credit: Action Sports Photography/Shutterstock

With the National Football League draft just a couple of months away, businesses can learn a lot from how each team picks its players, new research suggests.

While professional teams will look for the players who can make the best catches, run the fastest and make hard-hitting tackles, they also will be looking for traits that extend beyond the football field, such as working harder than necessary, making personal sacrifices that benefit the team and helping teammates who are struggling, according to a study set to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology.

"These 'character guys' are better investments for NFL teams," Tim Maynes, one of the study's authors and an assistant professor of organization and human resources at the University of Buffalo School of Management, said in a statement. "Players who hit the weight room after practice, spend extra time analyzing game film or help a rookie learn the ropes while in college will be drafted earlier, awarded higher starting salaries and be more successful in the NFL."

After analyzing 440 college football players who were drafted into the NFL between 2006 and 2012, the researchers discovered that having high character — which was determined by researching more than 36,000 media sources for articles spanning each player's entire four-year college career to find instances where they acted as team players — not only contributed to how early in the draft some players were selected, but also determined how well they would perform in the professional ranks.

Maynes believes the research has strong implications for businesses as more and more companies move from individual contributing types of structures to team-based organization. [Teams Work Better When Employees Care About Each Other ]

"The ability to function well as a team and to engage in behaviors that will help the team function more effectively are becoming increasingly more important," Maynes said.

Maynes said the study's findings are applicable to any workplace involving teams like committees, task forces, product development or client engagement teams.

"Hiring managers need to look beyond just the previous job performance of candidates," Maynes said. "Finding a candidate who will take the time to go the extra mile will benefit the team they're working on and the organization as a whole."

The study's authors said further research should analyze industries other than the NFL, to investigate best practices for hiring in nonteam settings, and to take other factors into consideration, such as national culture and differences in hiring managers and team climate.

The study was co-authored by Steve Whiting, an assistant professor of management at the University of Central Florida College of Business Administration.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.