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Southampton Football Club uses football academy as HR model

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Southampton Football Club is taking the lessons learned in training sports stars to develop its other employees.

Southampton Football Club is using its successful football academy as a model for employee development, the club’s head of HR has told HR magazine.

A meeting of senior club leaders in March led to them asking how they could apply the academy’s model for supporting young talent across the workforce.

“One of the things that we discussed is ‘what do we do well now and how could we expand that across the rest of the club’?”  Michelle McCrindle said. “If you stick with that philosophy you can’t really go far wrong.”

In the same series of meetings, staff from all areas of the business were asked to explain what they felt defined the organisation. Five key values were agreed on: respect, unity, creativity, accountability and aspiration.

These were grouped together as part of a unified way of working named the Southampton Way. It was then taken to the board and day long staff and manager workshops on values and culture were introduced. “We discussed how to change as we go forward, as well as having a dedicated time to reflect on how to implement these values,” McCrindle said.

Southampton first team manager Ronald Koeman attends staff meetings. McCrindle said the atmosphere in the training ground, where the footballing staff have the most integration with non-footballing employees, is “very inclusive”.

Strong ties with the footballing side of the business has led to employees feeling a passion for the club, which McCrindle said is the biggest opportunity and challenge for HR.

“People care so much about what they’re doing. The reason I’d call this a challenge is it’s so important to get it right. Expectations are high; people hang on your every word. But at the same time it’s an amazing organisation to work for. People are so driven for the club to succeed. I’ve never been at a place like it in terms of how much people care.”

At the time of writing, this passion and culture is certainly paying dividends on the field.