It's the news that's been doing the rounds, the transfer to end all transfers that football fans and non-football fans alike have been flabbergasted, shocked, outraged and thrilled about. £200 million pounds in transfer fees, £750,000 a week in wages and an absolute smorgasbord of associated deals to make the most expensive football transfer in all of history that is more than double the previous one.
As ever football can provide lessons that can be applied in the wider world and the Neymar saga is no different and provides a very unique lens into the change that's been slowly happening in recruitment over the past few decades that, like the Neymar transfer, is changing the game completely and those that don't keep up risk getting left behind.
The Rise of Player Power
Yes, this old chestnut and something that those in the corridors of power in football knew long ago; recruitment power lies with the players, not the clubs. This shift is notably happening in the real world too and we're seeing ever greater competition for the top talent, especially in the highly mobile tech industry, than ever before and so now it is moving the way of companies that must impress candidates rather than necessarily the other way around.
Of course, in yesteryear a company would post a job, get a whole load of applications, have their pick of the bunch, drive them through rigorous interviews and a difficult process to squeeze out their best fit. The power lied with the company; they had the job, they had the right to choose, or choose not to give the job to the candidate therefore the candidates had to play by their rules. In a burgeoning market like the tech industry this has completely changed. Like football, employee loyalty is a bit of a distant memory. Sure, some people are in it for the long haul, but most careerists are looking for a way to climb their ideal ladder as fast as possible and that tends to mean switching every 1 to 3 years to stay just ahead of the game. This created a real need for talent and in a tech industry where innovation comes first, he who has the best talent has the best company. Companies had to invest far more in the candidate experience but also in developing distinct, attractive cultures for their candidate market and extensive benefits systems that provide immediate gratification for the employees. Whilst the company can still be picky and apply their own rigorous standards, the market is ultimately driven by the candidates needs now, not the employers. Some employers of course still treat it as though the other way around and expect every candidate to bend over backwards to please a potential employer. For the real talent, they just aren't willing to do that and it's not out of laziness or lofty personal opinions, rather it is about the power dynamic; "If my employer doesn't treat and respect me as an equal, why would I want to be a part of that company?" The position of subordinate is no longer desirable, especially amongst a millennial generation so geared towards equality and now these candidates, knowing they have the skills to work at top companies, will not simply settle for 'whatever they can get'. This of course has positive elements and negative elements, but if you're in a market where applications are sparse, most candidates are passive and waiting to be approached, and having top talent will make all the difference, it is the company that must make the top effort, not the candidate.
Loyalty v Loyalty
Of course, there will be those who rile against it, understandably. Same as in football, with people wishing for loyal players and reduced wages and money. It's a reasonable position, to hark for the good old days, but those critical of football players and those who wish that the candidates would all come to them are both making the same mistake. They assume that this has all happened because players became greedy, or because candidates became lazy and self-important. It was always a two-way street. In football, clubs show shockingly little loyalty to players. A young player coming through the academy will be discarded without a second thought, an 8-year veteran forgotten about and released the second a new boss comes in that changes his mind. Loyalty wasn't shown to the players, so why should loyalty be returned? The clubs lack of loyalty came from a desire to minimise costs, risk and maximise profits. The players from a desire for greater competition and ambition. Sound familiar? If you're a business owner, bemoaning the lack of loyalty or the perceived fickle nature of modern employees, ask yourself a simple question; what are you doing to keep your talent? What loyalty schemes are in place? How has the culture of the company been developed to strengthen the bond between the company and the employee? If you are expecting your employees to go the extra mile you should always expect the company to do so as well. We reap what we sow and forget that business is much like all our other personal relationships; trust breeds trust, kindness breeds kindness and loyalty breeds loyalty. How you treat others is how you will be treated by them in kind and those perceived negative traits in modern employees says as much about the companies as it does of them.
In the end, the only real solution to address the growth in candidate power is to make the company as attractive a prospect as possible, thus allowing you to qualitatively choose as they come to you, but also to do so to reduce the risk of talent leaving. Rather than riling against an undesirable reality, find solutions to make the reality you want happen. The power is moving more and more to the candidate’s court and it'll be a while until most companies get on board with that and start addressing these problems internally. Get ahead of the curve and when the shift fully happens you can already be coming back around to set the balance back in your favour.