Looking at Sourcing Through the Lens of Moneyball

In the middle of Moneyball, the movie, I thought to myself, the challenge that Brad Pitt’s character (Billy Beane) was facing reminded me of what we face in sourcing and recruiting. Brad Pitt (channeling Billy Beane) was expressing a sense of frustration that his scouts and team just didn’t get it — gut feelings about talent did not produce a winning organization. It was a new era — a new era dominated by data and analytics. Isn’t that where we are in sourcing and recruiting — a new era dominated by data, analytics, and metrics?

Prior to viewing the movie, I had read Michael Lewis’s book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, so I knew how the story ended. (Actually, as a Seattle Mariner fan, I knew firsthand how the story ends because we are in the same division as the Oakland A’s). But somehow the movie made the point more profoundly — there was a divide in sourcing and recruiting between the folks who embraced this new era of data and analytics and those who remain skeptical to change. So for me, it was seeing the story through a different medium (video) that brought clarity to my thinking. In other words, I saw the situation through a different lens.

I began to wonder — what if we looked at sourcing and recruiting through the lens of Moneyball. Is the Moneyball model a useful method of looking at 21st century sourcing and recruiting? Can a Moneyball approach better inform our sourcing and recruiting strategies? Would viewing sourcing and recruiting through a Moneyball lens bring some clarity to our processes?

Baseball and sourcing and recruiting have some obvious differences — the talent in baseball is under contract and can be traded; the target talent audience is fairly finite and those blessed with the skills to play the game are interested and available (for the right price); the performance of the individual players can be tracked over time from their play in high school and college baseball through the minor leagues until they reach the majors. Everything is analyzed — success and failure; wins and losses; perhaps even where, when, and how many times a player scratches themselves.

Where I saw the best application between baseball and sourcing and recruiting was in the sources of talent and how we can use data and analytics to discover the best and most productive sources of talent. Baseball begins scouting players in high school and gathers data on college players as well. The real scrutiny begins in the minor leagues as a plethora of information is gathered. Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland A’s would not draft high school players, because he felt the information on their productivity rested more on a scouts’ opinion or a gut feeling rather than concrete data and analytics that was better gathered at the college level. In college and in the minor leagues, better performance data is kept on players so they were better sources of talent.

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In sourcing and recruiting, we are challenged to judge the real performance of a source of the candidates that are hired. We gather information on visitors, impressions, and click-thru rates but lack visibility to the entire hiring funnel. For most of us, our de facto move if we need prospects for a job is to post it on a job board without knowing which job board demonstrates the most hires for this type of role. Or as Gerry Crispin, Elaine Orler, and others suggest, rather than a single source of hire it may be multiple influences and touches that result in a hire. That certainly makes identifying the source of hire more intriguing.

Recall those three questions that were posed earlier?

  • Is the Moneyball model a useful method of looking at 21st century sourcing and recruiting?
  • Can a Moneyball approach better inform our sourcing and recruiting strategies?
  • Would viewing sourcing and recruiting through a Moneyball lens bring some clarity to our processes?

In an ERE Webinar on Thursday, I am going to attempt to answer those questions as we have a conversation on Looking at Sourcing Through the Lens of Moneyball. I hope you’ll be able to join us.

Marvin Smith is veteran talent acquisition practitioner who focuses on strategic talent sourcing, talent community building, social recruiting, employment branding, and the use of technology to drive talent identification and engagement strategies. He has been on teams that were at the forefront of resurgence of talent sourcing as a strategic weapon in talent acquisition. These teams piloted groundbreaking programs (ERE-Media-award-winning) work that used business intelligence, data, and technology to segment the target talent audiences and build talent pipelines and communities. His current role is a strategic talent sourcing consultant with Lockheed Martin, where he is responsible for talent pipeline building for critical skills talent; project management of a RMP (recruitment marketing platform); and driving corporate-wide, talent community initiatives. Previously, he served as senior research recruiter on an internal executive recruiting team with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; a strategic sourcing program manager with Blackberry (Research In Motion); and a talent sourcer/program manager for Microsoft. He is a writer and speaker on the topics of talent communities, strategic talent sourcing, Moneyball sourcing, and talent acquisition strategies. You can follow his blog or join a community that he created on talent community development or follow him on Twitter.


2 Comments on “Looking at Sourcing Through the Lens of Moneyball

  1. Thanks Marvin, an insightful assessment of the changing landscape for recruitment focusing on the core element of identifying the best and most effective sourcing channels per job family and the ability to track and engage for future hiring needs

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