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Thursday, January 12, 2012


 During the fall of 2011 the film Moneyball was released.  I read the book years ago when it was issued and as a fan of both the author, Michael Lewis and the ball club (Oakland A’s), I loved it.

The book centers on how a professional baseball team managed to successfully compete against competitors that had much deeper pockets than they did.

The front office brain trust of  General Manager / owner Billy Beane, Paul DePodesta(Assistant to the General Manager) and J.P. Ricciardi(Director of Player Personnel) among others brought the practice of sabermetrics into the world of sports.  

The secret of the Oakland Athletic’s success hinged on their ability to place a premium on skill sets that were vastly different than the skill sets that other club’s traditionally valued.

As a result the Oakland A’s enjoyed several years of success by pursuing players with high on-base percentages and pitchers that managed get opposing batters out even though they didn’t light up the radar gun.

The main theory at play is that baseball traditionalists have overpaid for certain attributes of their players while others were totally overlooked.

All of this started me thinking, “Isn’t it at least possible that there could be key differences between the traits employers value greatly and the traits that really make an employee more valuable?”

Let’s take a look at a few and see:

Overvalued Skill / attribute – A degree from “designer label” institution.

For some reason employers tend to be dazzled by prospective employees that have received degrees from Harvard, UC, Stanford, Wharton, etc. I have no issue with education but I can’t believe that people who graduate from these institutions have a monopoly on brainpower.

Undervalued Skill / attribute - Self-motivated worker.

You’ve got love an employee who doesn’t have to be told to do everything. We all need direction on the job but someone who is naturally inclined towards taking positive action on their own is worth their weight in gold.

Overvalued Skill / attribute -  Prospective applicant must be currently employed.

I can’t say that I really understand this one. Let me get this straight, people who are currently employed are by default, more qualified than those who are currently unemployed? Many unemployed are that way through no fault of their own.

Undervalued Skill / attribute - Creative problem solver (Thinks “outside of the box”).

You can’t put a price on this skill set. The ability to think outside the box and/or be a creative problem solver is possibly the most valuable an employee can have. Imagine a workplace brimming with creative, problem solving employees…awesome!

Overvalued Skill / attribute - Experience using today’s “hot” technology.

Often employers are really excited about employees that have a decent level of expertise in the hottest software applications: HTML5, Ruby on Rails, SAP, and Oracle to name a few. I understand this but sometimes this expertise is valued more highly than behavior-based skills.

Undervalued Skill / attribute -  Positive attitude / Professional behavior.

During the course of one’s work life it’s stating the obvious to say that things won’t always go swimmingly. Working with someone who has an upbeat, “can do” attitude along with a touch of humor makes the worst working environments a little more tolerable. 

Overvalued Skill / attribute – Applicants with a high G.P.A. from school.

A G.P.A. can tell you a lot about a person.  However, my opinion is that it is a poor barometer of the type of performance you will receive while on the job. To succeed in the workplace you need real world skills, and you won’t acquire those spending “all-nighters” in the library. The ability to think quickly, organize effectively and communicate clearly should be weighted heavier than one’s GPA (In my opinion).

Undervalued Skill / attribute - Conscientious employees who watch over the company’s money as if it was their own.

I’m not encouraging overzealous behavior in this instance. Everyone can appreciate an employee that doesn’t abuse sick time, lunch breaks and never fails to give a full days work for a full days pay.  Unfortunately there’s never a shortage of folks that treat company supply cabinets as if it’s their personal toy box.

What other examples of “Moneyball” values in the workplace can you think of?


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