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Talent Talk: What the NFL Draft Can Teach Businesses about Talent Acquisition

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NFL teams prioritize certain positions with their top picks. Plastics processors have their own version of critical positions within their organizations, which can be characterized by the acronym ISAS — Innovate, Sell, Automate, and Save.

The National Football League (NFL) recently conducted its annual draft of college players, with all 32 teams choosing who to add to their rosters. Nearly all plastics companies will be adding people this year, and I believe there is one prominent similarity between the two that can help our industry.

On an NFL team there are somewhere between 13 and 22 separate positions needed, depending on whether you count each tackle, defensive end, cornerback, and so forth as one position or two. That does not include special teams players, so for this discussion let us assume there are over 20 positions to be considered in drafting talent.

NFL teams clearly prioritize certain positions with their top picks. For example, there were five quarterbacks, five wide receivers, and five cornerbacks taken in the first round. Offensive tackles and defensive ends were close behind, with half of all positions not addressed at all in the first round. All positions are important, but teams recognize if you are not strong in those areas you will struggle to grow and reach the objective of winning.

I believe plastics has its own version of critical positions (roles) within their organizations, and I use the acronym ISAS to describe them. ISAS stands for Innovate, Sell, Automate, and Save. We will take a brief look at what these roles are and why they are so important to an organization.

Innovation is important in our industry to stay in front of the competition. Whether it is in machine capabilities, polymer technologies, product enhancement, or green initiatives, you must be strong in the areas of innovation and new product development to be one of the top companies in your niche. If your current team needs help here, I recommend using your first-round pick on an innovation leader.

Top line revenue is crucial to any business, so after ensuring that you have products that the market wants, you need a great sales team. A company’s innovation is like its quarterback, and its sales force is analogous to the receivers. Quarterbacks may come first, but they are 1A and 1B because it will be difficult to move the ball down the field without both.

Automate and Save are related, as both are necessary to drive profitability and ensure that top-line results show up in the bottom line. If your factories are not embracing and investing in state-of-the-art automation technologies, you should use a high draft pick to add an automation engineer, continuous improvement manager, or similar talent to your team.

The Save in ISAS refers to key procurement staff. Our industry is driven more than most by being able to control raw material prices. Look no further than the commodity resin price roller coaster of the past year. Can you imagine if supply and pricing were not locked in, and increases could not be passed along? There is historical evidence that a junior procurement professional can save your company at least three to five times his or her annual salary, with top performers often reaching 10 to 15 times the salary range.

While no NFL team will win the Super Bowl if it is only strong in four or five positions, there is a reason they start there. I believe plastics companies should look at the ISAS positions and evaluate where they are today. It is a simple business model — Innovate, Sell, Automate, Save, repeat.


About the author

Paul Sturgeon is CEO of KLA Industries, a national search firm specializing in plastics, packaging, and polymer technology. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for this blog, e-mail Sturgeon at [email protected].

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