How The NBA Free Agency Mirrors Corporate America

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Professional athletes are in the prime of their career in their 20’s, but as they reach their 30’s priorities change. It’s no different with Millennials in the workplace except their best career years may be ahead of them.

During the NBA free agency period players without contracts have the opportunity to strike it rich with their current or new team through signing a multi-year deal. Most NBA players want 3 things:

1) To win now

2) Be the “man”

3) Max money

Assuming an athlete has been in the league for a couple of years and excelled, the bidding wars begin. As a fan I found myself making parallels towards Corporate America this summer. Take the 3 wishes of basketball players and they can be translated to young professionals:

1) To make a difference/impact (winning)

2) Be valued as an important contributor (the “man/woman”)

3) Make as much money as possible

What’s interesting is the shift in values over generations.

Millennials care more about lifestyle than paycheck.

Purpose in work is greater than titles.

Promotions only feel “real” when accompanied by personal growth.

This NBA free agency period marked the first time top players chose small markets (San Antonio & Milwaukee) over large ones (Los Angeles & New York). The playing field has been leveled and location no longer is an important criteria. It is if you care about nightlife, housing costs and distance from family, but otherwise it’s an afterthought. It’s a reason why growing startups can steal top talent from established corporations.

I’ve always believed that Millennials are Millennials no matter what they are doing. “Perks” are popular because they show employers care about their wants. Sometimes perks are used as a recruiting and retaining factor. Understanding what Millennials want in their career reveals how they can “fit” in your organization. My point is people are people no matter what they are doing. Generations share certain core values that resonate amongst them. Tap into those values and their pulse reveals what matters. Cater to the heart.

 

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