Pep Talk – What Man City Are Doing Now That All Workplaces Will Be Doing in 10 Years

Whether you’re a football fan or not, there’s a lot more to the beautiful game than kicking a ball around a field. High-performance sports has long been a pioneer in recruitment, people management, data analytics, performance psychology, and training. There’s plenty the business world can learn from elite sports.

This is what struck me when watching Amazon's documentary series about Manchester City, All or Nothing, which offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how an ultra-successful sports team functions.

Led by genius-like manager Pep Guardiola, Man City have raised the bar to new levels in recent years. But despite the hundreds of millions of pounds lavished on the squad, there is much more to their success than simply hoovering up the best talent, and I’ve concentrated on some of the less obvious ones below.

Here are a few things that that Man City are doing now that all workplaces could be doing in 10 years’ time.

1. Letting talent get on with the job

No doubt about it, Pep Guardiola is one of the finest football managers in the world. But behind every great manager is a great team. At Man City, that means a veritable army of specialists there to handle everything from analytics and analysis to fitness and nutrition. As a unit, their job is to get out of the way and let Pep get on with his job with minimal hassle.

If we look at how we function in the modern workplace, our average day is spent battling against constant distractions and noise, or bogged down in unnecessarily time-consuming processes, making it difficult to find the time and space to truly focus on our work. But when these barriers to work are removed, like they are for Pep at Man City, we have the time and space to do what we do best.

Workplace tech is partly to blame here – if anything, it makes our lives more complicated, not less. And this is where we will have to see improvements.

Digital assistants are a good start. By simplifying tasks, providing instant access to information, and even temporarily blocking incoming messages and alerts, they allow us to find more time for deep focus and flow.

2. Personalised micro-learning for all

Even the most talented footballers need guidance and training to realise their potential. At Man City, a team of analysts and tactical coaches provide constant, personalised micro-learning at both an individual and team level.

This means analysing the things that worked well, scrutinising the things that didn’t, and fine-tuning elements of play to fix issues and enhance performance. And all this is available on point, as they need it.

In the workplace, we need to move away from the idea of learning as a periodic event, and adopt real-time, personalised learning, just like Man City.

Of course, your average business can’t afford a dedicated team of trainers and analysts to provide on-the-spot guidance, so we need to look at augmenting this process through technology.

Again, personal assistants are a good place to start. By capturing data on an individual’s skills, goals, performance, and mood, they can push out personalised learning content, ideas, and insights to nudge the employee in the right direction.

3. Teams moving together in expeditions

When you sign Pep Guardiola as manager, you don’t just get him; you get an entire crew of support staff that go with him wherever he works. If Pep leaves Man City one day, his crew will leave too, and they’ll all go on to the next opportunity together.

We already see this type of thing in the construction industry, where brickies work in crews rather than as individuals. I think we’ll see more of this in the workplaces of the future, with people moving from opportunity to opportunity, or project to project, in specialised groups.

I use the word ‘move’ figuratively, of course – such teams are just as likely to be ‘virtual’ than on-site.

4. The value of joy in key employees

What makes a team successful? Beyond natural talent, beyond training and recruitment, there is a human element – morale. In football, as in any workplace, certain members of staff act as the glue that holds everyone together. They are the ones that make everyone laugh, that help to lighten the mood when things are down.

At Man City, this person is the kitman, Brandon Ashton. Despite his relatively low-profile position, Brandon has forged strong bonds with the first-team squad, with club captain Vincent Kompany describing him as “the heart and soul of the dressing room.”

In a results-driven business such as football, where analysts pour over data to find better ways to predict success, what value can we attach to someone who brings smiles to everyone’s faces?

In the world of work, we tend to define key employees in terms of their performance, not the joy they bring to others. In the future, to better understand the dynamics and factors that result in high performance, we’ll need to broaden our minds beyond traditional performance indicators, to include human factors such as joy.

Watch Mark's DisruptHR presentation on the topic


Mark Williams - https://people-first.com/

Mark is dedicating to re-humanising the workplace, feeding his passion for technology, research and gamification to not only improve but also fix the world of work.

Mark has spoken at many industry events on topics spanning artificial intelligence, robots, chatbots and the future of work, and he is always keen to connect with enlightened leaders to continue the future of work discussion.

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