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Bringing the 35th America’s Cup back to New Zealand was always going to be a mighty test, but having accomplished the feat against wealthier, larger and often more practiced squads, Team New Zealand has created a blueprint for success – regardless of challenge.
Although much has been made of the Kiwis’ design ingenuity and technological developments, one of the bases underpinning the team’s successful navigation of the qualifiers, play-offs and 7-1 victory over Oracle in the final was the team’s recruitment and retention strategy.
Within a couple of months of the gutting 9-8 loss in San Francisco in 2013, Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton was already back to the task of raising sponsorship an ensuring the squad had the right members to move the challenge forward.
Key, often controversial, decisions – such as negotiating pay cuts for the 50-strong team that kept the boat afloat during 2015 – might have made waves in the media, but they ensured Team New Zealand were always tracking strongly towards Bermuda.
So, in light of The Auld Mug’s return to Auckland and three more years of watching Team New Zealand chart their way towards sailing success, here are a few lessons their winning strategies can teach Kiwi recruiters and businesses.
Although much of the attention was on the wing sail, hydrofoils and six-man team of cyclors, trimmers, skipper and helmsman, a quick glance at the Team New Zealand website shows that it took 91 people to run the operation. From structural engineers, boat builders and machinists to chefs and IT managers, it’s often the unsung roles that form the framework for overall triumphs. And when you have such a finely balanced framework and – as was clearly the case with Team New Zealand – a highly fraught financial situation, it vital to ensure that every job description is clear, every role is filled with the best possible candidate, and every link in the chain is secure.
Sailing has long been a hands-on activity so when you want to find the best sailors in the world, chances are you’re looking for people who are used to a little rope burn and more than a few blisters. The technological innovations that Team New Zealand brought to their boat, though, meant they didn’t use any ropes to control the wing and skipper and wing trimmer Glenn Ashby was in charge of a small black console much like a PlayStation. Yes, he would have needed many hours of training to get used to the new technology, but his overall sailing smarts meant he was still the right man for the job. Any business has to balance searching for new talent versus training existing talent, and often it’s a candidate’s untapped potential that will make them right for seemingly unmatched job descriptions.
When businesses find themselves existing in a rapidly changing industry, it often takes a mix of foresight and bravery to see how to bring new skills on board. World record Olympic rower Rob Waddell played a key role as a grinder in the 2003, 2007 and 2013 America’s Cups when upper body strength was the main focus – but after bringing in their revolutionary on-board cycles to power the hydraulics, this year’s challenge included Olympic sprint cyclist Simon van Velthooven. This move from grinders to cyclors has been seen as a key part of the overall victory and – as far as other teams were concerned – came right out of leftfield.
There are no recruitment agencies for an America’s Cup team – it’s a matter of searching the world for the right people. A good example of this was hiring British-born technical director Dan Bernasconi to lead the new boat design after previous chief designer Nick Holroyd left after the 2013 loss and went to Team Japan. Bernasconi had spent six years with Formula One’s Ferrari before switching to sailing but it was his smarts and innovation that led the successful challenge in Bermuda. Although ensuring Team New Zealand’s base was firmly in New Zealand, the business wasn’t scared to put feelers out around the world to secure the services of the very best in a highly competitive marketplace.
In a world where recruitment agencies and consistent job descriptions are hard to come by, Team New Zealand’s defence in three years’ time is going to be based largely on retaining the skills they already have – and protecting those existing team members against the big chequebooks of their rivals. All businesses are used to being part of a global market when it comes to retaining excellence but America’s Cup sailing has to be one of the more cut-throat environments. It’s no surprise, then, that team boss Grant Dalton was talking about the retention of sailors, designers and shore crew in almost the same breath as cheering home the Auld Mug.
QJumpers is constantly evolving its leading edge recruitment software so businesses can trust their system to cope with constant changes and stay at the forefront of sourcing, bringing on board and retaining the best talent. To learn more about how we work and how our software can help your company, contact us on 0800 758673, firstname.lastname@example.org or via our website.
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