How the Melbourne Storm created a 'one-club' culture that will also work for your company

Photo: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

The nature of employment is changing. While opinions are mixed about whether or not millennials are job-hopping more frequently than previous generations, one thing is clear: a millennial staying at a job for more than three years is become a rarity — quite like finding a ‘One-Club’ man.

Reading about NRL footballer Cooper Cronk’s recent decision to leave the team where he’s spent his entire career got me thinking about the elusive ‘One-Club’ men and women who spend their entire life playing for a single team — or working with just one organisation.

Having long-serving employees bring many positives – the intense loyalty, the long corporate memory, the deep expertise, the passionate commitment to clients – but it’s never been more challenging for companies to keep people. Three years is almost considered long-service, and with the rise of the ‘gig economy’, and where millennials are now outnumbering the other generations at work, it’s a real dilemma for organisations.

The career of a professional footballer is much shorter than a professional in the corporate world — but can we emulate the aura of ‘one club players’ in the modern workforce? In my opinion, yes it is possible and here’s how:

Foster a team culture

Like a football team, employees are looking for a collaborative environment. People want to feel that their individual contribution is important to the overall success of their team and organisation. Feeling valued is rated more highly than being well remunerated.

Many modern workplaces are removing their silos and shifting to ‘networks of teams’ where different specialists come together to work on projects, develop new products or service clients. It’s up to leaders to create an environment where everyone feels that their voice is heard and their input is valued.

Provide opportunities for growth

Cooper Cronk, who’s been at the Melbourne Storms since 2004, didn’t start his playing career as a halfback and his captain Cameron Smith didn’t start as a hooker. Great organisations – like clubs – actively look for the potential in their employees and provide opportunities for them to grow.

In some industries with defined career paths, this is easier. Other organisations will need to help their staff develop a plan for movement to keep valuable people engaged for the long-term.

Invest in continual development

Think of the hours of training that goes into every winning match. Everyone needs to expand and develop their skill set to stay relevant and up to date. Don’t let years go by without providing regular opportunities for your employees to learn and grow. If budgets are tight, think about offering enriching experiences, like a buddy system where individuals from different parts of the organisation connect and learn about each other’s roles, or collaborate on company projects.

Love your job!

Pay isn’t everything — recent research by Making Work Absolutely Human and Curtin University shows that loving what you do for a living counted more towards job satisfaction than any other factor.

Work is a core component of our existence, our identity, our financial independence, and ultimately, our overall well-being. A happy workplace where people feel valued can increase productivity and innovation and reduce unwanted outcomes like employee absenteeism, workplace grievances and staff turnover.

Recruit with an eye to the future

The skills you need now might not be what you need in the future. When you’re recruiting, you can look for specific attributes, such as adaptability, openness to change and the ability to learn. In organisations with defined career paths, the attributes you need for success at the early career stages will be very different to those needed further up ladder.

The downside to long serving employees can be resistance to change and inability to accept the need to work in new and different ways. Leaders need to be mindful of this and ensure they create a forward-looking organisation that embraces change.

Have strong, visible leadership

Cooper Cronk and his Storm teammates, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater, have had the same coach throughout their long playing careers. Another ‘one-club’ man, Bellamy has coached the side since 2003, taking the club to great success and earning wide respect from his players.

To create a culture that retains the very best people, you need the kind of leader who inspires loyalty and respect. Pay attention to your own skill set and professional development, and keep striving to constantly improve your own game.

Athena Chintis is the Head of HR for Findex.

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