Replacement Refs: What Can Hiring Managers Learn From This?

By Adam Robinson,
September 25, 2012

By now you’ve seen the footage.

As the seconds drain, the last leap by half-a-dozen NFL players to catch a ball that would end a crazy Monday Night Football game in either victory or defeat. Then horror (or glee if you are in Seattle) as the game is actually decided by a terrible call and a bunch of replacement referees.

Depending on your alliances and geographic location (Da Bears!) you are probably either infuriated or flat-out flabbergasted by the lack of training and preparation these replacement officials received. Whatever you think about the now infamous “Fail Mary” catch between the Packers and Seahawks, we can all probably agree on one thing. The locked-out referees need to come back, now.

As hiring managers, how can we learn from events like this? With so many strikes happening around the country, is this what it has come down too? A company doesn’t want to pay it’s employees more so it simply locks them out and replaces them with less experienced and cheaper workers. Or often times an organization promotes employees who are doing well in their position to a higher position which is often referred to as: the Peter Principle. What happens then? Well, take it from Patti Johnson, who said in an article on TLNT titled, Replacement Refs: It’s a Lesson About Getting the Right People on the Job,”that a “lack of skills and experience in key roles affects the service we offer, new customers, sales and growing the business.”

Everyone knows that hiring the wrong person for the job is a costly mistake, (made blatantly obvious last night) but what about promoting internally or offering poor training for the position? Hireology’s Product Development Director, Margot Baill, says that “promoting someone internally doesn’t mean they are qualified for the job.” Baill stresses that “conducting conclusive interviews with the employee highlighting the skills and traits needed to perform the new job is critical to any promotion.”

It’s just common sense. Why did the NFL assume that arena-league and college football referees would be able to handle the pressure of nationally televised events where they are being heckled, bribed, and shoved by some of the world’s most famous athletes and coaches? They should have been interviewed, watched, and trained well before being thrown into the big leagues. Isn’t that what the HR department does?

True Faith HR’s Matt Stollak wrote an article  about the replacement officials last week before the Monday night game even aired called What We Learn About Replacement Labor from the NFL, and he states that the “larger lesson to be drawn is that, perhaps, not all human resources are easily replaceable.  That a race to the bottom in terms of labor might not be the wise path to take.”

Stollack continues with, “Certainly the “scab” refs are cheaper than the refs that are striking, but they are also pretty bad.” 

For all companies out there who have replaced their expensive talent, Johnson warns: “You probably won’t have millions of people watching your every move or players tweeting your phone number so everyone can call and complain. But, there still may be talent gaps that are costing you big time.” 

So before you start complaining about bad calls and blind refs, take a look at your talent gaps and see who’s outta their league in your business.

Make sure you don’t drive away those top employees with a poor company culture. Read our guide on turning turnover into retention. 


About the Author

Adam co-founded Hireology with the mission to help growing companies make better hiring decisions through data and better technology. Adam is passionate about entrepreneurship, donating time to a number of organizations that support the entrepreneurial cause. Adam completed his undergraduate study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and received his MBA from DePaul University in Chicago, IL.

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