Football is the winner in FA culture change

While England’s participation in the World Cup may hang in the balance,
football’s long-term health looks assured due to a massive, HR-driven culture
change at the Football Association.

The FA has nearly doubled its revenue and profit over the past two years.
Projected revenue is £182m for this year, with a profit of £41m.

This enabled the not-for-profit organisation, which governs the English
game, to invest £65m last year in the development of football at all levels –
its ultimate aim.

HR director Paul Nolan explained the FA’s people strategy has been to
support the drive for high performance.

Nolan said: "Our strategy is about building a high-performance culture
through the people capability within the organisation. In doing this, we have
established HR as a key business support and change function at the FA."
He is the first HR director of the Football Association and sits on the
executive management team.

After joining the FA in September 2000, Nolan set about recruiting staff
from blue-chip organisations that possessed the commercial competencies need-ed
to deliver the FA’s aims.

Approximately 70 per cent of the organisation’s income comes from the sale
of broadcasting rights of England and FA Cup matches, with the remainder from
commercial partnerships, licensing and gate receipts.

Improving the employer proposition was key to the recruitment drive.
Salaries were benchmarked and made more competitive, and staff were offered better
career and skills development. This was helped by a move from Lancaster Gate –
with its traditional, bureaucratic image – to trendy offices in Soho Square,
explained Nolan.

Staff numbers have been increased by nearly 100 to 270, with key people
being recruited from fields as diverse as retail, oil, financial services,
advertising and pharmaceuticals. Nolan now heads a six-strong HR team.

He said: "We have completely repositioned the organisation. Two-thirds
of the people here today weren’t here two years ago. We have brought in new
capabilities and a sharp business focus."

Performance management has also been key to the FA’s cultural turnaround. A
new pay structure has been introduced which is driven by performance – managers
can award pay rises of up to 10 per cent dependent on staff performance.

Two-and-a-half years into the FA’s change programme – chief executive Adam
Crozier joined in January 2000 – the HR team are focusing on succession

Nolan said: "We are trying to ensure what we’ve achieved is
sustainable. I don’t want the whole thing to collapse just because a couple of
senior executives leave.

"The most successful organisations know there is an advantage to be
gained through continuity."

The FA is introducing a fast- track management development programme to
groom the game’s future leaders.

The nine-month programme is to be launched in September and will identify
and nurture 20 junior and senior managers at the FA with high leadership

The MBA-level programme will be run by the Cranfield School of Management
and focus on strategy and management skills.

It is part of a new training and development strategy which means all staff
have individual development plans. The plans are tied to a competency framework
that includes ownership, achievement, innovation, change orientation and
leadership as important factors.

The number of training days for all staff have increased 20-fold to more
than 1,000 in the past two years.

Nolan’s drive for a high-performance culture supports the FA’s wider aims.
Technical director Howard Wilkinson told Personnel Today: "We have a
development strategy designed to bring an advantage on the field through
consistency, continuity and succession.

"We now have a people strategy for our organisation that replicates
this philosophy and if we get it right will be a source of benefit. It will be
an advantage to the FA for years to come."

By Mike Broad

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