Produce stars yourself!

Lionel Messi is undoubtedly a star. Next to Cristiano Ronaldo, he is one of the two best footballers of our time. With his club, FC Barcelona, Messi has won everything possible. He has won the UEFA Champions League multiple times and best footballer in the world five times. But, unlike Ronaldo, Messi is barely recognizable when he puts on the jersey of his national team, Argentina.

Except for an Olympic gold medal ten years ago, he has yet to win any major international title for his country. At the World Cup in Russia, he has retired with the "Albiceleste" in the round of sixteen.

Why is that? In his club, Messi finds familiar structure and routine and has a well-rehearsed team. In Argentina, he has to adapt to different game systems and coaches and teammates change more often. According to recent reports, there was even a dispute between Messi and Argentina´s Coach Jorge Sampaioli. Messi aptly demonstrates that even the biggest stars can only reach their full potential if they have a working team around them. This also applies to the non-sports stars among us. Similar observations can also be made in management practice, for example on New York's Wall Street.

Performance drop after job change

Studies at Harvard Business School in Boston show that when an investment bank successfully recruits a prominent analyst from another bank, the analyst’s personal performance often crashes rapidly in the new environment. Nearly every second star analyst delivers significantly worse results in the year after his or her job change. The Performance drops by an average of 20 percent and does not recover to the old level until five years later. Even the productivity and performance of the team working with the new employee also falls sharply. As a result, the market value of the company decreases. This is the opposite of what the addition of a Wall Street Stars should actually bring.

Of course, a top analyst does not lose his knowledge when he changes companies as a star footballer does not lose his technical skills when he changes teams. Messi does not forget how to play football because he puts on a different jersey. But evidence shows that the performance of a star always depends on both his or her personal competences, the skills of the team, as well as the systems, processes, and routines in their immediate environment. After a switch, these familiar, company-specific resources can no longer be used. Rather, the star and his team need to build a new working system, which can take years.

Companies have to produce their own stars

In addition to learning company-specific processes, the acquired high performer may have the added pressure of opposition from his new colleagues. Stars can be perceived as competition by established employees; and the arrival of the new star is associated with the loss of status of other team members. So, it may happen that established employees withhold information from or refuse to cooperate with newcomers. This is especially the case when the previous salary structure is exceeded. At the same time, stars in the new field of work must unlearn old practices and acquire new ones. As for all of us, it is difficult for them to unlearn old and successful practices in favor of new ones. These expected adjustment problems can scratch the ego of a star. And, an injured ego can reduce efficiency.

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Therefore, the tug-of-war for the stars (also called "Star Wars"), which starts reliably after every football World Cup, makes limited sense from an economic point of view. Buying a top performer is simply not worthwhile in many cases. A football club like Real Madrid, where this strategy works, is the absolute exception. But, this is precisely the fallacy that many companies fall victim to. Although they employ hard-working people, they do not exploit their full potential, for example through targeted training and further education. Rather, they focus on selectively attracting stars from outside. Very few companies recruit people of high potential, develop them into stars, and do everything they can to retain them in the long term. Of course, a star transfer can also succeed and contribute to the desired success. But, this is a relatively risky human resources strategy.