How the NFL is Benefiting from Behavioral Science
Behavioral Assessments are growing in popularity as more organizations are discovering how they can improve the quality of their hires. Not only can they be used as a tool to improve the quality of hire, but they can also assist with developing employees once hired.
The National Football League (NFL) is one of those organizations who recently started administering assessments very early in the scouting process during their Combine. The Combine is an annual event held in Indianapolis, Indiana where top college football players from around the world are invited to show off their skills in front of NFL personnel from all 32 teams. Clearly, a focus on physical skills like the 40-yard dash, bench press, and long jump are important. In addition to the physical skills, NFL executives, coaches, and owners also conduct interviews like those one would participate in when applying for a typical job. You can think of this event as a career fair.
Skills + Behaviors + Traits = Player Success
Recently, a new behavioral assessment (NFL Player Assessment Test) was added to the event to measure a player’s cognitive ability as well as several other behavioral traits. NFL teams discovered that while some players have the physical ability to be an NFL player, some lack the psychological aptitude to learn and process information quickly. This is a critical skill in the NFL as Plays are very complex and must be executed precisely. Furthermore, new Plays are installed each week so players must be able to learn and retain a high volume of information frequently and think on their feet. For this reason, the best players need to be multidimensional and more than ‘jocks. Imagine hiring for a more traditional role and only looking at a candidate’s resume. While it tells the hiring manager they have the skills and experience, it’s only one dimension of what a candidate needs to be successful in a job or their career.
The assessment also measures a player’s personality, learning style, and motivation. NFL teams want to know if a player is truly a “team player” or if they are a “me” guy. Some players are gifted at saying all the right things during interviews, but their actions don’t reflect their statements once they’ve been drafted. The assessment provides teams with a more realistic view of the player’s personality and character.
Assess Behaviors and Reduce Risk
Knowing what motivates a player is extremely vital in the NFL. Regardless how physically talented a player is, if the coach does not know what “makes a player tick” and the best communication style to use when coaching a player, the player will not reach his full potential. It’s difficult to know how a player will adjust to the NFL lifestyle and the pressures and NFL General Managers have identified this as one of the biggest challenges when trying to decide which player to draft. Teams have seen great results from administering assessments and have been able to use the results to not only draft the right player for their organization but also develop these players into exceptional professionals. With millions of dollars at stake, drafting the wrong player can be a costly venture – so NFL owners are thankful for the value behavioral assessments deliver.