Performance Management

Winning Ways: Behind Norwich City FC’s Talent Strategy

April 4, 2024
April 16, 2024
Helen Morris
Lattice Team

Football has always evoked passionate dedication from fans, transcending cultural, geographical, and language boundaries — after all, it’s called “the beautiful game” for good reason. At every level of the game, prioritising talent and performance is crucial.

Perry Hamilton is Head of HR and EDI at Norwich City FC — one of the UK’s most loved and well-regarded football clubs. Hamilton recently shared his perspective on the club’s unique approach to performance management, employee engagement, culture-building, wellbeing, and more.

Driving Success With Goal Setting

You might assume Hamilton spends his workday surrounded by players and coaches. But he kicked things off by setting the record straight: His role is focused on promoting overall effectiveness and engagement within the club as a whole, which has the net effect of elevating the club’s performance. This layered approach is essential to HR functions in any industry, let alone the challenging terrain of football — which remains the UK’s most popular sport.

Our infinite purpose is to leave the football club and community better than it is today…

In the sporting world, success is traditionally measured in tangible terms like goals, points, or wins. 

On and off the pitch, the club has a community-focused approach to ensuring employees are working towards a cohesive set of goals: “Our infinite purpose is to leave the football club and community better than it is today, and everything we do stems from that,” he said. 

A combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches is harnessed, where individual department goals are based on wider strategic objectives. Hamilton explained, “We link them to our club values and our club core behaviours, which we’re really open about. Within that, we allow people a lot of flexibility in setting their own goals, in approaching how they want to monitor the success of their own department, as long as they can articulate the connection to what the club is trying to achieve.”  

Creating a Culture of Accountability and Wellbeing

It would be easy to assume that company morale dramatically dips after a bad day on the pitch. But Hamilton explained that a loss doesn’t tend to affect the working environment: “We have a very strong accountability culture, so if you come into the office after a hard fought game that you lost despite doing everything you could — heads are up, people are buoyed up by the energy that was shown.”

It starts with people understanding that they can, and are allowed to, look after their mental health.

With the club’s commitment to creating a sustainable culture where everyone is met with resilience, positivity, and compassion, that's perhaps not surprising. This compassion fuels the club’s ability to ensure employee mental health is protected while building a high-performance culture within the highly competitive world of football. Hamilton was clear on the process, sharing how for Norwich, it’s all about “culture, and that takes time to build. A culture of permission, and a culture of self-accountability. It starts with people understanding that they can, and are allowed to, look after their mental health.”

The club’s dedication to prioritising the mental health of everyone involved with the club, and in their wider community, is undeniable; evidenced by their powerful #youarenotalone suicide prevention video, which has now amassed over 150 million views across the world. 

Tackling Change Fatigue 

Change is the name of the game when creating champion-level play. Hamilton explained that building team resistance and mitigating change fatigue is an intentional focus for club leadership: 

“There’s a certain type of person that is attracted to working in a high-performance sporting environment. One of our core values as a club is resilience, so we automatically [look] at ways to identify resilience in each individual. If you’re bringing people in the door who automatically have that high level of resilience, you know first and foremost that change fatigue is not going to come on as quickly. Secondly, I’m looking at their behaviours and how they respond to pressure, and how they would work and survive in our culture.” 

You have to be open, honest, and transparent when you are talking about change.

He also spoke about the critical need for exceptional communication: “You have to be open, honest, and transparent when you are talking about change. People are very quick to figure out when you are hiding something from them and especially when you are hiring high-performing, switched-on individuals in a sporting environment.”

Norwich City FC is at the beginning of its journey with Lattice, with an initial focus on measuring culture. In the long term, Hamilton and team hope to use the platform to track how employees are responding to club changes and other challenges inherent to working in sport. Hamilton shared how his team is utilising the question banks in the Employee Engagement Survey feature and aligning the questions with how employees feel they can demonstrate the values and behaviours of the club.

Hamilton’s insights shed light on how fusing adaptability, resilience, and a steadfast commitment to values and wellbeing sets an industry standard when it comes to managing talent in the dynamic world of football. When paired with the strategic use of HR technology such as Lattice — this approach makes for a winning combination. 

Take a tour of Lattice here and see how you can improve performance management and employee engagement at your company.