How Do You Manage the Talent War?

In this guest post, Insights At Work is delighted to feature the view of Dr. Tony Strudwick, Head of Performance at Manchester United F.C.

How Do You Manage the Talent War?

31 Mar 2017 by  Dr. Tony Strudwick

Growing competition for talent is forcing today’s HR leaders in all industries to come up with new strategies for acquiring, retaining and developing skilled employees and leaders. Manchester United Football Club, a partner and client of Aon, have built a high performance culture around getting the most out of their talent. It starts with an innovative approach to talent management with an eye to the future.

Talent management in a changing world

Imagine being able to identify prospective employees and future leaders at the age of eight. Manchester United are renowned for their youth programme, which nurtures players from 8 through to 18 with a comprehensive support system of physical training, conditioning and nutrition, as well developing valuable social skills that benefit them on and off the pitch. 

With a critical skills shortage on the horizon and the world changing at a rapid rate, talent management needs a new approach, and Manchester United has demonstrated the strategic agility to remain at the top of their game.

Grow your own talent

Buying or otherwise acquiring outside talent does not always address all of the needs of an organisation or a football team. Manchester United long ago recognized the need to provide a “runway” for players to get to the first team. Their youth Academy has produced a steady stream of success with nine players in the English football Hall of Fame and the record for the most matches with an Academy graduate in the first team squad.

Knowing the value of an investment in home-grown talent, Manchester United also pursue best practices for retaining talent, whether they come from sport or their affiliation with Aon. That means engaging with players on an individual basis, building relationships and supporting them from a performance perspective.

Maximise performance of each individual


Academy players at Manchester United have individual development plans focused on four areas: technical, tactical, social, and psychosocial/physical. Data is monitored for every player – sleep patterns, aerobic capacity, hydration status, muscle fatigue and more – to fine tune and support their performance development.

Translated to the business environment, it means making use of available data to manage the performance of “corporate athletes” and making sure they each have their own development plan to support them and offer them individual feedback.

Continually engage and assess

With a pipeline of young players, Manchester United understands the importance of adapting HR tactics to a new generation. The youth coming up in the system are confident, technologically savvy, independent and motivated by variety and fast results, making continual engagement and feedback critical. The club gives them the space they need to thrive and develop through their investment in the Aon Training Complex, a world class facility where their individual needs are met.

For Manchester United, maximising the return on people investment takes vision, passion and dedication. The club has learned that winning the ‘talent war’ means creating an environment with an emphasis on individual development and engaging with people on performance.

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Need help to develop new strategies for acquiring, retaining and developing skilled employees and leaders in your company? Get in touch with us.

Dr. Tony Strudwick

Tony is Head of Performance at Manchester United F.C and is in his 10th year at the club. In the past 9 seasons, he has been part of a Premier League, UEFA Champions League, World Club Championship, Carling Cup and Charity Shield winning team. He is a dynamic high performance practitioner with a proven track record of success at an elite level of performance. Tony completed his Post Graduate doctoral thesis with Liverpool John Moores University in 2006.

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