When a sports team is located in the heart of Silicon Valley and is owned by a high-tech visionary, you’d expect them to leverage technology to give them a competitive edge. You’d be right.
But when you think of a major league sports franchise, you probably think it doesn’t have much in common with small business. You’d be wrong.
The San Jose Sharks – located smack dab in the epicenter of the technology world — are 95.7% owned by Hasso Plattner, the founder of SAP, the world’s third largest software company. So it’s not surprising that management thinks a lot about the technology they use, especially when it comes to managing employees.
When the San Jose Sharks take the ice in the SAP Center [www.sapcenteratsanjose.com] (fans affectionately refer to it as the ‘Shark Tank’), there may only be six Sharks players on the rink. When game time rolls around, there may be 750 part-time workers greeting guests and keeping the stadium clean.
But on a day-to-day basis, the Sharks organization is actually a fairly small business. They depend on only 150 full-time workers for all the Sharks have to handle.
“We manage the facility (SAP Center), including booking and maintaining the building. We book concerts, ice shows, other sporting events. We have 150 -175 non-hockey events a year,” said John Tortora, Chief Operating Officer of Sharks Sports & Entertainment (SSE).
SSE also operates three additional, popular ice skating facilities in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Combined, they have the largest number of registered adult hockey league players in the US — surprising in sunny California. (Eat your heart out, Minnesota!) They also own and manage a minor league hockey team.
Sharks management needs to make sure their employees are productive, motivated, and, working toward common goals: the same personnel challenges faced by every entrepreneur.
“Even though there’s only 150 full-time employees, it’s often difficult for everyone to know what each other is doing and how they fit into the organization,” explained Fiona Ow Giuffre, the Sharks Vice President, People.
Even in a much smaller organization, that lack of communication and understanding of common goals can be an immense challenge.
To insure that all employees understand how their work impacts the company and the team, the Sharks use SuccessFactors – a cloud-based program designed for “Human Capital Management” (HCM), owned by SAP.
“Everyone wants this to be a sustainable business,” said Tortora.“SuccessFactors enables each employee to see how their work fits into overall goals. The maintenance team can see how their work on maintaining the ice helps the team win games.” Other teams can see how keeping the facility clean helps improve guest satisfaction and keep them coming back.
A program like SuccessFactors, especially when used along with a collaboration tool, such as “Jam” – also from SuccessFactors — enables managers to give employees immediate feedback in real-time rather than waiting for annual performance reviews. Moreover, it empowers employees to communicate with their bosses and with each other.
“Collaboration is extremely important to millennials as well as alignment to goals,” said Kevin Gilroy, SAP’s Senior Vice President and General Manager, Global General Business. “People want to connect.”
Gilroy emphasizes that all employees, but especially younger workers, want to know how they fit into an organization – that their roles have purpose. That’s a tough challenge for every business.
For the Sharks, of course, the ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup. But performance on the ice is only the tip of the ice berg – or the ice rink (which is actually built up with 40-60 passes of applications of deionized water to build up approximately 1.25 inches of ice to make it harder and less likely to chip – as I recently learned in a fascinating tour of the SAP Center.)
The Sharks are also in the beginning phases of working with SAP on player scouting software, according to Tortora. But in a way, they’ve already got one kind of scouting program. “With SuccessFactors, we can highlight the high potential employees, promote them, develop their careers.” said Ow Giuffre.
And hopefully, very soon, bring the Sharks the coveted Stanley Cup.