HR Lessons from Irish Rugby’s Recent Success

August 21, 2023
HR Lessons from Irish Rugby’s Recent Success
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Ireland’s upcoming Rugby World Cup bid reminds us how professional sports teams excel at getting the best individual and collective performances out of people.


But is there anything for business owners and managers to learn from Ireland’s recent rise to the top of the world rankings?

Let’s take a look at some lessons that Ireland’s World Cup hopefuls can teach us about team performance.


Right People in the Right Positions

There are fifteen players on a rugby team with distinct skills and physical attributes.

Coaches, trainers and the whole management team work hard at finding ways to help the players maximise their abilities.

Even people with little interest in rugby can see that some players have very different sizes and competencies depending on their position.


Takeaway for Business Owners

A business needs the right people to be in the right positions. Matching employee skills with the responsibilities of their position will go a long way to determining whether they’ll be a long-term success in their position.


Long Term View vs Short Term Fix

When Andy Farrell took the reins from Joe Schmidt, the results suggested that the new head coach’s tenure could be short-lived.

To his credit, Andy Farrell stuck to his guns and managed to weather the short-term concerns by making incremental progress culminating in his team being ranked number 1 in the world.

While there was pressure to deliver performances in the short-term, Farrell recognised that the only way to address weaknesses in the Irish team was to make a long-term commitment to developing the players’ skills and a more varied style of play.

And to the players’ credit, they bought into the vision and kept the long-term goal in front of them when the short-term results were discouraging.


Takeaway for Business Owners

A business needs to find the right mix of short-term and long-term goals for staff to buy into.

Being clear on the long-term goals is more important than finding short-term solutions.

Business owners should aim to take a long-term view of their business model and assess how engaged employees are by the overall goals.

An engaged workforce that is motivated by a long-term goal is much more likely to deliver continued future success.


Rest and Recovery

While most of us are not professional athletes, we could learn from their attitude to rest and recovery. Elite athletes like the Irish rugby team push their bodies to the limits but they also take their recovery seriously.


Takeaway for Business Owners

It’s sometimes forgotten that Ireland’s working time legislation was introduced as a health & safety measure to ensure that employees received adequate rest and recreation.

While most businesses focus on achieving high levels of productivity, they may get better results by ensuring that employees switch off from work as much as possible.

A proactive approach to employee wellbeing will help staff avoid negative health outcomes linked to their working lives.

Employees who are encouraged to take their ‘recovery’ from work are more likely to deliver consistent performance.


Having an Answer for ‘What Do I Get Out of It?’

Analogies between sport and business tend to break down when managers have no answer for an employee who finds performance goals all very well but wants to know ‘what do I get out of it?’

The glory of a World Cup win is a sufficiently unifying force for the Irish rugby team. The challenge for business owners is to find a unifying goal that will get their employees’ engines revving.


Takeaway for Business Owners

To improve engagement, business owners should meet one-to-one with employees to clarify what the individual and collective goals are.

Most importantly, employers should highlight how the employee’s individual role contributes to the overall goal.

Employees may not see how their work is connected to the overall goal. Identifying a strong link between the employee’s contribution and the overall goal and rewarding a strong performance will help maintain motivation levels.


Come on Ireland!

Whatever the outcome in France, we recognise the consistent excellence of the Irish rugby team and wish them the best of luck in RWC 2023!


As a trusted partner of Guaranteed Irish, Peninsula delivers HR and health & safety services to thousands of businesses throughout Ireland.    

Companies that work with Peninsula benefit from expert advice on employment law and HR, health & safety management, workplace litigation support, employee wellbeing, and much more.

With Peninsula’s experts managing their HR and health & safety compliance, Peninsula clients enjoy greater peace of mind and more time to concentrate on growing their business.

For an initial consultation with one of Peninsula’s HR experts, call 1800 719 032 or visit 


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