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Blog : Gunning for the best


Gunning for the best

– by Emily Perry, Marketing Manager

As learnpurple’s biggest Arsenal fan, I was disappointed that another footballing season passed us by without a piece of silverware. What originally seemed to be a two horse race against the mighty Manchester United (at one stage looking like we could walk away with four trophies) didn't continue that way. We soon dropped out of every big competition and ended fourth overall in the league (for those not familiar with the premier league – this means we may not even qualify for the Champions League – only the second biggest competition in the footballing world after the World Cup!)

Now I could discuss the levels of disengagement and lack of motivation amongst the team which arose when we lost the Carling Cup Final to Birmingham City and how I believe that impacted our performance for the remaining games. However, this topic has been done to death in recent months. Instead this post looks at something far more interesting and is to Arsenal's credit, plus is something that can be applied to organisations all around the world... growing your talent from within.

Arsenal FC is one of the few clubs not to have millions and millions of pounds worth of debt behind them. One of the reasons for this is they tend to avoid the crazy multimillion pound deals in the transfer windows; instead spending wisely on fresh young talent.

The impressive Arsenal Academy produces the stars of the future. Right now a youngster most of us have not yet heard of is receiving the investment of Arsenal’s time, money and resources. He will be developed until he is ready to play against the likes of football legends such as Steven Gerrard, Lionel Messi and of course Arsenal’s very own captain (for the moment at least...), Cesc Fabregas.

A prime example of the academy’s success is with young player of the moment, Jack Wilshere. Wilshere joined the academy at the tender age of nine, and now at just 19 years old he has played his breakthrough season for the Arsenal first XI; winning the PFA Young Player of the Year award, playing vital roles in the English national team and is viewed as one of football’s shining talents. Quite simply this is learning and development best practice.

This is as relevant to us as business professionals, as it is to the premiership. We too should be spotting, supporting and nurturing our talent in order to achieve success. Here’s the whats and whys:

1. Avoid the ‘talent’ war– the competition for the best talent is always fierce in the football world, but also in other industries where salaries are used as a draw for key people. By growing your own not only do you avoid the fight for talent (saving you money) but you also create a permanent competitive advantage - meaning when one of your key people wants to leave you can wish them well and put another home grown star in their place.

2. Help with retention– bringing someone up through the ranks creates a strong sense of loyalty to you as a manager, as well as the organisation on a whole. This in turn means they are much more likely to stay longer than originally planned.

3. Make it part of culture– Arsenal have a house style…you know when you are watching football and the Gunners are involved – it has become their trademark. This is the same for business – your house style is your culture; the backbone of the company. By making ‘developing’ talent part of your culture you move it up the priority list and your people will respect this approach. For more information on the importance of culture and values, why not read our latest newsletter here

4. Identify your stars early– these could be existing people or new recruits. Recognise their star ability early on and work with it, using clear development programmes targeted to their needs and nurture them towards the end goal you have in mind.

5. Become the place people want to work – focusing on your people, developing and nurturing them throughout their career can gain you a positive internal and external reputation and become more attractive to job seekers. Because of this you’ll also find your reputation as a people-centric organisation helps attract key talent to you without the need for recruitment adverts or use of head hunters; thus expanding your external talent pipeline to combine with the ones grown from within.

6. Remember it takes time– one of the cons of growing your own means it takes time, which not all businesses have. It took Arsenal ten years until Jack Wilshere was ready to stand amongst the first team. When you develop your own, tremendous success will be seen as a result, remember the old adage – good things come to those who wait.


How do you approach talent within your organisation? Is developing people early on part of your culture? Is growing your own the way forward?

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