How to Recruit Like the Golden State Warriors

Audrey Agot FoxBy Audrey Agot Fox
March 1st, 2022 • 4 Minutes

How many of you would take a pay cut to switch employers? You might answer, “Well, it depends…”

If you consider the stats from a few seasons ago, for Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Zaza Pachulia, there was no question when it came to playing for the Golden State Warriors. I know, Durant is no longer with the Warriors.

But when Durant resigned with the team back in 2017, he took $9.5 million less than the maximum he could have earned, $6.8 million less than he was expected to earn, and $1.54 million less than he made the year before. Pachulia signed with the Warriors for $2.9 million, when he could have had a $20 million deal elsewhere. Although Curry didn’t have to take a pay cut, it wasn’t because he wasn’t willing to – he actually offered to take less so that they could pay and keep their core players. He told Warriors General Manager Bob Myers, “If I were to take a discount – at any number, I don’t know what it would be – how much of a difference would that make for us to be able to sign other guys…” Now how many of you would be willing to do that?

Before you point out that these guys are making millions of dollars – significantly more than us average joes – it’s still worth noting that money doesn’t seem to be their top priority. You should also know that that 49% of the people surveyed would be willing to take a pay cut for more flexibility over their schedule. They even said that they would be willing to take a pay cut of, on average, $7,600 for an improved quality of work life.

So how do you become the team, or company, with an employer brand so strong that people would take less money to work for you? Before the championships, before Kevin Durant, the Warriors were the underdogs. How did they get where they are today, with players taking pay cuts and clamoring to be part of the team? The Warriors’ key differentiator is their culture, which has created an employer brand like no other.

Here are three ways you can borrow the Warriors’ employer brand moves for your recruitment strategy.

Culture Is King

Talent is not the only thing that makes the Warriors great. Watching the players joke around, be friends, and give back to the community is just as satisfying as watching them drain three-pointers or posterize the opposing team.

The Warriors’ team culture is the common denominator in their success, even during their low points – Head Coach Steve Kerr’s absences due to medical reasons, player injuries, and technical foul fiascos. This is a culture that exists at all levels of the organization, not just the top, so much so that even if key players are out (even the head coach), the culture still prevails. Their team culture even reaches past the court and to the people who work behind the scenes. In 2015, they flew their entire staff to Cleveland for game three of the finals.

If you want to emulate the Warriors’ culture, get in tune with your own company culture. Ask yourself what it’s like to work at your company at all levels, not just in the C-suite. Consider these questions: How can you foster a culture of camaraderie among employees? Do all employees feel like their work is recognized and valued? What can you do to implement changes in company culture?

Make Candidates Feel Special

Although their employer brand is enough to draw players to them, the Warriors are still competing for talent against 30 other teams. When it comes to recruiting, they have a way of making prospective players feel special.

When they pursued Nick Young, formerly of the Los Angeles Lakers, not only did the head coach meet with him, but two of the team’s current stars Durant and Draymond Green tagged along as well. Young told reporters, “I was a little nervous like, dang, they really coming to meet with me? They’re the champs.

” After the initial meeting, Green continued to text with Young, checking in on him and generally being friendly – nothing out of the ordinary for the Warriors culture. Young did end up signing with the Warriors, and of the process he said, “It meant a lot. It felt good. I felt wanted.”

You might not “woo” prospective candidates by taking them to night clubs or texting them, but it’s the little things that can win them over. It can be as simple as offering them a drink when they come into an interview, or taking them on a walk for interviews. Making candidates feel special and comfortable not only allows them to be themselves but it also sets the tone for your company culture and how you welcome new people.

Don’t Forget The Value of a Good Bench

Contrary to popular belief, the Warriors did not build a “super team.” (Sorry, the Warriors fan in me just had to interject at some point in this post.) Although they certainly have some stand-out players, their bench (the guys who don’t start the game) has proven to be key to their success. These players not only rise to the occasion when called upon, but they also become shining stars in their own right. For example, when Andre Iguodala earned the title of MVP for the NBA Finals 2015, he wasn’t even a starter.

This team dynamic can only exist on a team where everyone’s contributions make a difference, not just the all-stars. Players take rookies under their wings, mentoring them and giving them pointers. When everyone, including the rookies, feels like part of the team, they can only win from there. The team slogan was once “Strength In Numbers” for a reason.

Consider how your company treats employees that don’t get as much spotlight and how you hire for roles that aren’t as “sexy” as others. Do you recognize these people and roles for the value they bring to your company? How can you show them you appreciate their work? You might try a mentorship program that brings more people from different levels together, or maybe implementing professional development resources for people who are new to the company.

Having an employer brand like no other is important to recruit the best warriors out there!

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