Women in Sports and Events
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Insider: A Look into the Broad Scope of the NBA’s HR Department


Photo credit: SPF / Shuttersock.com

There’s a ton of differentiation in HR. It’s funny — people will reach out and ask me to follow up on a job applicant or resume, but I don’t even keep up on what jobs are open in our organization! That’s how far removed my role is from the recruiting function.

Human Resource Functions

The NBA’s HR department has separate functions (as listed below). Each group has its own very distinct role and responsibilities, but they all work closely together to effectively address the NBA’s business needs, and they do it on a global basis with tremendous collaboration from the international HR staff.

  • Recruiters: This group handles hiring for everything from our summer intern program and our associates program (a training program for college graduates) to highly experienced placement. Since the NBA is global, we have staff recruiting in regional offices outside of the U.S., such as in China and the U.K., as well as at our headquarters in New York City.
  • HR Generalists: This team is made up of representatives who work directly with the NBA’s approximately 25 “client groups” (e.g., Basketball Operations, International Media Distribution, Global Marketing Partnerships, Finance, etc.). Each generalist is involved in his/her client groups’ business so s/he can accurately identify the group’s “people needs” and implement programs (e.g., performance review processes, etc.).
  • Learning and Development (L&D) Team: This function is tasked with implementing training programs targeted largely at employee professional development. For instance, if there is a request from a few client groups related to fine-tuning client service skills, this group will establish an initiative to address that need.
  • Compensation and HRIS Group: This group is in charge of our market-based salary structure, classifying newly created positions and managing HRIS (HR Information Systems).

Interpersonal Skills Training

From a training perspective, we’re seeing a need for more evolved programs in areas like “emotional intelligence” and “influence skills”. The focus on “hard skills” and technical expertise has lessened. We now offer several classroom-based training programs — for example, “Project Management” and “Brand U” — that focus on helping employees develop skills that are interpersonal in nature, and enable them to manage themselves and their time more effectively. 

On the employee/candidate side, flexibility is an increasingly valuable trait. Somebody once told me, “You could be right or you could be married.” I take that advice — at home and at work! — and advise others to equate it to the workplace. I think people who are successful don’t focus on having to be right at the exclusion of everything else. 

Generational Expectations in the Workplace

The class currently entering the workplace expects quicker growth. They want to learn more, and they want to work on exciting projects. They want things to move a little quicker than maybe someone like myself expected when entering the work force as a member of the Baby Boomer generation. Part of our Communication Skills training program involves bridging the gaps of communication between different generations in the workplace. Interestingly enough though, our situational self-leadership professional development model features elements that have always been well-suited for addressing the varied communication styles of different generations. 

Breaking into the Sports Business

I often find myself having “reality check” conversations with new job seekers, many of whom seem to want their dream job right now. I think it’s important for anyone at an early stage in his/her career to make the distinction between their “dream job” and their “first job”, and often emphasize in conversations with new job seekers that they need to have patience. For instance, I have my dream job right now but I worked for 10-15 years before I got it! I became an expert in employee relations by working at an insurance company and a financial services company. They were great jobs; even though I wasn’t the least bit interested in those industries, those positions provided me an opportunity to gain valuable experience and work my way up to “the big show.”

Leslie Julich

About Leslie Julich

Leslie Julich is the NBA’s vice president of employee relations. She has been with the league for more than 12 years, the last five of which have been part-time. A self-described “protocol and policy guru”, Julich’s main responsibilities are to provide consult to her department’s HR generalists and act as a clearinghouse for employee issues; liaise with in-house employment council; and establish, document, and update policies and procedures. Prior to joining the NBA, she worked in HR in the insurance, financial services and publishing industries. Julich is a graduate of Emory University.

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