Disney’s new TV series, The Mandalorian, didn’t take long to become a big deal for Star Wars fans. And believe it or not, there’s a lot you can learn from it about HR and employee management.
Let’s cut to the chase and see what Mando, baby Yoda and their friends (and enemies) can teach us.
- People are more cooperative when given options (Episode 1)
- Encouragement can go a long way (Episode 1)
- When it’s OK to fire somebody (Episode 1)
- If you take care of your people, they’ll take care of you (Episode 2)
- The power of a solid slogan (Episode 3)
- The role ethics plays in employee retention (Episode 3)
- Help out your community (Episode 4)
- The importance of culture fit (Episode 5)
- Poor leadership results in employee inaction (Episode 8)
- Remove obstacles that impede employee success (Episode 8)
People are more cooperative when given options.
The Mandalorian, or Mando, is a bounty hunter. His job is basically to go find people or stuff and bring it back.
At the beginning of the first episode, Mando finds the person he’s after and catches him. This guy clearly isn’t thrilled about being taken in and he offers a bribe. Mando has his job to do and responds coolly, but threateningly, “I can bring you in warm, or I can bring you in cold.”
Mando’s captor weighs the options and decides to be brought in warm.
We’re not suggesting you threaten your employees to achieve business goals. In fact, that would be really bad. The point here is to give people options for accomplishing necessary, but less than fun tasks.
Would you like to hold our meeting that might run long before lunch, or after?
Being dictatorial about day-to-day activities is a great way to foster bad feelings. Giving people some control over the situation can help you manage any laggards.
Encouragement can go a long way.
The hunter droid IG-11 had some pretty self-destructive behavior. Talented, yes, but he didn’t have much confidence in what he could accomplish.
When IG-11 and the Mandalorian were seriously outgunned, IG-11 thought the best option was to self-destruct and avoid capture. Fortunately, the Mandalorian was more stubborn and repeatedly convinced the droid to not self-destruct.
With determination and some emotional help, they fought their way out and achieved their goal — well, Mando’s goal. The partnership didn’t exactly come to a happy close on this occasion, but let’s leave that for another HR lesson.
If you have a talented employee who needs some help to be successful, it’s in everyone’s self-interest to provide that help. People with issues can make big contributions to a team if you’re willing to help them.
As a side note. IG-11 was pretty suicidal. Dealing with that is not your job. I’m sure that finding professional psychological help would have been the Mandalorian’s first choice, but that wasn’t really an option.
When it's OK to Fire Somebody.
Mando and IG-11 partnered under the agreement to split the bounty they were after if they succeeded in getting it. Once they fought their way out of trouble without self-destructing, they realized that their goals for the asset were very different.
Welcome baby Yoda.
IG-11 was tasked with killing baby Yoda. Mando was supposed to bring “the child” back to the client alive.
When Mando realized the partnership had to end he didn’t exactly give IG-11 a two-week notice before… terminating him, but that’s not the point.
When an organization and an employee have fundamentally different goals or values and no amount of talking will change that, then continuing employment is a waste of everybody’s time.
It’s better to part ways and find an employee that aligns better with your company’s goals.
If you take care of your people, they'll take care of you.
When Mando was on Tatooine or a very Tatooine-like planet, Jawas scrapped his ship and the only thing they’d take in payment for its repair was “the egg.”
As it turns out, this egg was guarded by a gigantic rhino-like animal. When Mando went to take this egg, the creature made Mando, his guns, armor, and years of training look like an action figure and accessories.
After a few minutes of severe beat-downs, the Mandalorian was too weak and battered to stand, let alone fight a gigantic rhino, and he was down to his vibroblade (fancy knife).
He was in a bad spot, and the rhino was headed his way, but at the last second, the rhino was stopped and lifted into mid-air!
As it turns out, baby Yoda can use the force, and he’s pretty good at it!
Mando has spent the last few episodes taking care of baby Yoda. He saved the child from the hunter droid and has generally been kind. Baby Yoda responded to that kindness as would your employees!
If you treat your people well and even make sacrifices for them, then they’ll respond and make sacrifices for you too. That’s just how relationships work, and The Mandalorian did an exceptional job of visualizing it.
The power of a solid slogan.
Pretty much every time Mando interacts with other Mandalorians, somebody says, “This is the way.” The Mandalorians are a tight-knit group with strict rules and a firm code that everybody knows and lives by.
The short phrase, “This is the way” encapsulates everything they stand for, and it acts as a reminder to live by their code.
A company slogan can do the same thing.
BMW’s slogan is, “The Ultimate Driving Machine” is just another way of saying, “This is the way.” It means that they shouldn’t do anything that would compromise BMWs as ultimate driving machines.
Now, where does HR play into this?
You should hire people that identify with your slogan and underlying code of conduct (company values). It also suggests that if you either don’t have core values or don’t emphasize them, you should!
Hiring people who align with your values will do wonders for your HR team in decreased turnover and improved engagement.
The role ethics plays in employee retention.
The Mandalorian finally got back to his home planet, handed over baby Yoda and collected his bounty. But Mando was seriously questioning the ethics of what they were going to do with baby Yoda.
After a grueling three seconds of consideration, Mando hopped out of his ship, went all Mandalorian on the bad guys, and rescued baby Yoda.
This started a big mix up (AKA massive battle) between him and his bounty hunter guild. Fortunately, his Mandalorian friends showed up and saved the day, but the guild still lost their best bounty hunter.
The root cause of all this? Shady ethics. We’re not going to pretend that Mando’s ethical compass always points north, but he tries to at least keep it in a north ish direction.
The guild didn’t care about ethics, and it lost them their best guy and lots of others (Remember the battle?)
As HR people, we take some responsibility in keeping the company’s moral compass pointing north. We do this by hiring good people, publicly choosing what’s right over what’s profitable, and not tolerating dishonesty.
Not only will this keep our good and honest people around, but it’s just the right thing to do.
Not to mention the fact that the best way to stay out of jail is to not break the law.
Help out your community.
Once Mando was safely off his now unwelcome planet, he found somewhere else to lay low for a while. Of course, it was while he was “laying low” that he got roped into some dangerous community service.
The community he landed in was dealing with some planet bullies that raid, kill, and steal. After some persuasion, Mando agreed to help and was joined by Cara Dune.
He and Cara didn’t exactly get off on the right foot, but they figured things out and became a great team here and down the road.
When we help out the community we’re in, we’ll gain the good favor of those we serve, and we’ll be more attractive to potential talented recruits. Hardcore warrior named Cara kind of recruits, for example.
The importance of culture fit.
Mando found himself back on Tatooine where he met up with a young wannabe bounty hunter named Toro. Toro needed a big win to join the bounty hunter guild and Mando volunteered to help him out for a share of the bounty.
Unfortunately, once the pair get through all the hullabaloo an episode of The Mandalorian promises, Toro learned about the bounty on Mando’s head. This just led to even more hullabaloo and didn’t end well for Toro.
The HR lesson here is that culture fit is definitely a thing. Double-crossing doesn’t happen in a group of people who agree on what is really important.
Before you hire somebody, make an effort to really see what kind of person they are. It can be hard to do with just a couple of interviews, but knowing how to interview well can help.
Poor leadership results in employee inaction.
We all know that stormtroopers aren’t the most intimidating characters in the Star Wars universe. They’re poor marksmen, and just don’t pose much of a threat individually.
We like to poke fun at them, but what if it’s not a stormtrooper issue, maybe this is just a really big leadership problem.
In episode 8, A couple of scout troopers snatch up baby Yoda but don’t really know what to do next. A truly hilarious scene ensues. They talk, mess with baby Yoda, show their poor marksmanship, and then regret their inaction when a revived and reprogrammed IG-11 shows up to save baby Yoda.
During the scout troopers’ conversation, they gave a reason for their inaction. Their leader was a guy named Moff Gideon. He was particularly ruthless and definitely not one to respond well to mistakes.
Gideon was busy dealing with our heroes, and the scout troopers didn’t have orders, so they just sat there. They were too scared of their leader to act, so they were brutally acted upon.
As managers and HR people, we can’t let this happen. We need to create an environment where our people feel safe enough to do something, even if it’s not exactly what we would have done.
In this situation, it would have been better for the bad guys if these clueless troopers did anything or went anywhere. Instead, they just sat and but waited for a reformed hunter droid to call.
Remove obstacles that impede employee success.
IG-11 has been reprogrammed to be a nursing droid tasked with protecting baby Yoda. Same skills, same hardware, new job.
In this situation, the dream team was on a boat in an underground lava river peacefully flowing downstream towards an army of angry stormtroopers. They all knew that if something serious didn’t happen, then this peaceful boat ride wouldn’t end well.
Always eager to self-destruct, IG-11 volunteered to walk through the lava and clear out the enemy with a well-timed self-destruction.
With as much emotion as you can feel when a fictional robot explodes, IG-11 does just that, saving his friends.
Yes, IG-11 sacrifices himself, yes, it’s dramatic, yes, the explosion was amazing, but let’s look at why. IG-11 did all that to remove obstacles so the team could achieve its goal.
HR’s role in a company is just that — to clear obstacles to the employees’ progress. Ideally, it doesn’t involve self-sacrifice, but our job is to empower employees to focus on their own jobs so all can succeed.
You, as a manager or HR person, should remove obstacles that bottleneck the workflow’s critical path for overall success.
There you have it, 10 HR lessons you can learn from watching The Mandalorian. We know that these analogies don’t exactly parallel HR, and they’re not all perfect examples of good HR practices. Some are examples of really poor HR, but hey, Mando, the bounty hunter guild, and this season’s bad guys don’t have your expertise.