One of the best books I read this year is The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age by Reid Hoffman. The core concept in the book is that there is no longer employment for life but there is still a way to build a win-win relationship between employers and employees. Hoffman and his co-authors suggest a tour-of-duty type relationship, where employer and employee agree to a short or medium term engagement with a defined goal.
The current reality
Hoffman begins by pointing out that in the at-will era (when employers can and do fire employees at their discretion), employees thus think of themselves as “free agents,” seeking out the best opportunities for growth and changing jobs whenever they get a better offers. He points to a 2012 study that found even though about half of employees wanted to stay with their current employer, most of them felt that they would have to take a job at a different company to advance their careers. Hoffman writes, “loyalty is scarce, long-term ties are scarcer, but there’s plenty of disillusionment to go around.”
Related to this point, employees’ trust of management is at an all-time low. One reason employees do not trust their employer is that the foundation of the relationship is built on dishonesty. When employees are courted, they are told about the fantastic long-term opportunities. When they answer interview question, they comment on how there goal is to spend their life contributing to the company. Both parties know this is nonsense but feel they must utter these phrases. It creates a relationship built on lies and a relationship without trust is a relationship without loyalty. A business without loyalty is a business without long-term thinking. A business without long-term thinking is a business that’s unable to invest in the future and thus one doomed to fail.
Tour of duty concept
A tour of duty is when the employer and employee mutually agree on a finite project, with goals for the employee’s contribution. It also includes how the tour of duty will benefit the employee. To create a fictitious example, say Uber wants to open the Las Vegas market to its service. When recruiting a VP, rather than pitching them on working for Uber for life, the hiring manager specifically lays out that the task will be a two-year project to penetrate Las Vegas. The employee will need to work with the legal team to counteract the local taxi companies and then recruit drivers. The candidate would learn how to lobby local governments and launch a location based tech product. Both agree that at the end of the two-year tour of duty, there may be another tour of duty at Uber that is mutually beneficial or the employee might use the skills he learned to help another company. For example, he may go over to Peapod to open the Austin market with the skills he learned at Uber. Uber benefits by having a successful launch in Las Vegas, and the employee is more valuable and has a great new opportunity. The important thing is both parties are honest with each other and they have built a mutually beneficial relationship. Continue reading “Using tours of duty to have a better company employee relationship”