Forging Alliances between Employees and Employers

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The fundamentals of the employee-employer relationship have changed over the past few decades. Employers no longer even pretend to offer job security and, in return, employee loyalty to a particular company is rare. Yet employees still want to know where they stand and what their long term prospects are within the organizations they work for. And employers still want to reduce employee churn and find ways to retain great employees as long as possible. The question is: How can we do that in today’s competitive, volatile, shifting world?

The Alliance: managing talent in the networked age

Authors Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh propose a solution in their book, The Alliance: Managing talent in the networked age. Fundamentally, they argue that the only workable employee-employer relationship today is one forged around a mutually beneficial alliance with multiple, clearly defined “tours of duty.”  The alliance itself is a commitment by an employee to add value to the company for a specified period of time and a commitment by the company to add to the employee’s market value over the same time period. Within the alliance, each tour of duty represents an “an ethical commitment by an employer and an employee to a specific mission.” Unlike a tour of duty in the military, where the term originated, there is no legal requirement for either side to deliver on promises made. There is, however, a moral obligation to meet the terms of each tour of duty and to honor the broader alliance forged to benefit both parties.

Alliances are Built on Trust

The words trust, transparency, ethical and honest come up frequently in the first two chapters of the book, as it becomes apparent that these alliances can be fragile in the wrong hands. Both managers and employees who commit to an alliance must recognize how easily trust can be broken and understand that the career and personal implications of breaking trust can be far-reaching.  Although alliances and tours of duty vary in duration, they offer a period of focused stability and reflect the intent of both parties to maintain the alliance as long as it continues to be mutually beneficial. Not a lifetime commitment on either side, but much better than never knowing what tomorrow holds.

Of course, the nature of these alliances and associated tours of duty varies depending on the type of organization and the different positions within an organization. In The Alliance, three variations on the tour of duty are presented: rotational, transformational and foundational.

  • Rotational tour of duty:  Standardized for incoming employees to test future fit with the company or as default for entry level or repetitive roles. After completing a rotational tour of duty, an employee might start another rotation or advance into a transformational tour of duty.
  • Transformational tour of duty: Negotiated individually and designed to transform both an employee’s career and the company in some way through the completion of a defined, 2-5 year mission. Before the end of such a tour of duty, a new tour would typically be negotiated with the same company, unless a decision has been made to transition out.
  • Foundational tour of duty: Negotiated individually with a valued employee who is deeply committed to the core values and mission of the company. The time frame for a foundational tour of duty is ongoing as both parties expect the relationship to be permanent (to retirement).

For many managers the idea of engaging in a dialogue about developing employees in ways that might take them elsewhere flies in the face of everything they’ve been taught and feels like a frontal assault on retention efforts. But Hoffman and his co-authors have one very clear message for today’s employers:

“Permission [to leave] is not yours to give or to withhold, and believing you have that power is simply a self-deception that leads to a dishonest relationship with your employees. Employees don’t need your permission to switch companies, and if you try to assert that right, they’ll simply make their move behind your back.”

The solution is to make top talent stay because they want to stay by forging alliances that benefit both sides and revisiting them regularly as mutual goals are achieved.


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7 Tips for Making the Most of Hiring Grants

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 Photo by Matt Christenson, Wikimedia Commons Many governments offer hiring incentives to promote new job creation. These programs often target specific industries or demographics in an attempt to support those most challenged by economic conditions. Sometimes hiring incentives make it possible for a company to hire sooner or more often; sometimes they offer access to a more diverse talent pool than would otherwise be tapped. Here a few examples of hiring incentives that might be available in your jurisdiction: Hiring Incentive Examples - USA Disability Employment Initiative: The U.S. Department of Labor earmarks funding to provide education, training …

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Job Fair

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Managing Rumors and Gossip in the Workplace

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Rumors Grow, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain Wherever people gather there will be conversation; sometimes (okay, often!), that conversation becomes gossip, which may blossom into rumor. Much like office politics, rumors and excessive gossip in the workplace create a drain on morale that managers and HR professionals must get a handle on. Damaging rumors can cause uneasiness, distrust between management and staff and infighting between colleagues or departments. Allowing negative rumors to run wild is not an acceptable option. The only thing to do with destructive gossip and malicious rumors is tackle them head on—bring issues out into the …

The Impact of Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace

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There are some topics no one likes to talk about. One of them is the prevalence and impact of alcohol and drug use in the workplace. Each year, substance abuse costs the United States an estimated $276 billion dollars in expenditures on health care, workplace injuries, and disability payments, not to mention productivity losses.[1] The reason the price tag is so high is that approximately 60% of adults with substance dependence (i.e. addiction), are full time employees and most adults who have problems with alcohol or drug use are in the workforce—meaning employers bear much of the cost associated …

Five Things That Will Kill Your Vacation

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Vacation Sign by Dan4th Nicholas, Flikr As adults we anticipate a vacation the way children look forward to birthday parties. For weeks, even months, in advance, we know it’s approaching. Until suddenly the eagerly awaited break from work is only days away! Soon we’ll be packing, checking luggage, boarding a plane and putting our trays in an upright position as we make that final descent. What’s the first thing we do when we arrive at our sun-kissed destination? Maybe we don’t even wait to get to the hotel. We do it …

Forget Global: What Happens When the Workforce Goes Galactic?

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If we’ve learned one thing in HR during the past decade, it’s that change is upon us. And there is no reason to expect things to move at a slower pace going forward. Even as we grapple with the reality of an increasingly global workforce, a number of recent news items are triggering an even more fantastical train of thought—what happens when the workforce goes galactic? Mars Orbit Undocking by SpaceGuy5, Wikimedia Commons Who cares, you say? That’s so far in the future it can’t possibly impact us.   …

Slow Down: Multitasking Is Bad For Productivity

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In today’s workplace, multitasking is appreciated by many as a good work habit and a sign of commitment to the job. Some people seem to be able to juggle personal crises, help co-workers and still get their work done. While they may whirl like dervishes, they seem to take it all in stride without breaking a sweat. These people are powerhouses of productivity—or does it just seem that way? Mardi Gras Multitasking by Bart Everson, Wikimedia Commons Former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, was considered by some to be as powerful as the president during his …

HR Technology - From Thought to Action

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Companies have been talking about investing in HR technology for a long time. In 1999, the intent was clear, with 100% of this survey’s respondents planning to automate their HR systems (or upgrade their current automated systems). Before moving forward, however, most organizations were waiting for a new generation of technology to emerge that would support a more robust business case.  Cognizant Confluence 2013, Flickr Fifteen years later, intent has become a reality: investment in HR technology is growing across all industries and geographies and HR technology solutions now exist to meet a wide range of needs and budgets.  …

Is Your Company Living its Values?

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A company’s lived values reflect its true culture and personality. A mature firm will often have a different vibe and different values than a startup, for example, although there may be areas of overlap. In most cases, a company’s values represent a combination of reality and vision: experience and aspiration. Effective business leaders aspire to live up to the vision by creating a culture that reflects the stated values of the company. Sometimes they fall short of that goal, but in the act of trying they discover what living their values really means. In one of …

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The Latest from Workplace Tribes
Forging Alliances between Employees and Employers July 25, 2014
7 Tips for Making the Most of Hiring Grants July 23, 2014
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Job Fair July 21, 2014
Managing Rumors and Gossip in the Workplace July 18, 2014
The Impact of Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace July 16, 2014
Five Things That Will Kill Your Vacation July 14, 2014
Forget Global: What Happens When the Workforce Goes Galactic? July 11, 2014
Slow Down: Multitasking Is Bad For Productivity July 09, 2014
HR Technology - From Thought to Action July 07, 2014
Is Your Company Living its Values? July 04, 2014