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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The Remote Workforce is Less Remote

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Not a Mistake The problem with the word mistake is that it comes packaged with a weight of condemnation and is usually accompanied by shame, disappointment and sometimes even the fear that someone may stop liking us. But we need our mistakes. Without them we can’t learn or grow or change. If, instead, we think about mistakes as feedback in a loop of continuous experimentation and improvement, we can appreciate them as positive input into our development rather than weapons of self-destruction.  Flickr/StormKatt Learning from Failure There is a lot of talk lately about learning from …

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One of the greatest challenges inherent in any change initiative is making sure that new behaviors stick. It is easy fall back into old familiar habits once management focus shifts away from the change initiative and on to other things. What is not as clear is why, after weeks, or even months, of doing things differently, these newly established patterns can be knocked off track allowing old habits resurface. It Takes Time to Replace Old Behaviors They say it takes about 21 consecutive days to form a new habit. But it takes only a moment to break a new habit and …

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Recently, I watched a man using the self-check-out line at the grocery store for the first time. After a few attempts, he managed to scan his first item. With the can of soup in his hand, he immediately tried to scan another item. The machine wouldn’t work and told him to get help from an attendant. His frustration mounted. The attendant arrived and told him to put the first item in the bag before scanning the second item. So he put the soup in a bag and put the bag in his cart, then moved back to scan …

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Have you started to detect a little “end of summer blues” creeping into your workplace? If you think you’re just projecting your own wistful nostalgia over losing the more relaxed environment that summer often brings – think again. As the summer draws to a close, two themes converge in most workplaces. The first is the sadness felt by those who pack a lot of summer fun into those few months that used to epitomize freedom from the restrictions of the school year. For these employees, as the days perceptibly shorten, energy and motivation often dips just …

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