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The coming labor shortage is being fought head-on by a new generation of talent innovators—Silicon Valley…
At LinkedIn, one of Setton’s former employers, the acknowledgment that employees won’t stay with the company forever starts before they even join and isn’t perceived as a negative. Kevin Scott, senior vice president of engineering at the company, based in Mountain View, asks an important question of every candidate he interviews: “What job do you want after you work at LinkedIn?”
“Part of the reason Silicon Valley companies are so successful is that they’re a recombination of people who have worked in multiple companies,” says Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and co-author of a new book calledThe Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age.
“Historically, most companies don’t want to ask that question [what job does your employee want to have ,” says Ben Casnocha, an entrepreneur who co-authored the book with Hoffman. “But today your best people are not going to be lifers.”
Worth reading the whole thing.
Here’s a half hour interview I did on Andy Kaufman’s podcast about The Alliance. Near the end, David Foster Wallace comes up…
Having raved about Econtalk just the other month, and as a long time listener, it was a particular delight to be invited to go on the show and talk, with Reid and host Russ Roberts, about The Alliance and the history of LinkedIn. We also talked about whether you can explore the meaning of life while in the working world, and I predicted that the ethics of cognitive steroids will be hotly debated in the years to come. The show is an hour long.
The Alliance is on the New York Times bestseller list for the fourth straight week. Thanks for the support. If you’ve read the book, please leave an Amazon review.
Reid was his usual brilliant, friendly self on Charlie Rose the other week. It’s a good 30 minute conversation about The Alliance, Silicon Valley, biology, and more.
A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of facilitating a conversation with Reid Hoffman and Jeff Weiner (CEO) at LinkedIn, in front of employees. We talked about The Alliance and took questions from the audience.
Two weeks in, here are some of the interesting reviews of The Alliance:
- Mike Bloomberg: “The Alliance offers useful strategies for combating this kind of complacency and creating environments where innovation flourishes. As the authors explain, it all comes down to people.”
- Arianna Huffington: “The Must-Read Book of the Summer That Could Change the Way We Work…What’s also great about The Alliance is how it gives concrete ways to implement these ideas.:
- Josh Bersin (Deloitte): “The big value of the book is that Reid and team clearly make this point: 21st Century Management is different. We need to engage people from the very beginning of their work life, tap into their collective intelligence even after they leave the firm, and build alumni networks to create an extended network as our ‘alliance workers’ move on.”
- Daniel Pink (Author of Drive, Whole New Mind, Free Agent Nation): “A smart, fresh, (and occasionally bracing) look at the evolving relationship between the bosses and the bossed. It’s a terrific and accessible read that provides business leaders with both insights and tools to handle a world in which talent is paramount.”
- Brad Feld (VC at Foundry Group): “The book, and the concept, is tightly written and extremely readable. The book is an appropriate length – there’s no fat here – just substance.”
We published a 60 slide slideshow that expresses the essence of The Alliance and Tours of Duty. Check it out on Business Insider. The combination of visuals and text works really well, I think. It’s already trending heavily on BI (500,000+ views).
Thanks to Ian Alas for all his hard work on creating this deck.
Update: Here’s the deck on Slideshare and embedded below. More than one million views on Business Insider.
When CEOs describe their company as being “like family,” we think they mean well. They’re searching for a model that represents the kind of relationships they want to have with their employees—a lifetime relationship with a sense of belonging. But using the term family makes it easy for misunderstandings to arise.
In a real family, parents can’t fire their children. Try to imagine disowning your child for poor performance: “We’re sorry Susie, but your mom and I have decided you’re just not a good fit. Your table-setting effort has been deteriorating for the past 6 months, and your obsession with ponies just isn’t adding any value. We’re going to have to let you go. But don’t take it the wrong way; it’s just family.”
Unthinkable, right? But that’s essentially what happens when a CEO describes the company as a family, then institutes layoffs. Regardless of what the law says about at-will employment, those employees will feel hurt and betrayed—with real justification.
Read the rest at HBR.org.
One key concept in The Alliance is “mission alignment”: managers and employees ought to define a mission objective that aligns the employee career goals and values with the company’s. A far cry from the “company man” era, where a notion of an employee’s individuality and autonomy was nonexistent.
In an interview with Chris and me at Inc.com, we explore some of the practical things managers can do to create the space for honest conversation about what your employees really care about. Here are are two excerpts:
2. Forget the notion that you and your employees must have 100% long-term alignment. “The key,” says Casnocha, “is to have sufficient alignment to get this particular tour of duty to work out.”
The phrase “tour of duty” is a term the authors borrow from the military and use throughoutThe Alliance. “The metaphor conveys the key concept that both military and business tours of duty have in common,” they write. “Focus on accomplishing a specific, finite mission.”
What might that mission be? For employees, it could be developing skills or gaining connections that help them transition to a different industry or job type. As a leader, it’s in your power to help your employees with their missions. Think about how much more motivated your employees would be, if they knew you actually wanted to help them make a career transition–even though the transition would mean that they’ll be leaving your company one day.
4. Depersonalize the key questions. Yeh suggests approaching your employees by saying something like this: “It’s my job to help you overcome bottlenecks and all the things that are in your way. What things are preventing you from accomplshing your mission, and how can I solve them?”
Phrasing the question this way enables you to emphasize the mission, rather than the employee himself. It allows the employee to describe what’s wrong with his job, without feeling like he’s critiquing his own performance or ability to adapt to challenging circumstances.
Casnocha says he learned a great conversational tactic from Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University. The idea is another form of depersonalizing questions: Ask an employee what “most people” think of a certain situation. Usually, the employee will tell you what most people think. But in doing so, she will also provide a glimpse of her own personal feelings. Specifically, Casnocha suggests these conversational cues:
- How is everyone feeling about what’s going on in the office?
- What do you think people are frustrated about here at work?
These questions allow you, as a leader, to follow up on whatever topics arise. But you can do so delicately, without pouncing on the employee who–even in sharing what “most people” think–has just displayed a great deal of vulnerability.
I’m delighted to share the news that I’m co-author of a new book called The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age, coming out on July 8th from Harvard Business Review Press.
A year ago, we published an article in Harvard Business Review titled Tours of Duty, which attracted a decent amount of attention. The book builds on those themes, with significantly more nuance, especially around the concept of the tour of duty. We show how you can reclaim the loyalty and trust in the workplace that’s been lost over the past 50 years by designing an employer-employee relationship that emphasizes mutual trust, mutual benefit, mutual investment. With honest conversation about what each side wants out of the employment relationship, employees are able to do their best, most innovative work, and companies are able to retain them for a meaningful period of time.
In one sense, the new book is an evolution from The Start-Up of You, which Reid and I published about two years ago. That book was for individuals. We argued that individuals can and must think of themselves as entrepreneurs, deploying a full range of entrepreneurial skills in their career, even if they work at someone else’s company. The Alliance is for managers. All managers, to be sure, but especially those who are keen on recruiting, managing, and retaining the kinds of flexible, creative, adaptive employees who’ve been reading The Start-Up of You.
As with the HBR article, Reid and I teamed up with my longtime partner-in-crime Chris Yeh to co-author the book. It’s a ton of work to conceive, write, edit, publish, and market a book. Over the past year and a half, I’ve had the uncommon pleasure of being able to partner with two of my closest friends at once during this long journey.
I’ve already spoken about The Alliance to corporate audiences. Based on those experiences, the reaction to the article, and early feedback on the book, I believe The Alliance has the potential to be a big idea in talent management.
If you manage people — or want to better understand how your managers should be managing you — please pre-order The Alliance!