Dan Lyons’ op/ed in the New York Times last week misrepresented The Alliance in a big way. His op/ed was promoting his new book, which bashes HubSpot, a company he worked at for a couple years. In his book, there is a brief but even more distorted description of the tour of duty framework. Reid, Chris, and I wrote a response to correct the record, and we published it on Chris’s LinkedIn page. Excerpt:
The Alliance is an attempt to find a better way for companies and employees to relate to each other. Specifically, we suggest companies and employees build trust incrementally and choreograph increasing levels of mutual commitment by defining “Tours of Duty.” A tour of duty, which might last anywhere from six months to six years depending on its mission, ought to spell out what an employee is trying to accomplish, how achieving it benefits the company, and how that achievement accelerates the employee’s career. As a tour of duty draws to a close, the manager and employee meet to discuss a follow-up tour. By giving employees a clear sense of career development, we’ve found that companies that adopt the Alliance Framework improve employee retention and lengthen job tenures. Loyalty builds over time, as both sides make and keep their mutual promises to invest in each other.
In his book, Dan writes, “Hoffman says employees should think of a job as a ‘tour of duty’ and not expect to stay for too long.” In fact, in The Alliance, we write at length about the perils of short termism. We tell the story of an employee who worked at one company (LinkedIn) for nine years and completed three distinct tours, and conclude: “This seeming contradiction— regularly changing roles in the context of a long-term relationship— is the essence of the tour of duty framework.”
At the heart of our framework is the importance of building high-trust relationships. In The Alliance, we write, “Our goal is to provide a framework for moving from a transactional to a relational approach…By building a mutually beneficial alliance rather than simply exchanging money for time, employer and employee can invest in the relationship and take the risks necessary to pursue bigger payoffs.” Here’s how Dan describes our framework: “In [Hoffman’s] view, a job is a transaction, one in which an employee provides a service, gets paid, and moves on.” It makes you wonder whether he actually read our book!
During a recent keynote speech, I made a point that is central in The Alliance and central to our consulting work at Allied Talent: If you develop a reputation — as a manager, as a team, as an organization — for being a career launch pad instead of a career parking lot, the best people in the industry will do anything to work with you.
As a longtime viewer of Big Think videos, I was delighted to sit down with them to record a bit on The Alliance and future of work. It’s me for three minutes with their famous white background, talking straight at the camera:
I wrote a piece on LinkedIn about compassionate management as a fundamental philosophy behind The Alliance. You can check out the post here — it’s been getting some traction. It opens this way:
In The Alliance, we attempt to resolve one of the most difficult questions of modern management: how do you build strong, long-term relationships with employees when you cannot guarantee lifetime employment and when employees do not pledge lifelong loyalty?
I then go on to describe how to build trust through really understanding your team member.
I also reflect a bit on hearing management legend Ken Blanchard speak at the Blanchard Summit, where I recently keynoted.
Our economy is in the midst of a grand shift toward the Hollywood model. More of us will see our working lives structured around short-term, project-based teams rather than long-term, open-ended jobs. There are many reasons this change is happening right now, but perhaps the best way to understand it is that we have reached the end of a hundred-year fluke, an odd moment in economic history that was dominated by big businesses offering essentially identical products. Competition came largely by focusing on the cost side, through making production cheaper and more efficient; this process required businesses to invest tremendous amounts in physical capital — machines and factories — and then to populate those factories with workers who performed routine activities. Nonmanufacturing corporations followed a similar model: Think of all those office towers filled with clerical staff or accountants or lawyers. That system began to fray in the United States during the 1960s, first in manufacturing, with the economic rise of Germany and Japan. It was then ripped apart by Chinese competition during the 2000s. Enter the Hollywood model, which is far more adaptable. Each new team can be assembled based on the specific needs of that moment and with a limited financial commitment.
The other month he spoke with Russ Roberts of Econtalk about his article. It’s an engaging conversation and they talk about The Alliance in the context of Adam’s thesis. At least a dozen people emailed me Adam’s original NYT Magazine piece — so I’m glad they were able to riff on The Alliance a bit on the podcast!
Last week, I was quoted in an article in the Wall Street Journal about companies that seek to retain millennials:
Some managers think companies should stop trying so hard. They cite “The Alliance,” a book co-written by LinkedIn Corp. co-founder Reid Hoffman that proposes a different model for the employer-employee relationship—one based on mutual expectations and the possibility of the employee leaving.
At LinkedIn, managers often segment an employee’s career into “tours of duty” that last a couple of years. The employee and manager agree on specific goals to be met during that period. At the end of a given tour, both parties understand that the employee might leave.
“By talking openly about the fact that an employee might leave, you actually increase the likelihood” that he or she will stay on, said Ben Casnocha, a co-author of the book and Mr. Hoffman’s former chief of staff. Employers should make clear that “if it makes more sense for you to leave [than stay], that’s OK,” he added.
A client of Allied Talent, our consultancy that works with companies on talent management, is featured in the article as well:
Toby Murdock, CEO of Kapost, a Boulder, Colo. marketing-software firm, said he has adopted that mind-set. “It is a very fluid marketplace for young people,” said Mr. Murdock, 41. “Let’s be honest about that instead of trying to deny it.”
He wants young workers to consider his company a career accelerator, rather than a parking lot. That attitude has given Kapost a reputation as a career launchpad, Mr. Murdock said, and helps the company attract a stream of ambitious young candidates.
The next day I went on Varney & Co on Fox Business to discuss the topic. Here’s the clip:
There’s a lot more to say on the millennial topic. More to come soon.
You want your employees networking outside the company–even on the company dime and on company time.
This is a theme we explore in-depth in The Alliance. As a brief summary, we’ve prepared a new slide deck on why network intelligence matters, and how to set up programs to support it at your company. Check it out.
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.
If you work at a company and are thinking about how to implement the ideas in your organization, drop me an email and join the LinkedIn group.