The Global Talent Crunch

Michal Lev-Ram writes about The Global Talent Crunch in Fortune magazine, and quotes Reid and me discussing why The Alliance is part of the solution:

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…

Econtalk on The Alliance and Future of Work

masthead_econlibHaving 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.

Charlie Rose on The Alliance

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.

Talking with Jeff and Reid About The Alliance

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.

Here’s a full video of the chat. Here’s the 25 minute highlight reel (and embedded) below.

“The Must-Read Book of the Summer”

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.”

If you’re a manager or work with managers, would love to hear your feedback. And thanks for picking up a copy at Amazon, B&N, Hudson’s bookstore in the airport, or anywhere else!

Visual Summary of The Alliance

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.

Your Company is Not a Family

Reid, Chris, and I wrote a post on HBR.org about the myth of company as family, and explained why in The Alliance we liken companies to pro sports teams. Here’s how it starts:

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.

How Do You Get Employees to Open Up?

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.

My New Book — The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age

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.allinacecover

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!

Is Employee Job Tenure Really Shortening? (Yes, It Is)

Catherine Rampell, writing in the Washington Post, says churn in companies is down:

The share of people getting laid off each month — as well as, more disturbingly, the shares getting hired and quitting their jobs — is near record lows. That’s according to Labor Department data released this weekand calculations from John Haltiwanger, an economist at the University of Maryland. Haltiwanger estimates that private-sector layoffs, hires and resignations are 21 percent to 26 percent below their rates two decades ago.

But is it true? It seems counterintuitive. The new Five Thirty Eight helpfully digs into the tenure data:

The median “tenure” of a worker — how long the typical worker has been with the same employer — rose by 14 percent between 1983 and 2006, to four years from 3.5. When the recession hit, the trend accelerated, with median tenure hitting 4.4 years in 2010 and 4.6 years in 2012. As counterintuitive narratives go, it would be hard to beat, “Job security continues to rise.” …

But when you look closer, it becomes clear that this counterintuitive narrative is counterintuitive for a reason. The Labor Department’s data on tenure look only at people who are employed. That means that if a large number of recent hires lose their jobs at once — as tends to happen when a recession hits — median tenure will rise, even though people aren’t staying in their jobs for longer.

The prerecession trend of increased tenure turns out to be equally misleading in a different way. There are two major forces at work. The first is age: Older workers are more likely to have been in their jobs for longer, so the gradual aging of the U.S. population has pushed up workers’ average tenure. The second is the entrance of women into the workforce and, particularly, into career-track jobs. In 1983, the average woman had been with her employer a year less than the average man; 30 years later, their average tenures are nearly equal. If we set aside those factors and focus just on men in their prime working years, there was a decline in tenure in the years before the recession. This is one case where conventional wisdom holds up.

Of course, the correct, conventional wisdom of shortening employee tenure is even more apparent when you’re looking at high skilled workers in dynamic industries.