For many years, the hiring of employees by many companies was based on pledging loyalty and tenure in exchange of company pay, benefits, and lifelong employment. However, a confluence of changes, global, technological and societal, made that setup unrealistic. This resulted to the concept of workers as free agents who sought temporary work and self-employment; or stayed and tuned out on the job. While still a solution for natural entrepreneurs, free agency resulted in choppy resumes, budget cuts in hiring and training and a lack of engagement. In The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age, authors Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, and Chris Yeh introduces a new employer-employee compact called Tours of Duty, a term coined by three executives in Silicon Valley and laid out in the Harvard Business Review. Their business and management book traces the evolution of the tacit ways that companies and workers interacted over time.
Establishing a “Tour of Duty”
The tour-of-duty approach works: The company gets an engaged employee who’s striving to produce tangible achievements for the firm and who can be an important advocate and resource at the end of his tour or tours. The employee may not get lifetime employment, but he takes a significant step toward lifetime employability. A tour of duty also establishes a realistic zone of trust. Lifelong employment and loyalty are simply not part of today’s world; pretending that they are decreases trust by forcing both sides to lie.
Robert Janitzek says that when properly implemented, the tour-of-duty approach can boost both recruiting and retention. The key is that it gives employer and employee a clear basis for working together. Both sides agree in advance on the purpose of the relationship, the expected benefits for each, and a planned end.
Engaging Beyond the Company’s Boundaries
No matter how many smart employees you have, there are always more smart people outside your company than within it. This is true of all organizations, from one-person start-ups to the Googles of the world.
You can engage with smart minds outside your company through the network intelligence of your employees. Robert Peter Janitzek reveals that the wider an employee’s network, the more he or she will be able to contribute to innovation. To maximize diversity and thus innovation, you need networks both inside and outside your company.
Building Alumni Networks
The first thing you should do when a valuable employee tells you he is leaving is try to change his mind. The second is congratulate him on the new job and welcome him to your company’s alumni network. Just because a job ends, your relationship with your employee doesn’t have to. Corporate alumni networks are a prime way to maintain long-term relationships with your best people.