Tours of Duty

Just finished reading The Alliance by Reid Hoffman et al.

The book expands the three core concepts (tours of duty, network intelligence and corporate alumni networks) outlined in this HBR article:

Tours of Duty – The New Employer-Employee Compact

The gist: even though modern-age employment no longer means staying in a single workplace for your entire professional career, this notion hasn’t explicitly been integrated into the way employers and employees interact with one another. The dissonance between the “welcome to the family” message you get from your boss and the long pitch on at-will employment you get from HR a couple of hours later is all too common. The fact that most likely there will be a “day after company X” is not acknowledged by either side, and the relationship between them suffers as a result.

Hoffman and team offer a theory-to-practice guide on three key concepts/tools to address this disconnect:

  • Tours of Duty – Regardless of contract, structure the long-term engagement (next 2-4 years) between the employer and employee as a definitive “tour of duty” with clear objectives and milestones that benefit both sides.
  • Network Intelligence – Encourage employees to develop their professional network and tap them to solve company challenges. There are more smart people outside your company than inside your company – the math doesn’t lie 🙂
  • Corporate Alumni Networks – Build an “official” alumni network for your company and clearly define its ongoing engagement with the company. It’s a great way to leverage that talent even after it’s no longer working for the company, and it continues to reinforce the value of past employment with the company.

Overall, I found the book to be a quick and easy read. The core disconnect that it addresses is a critical one and it’s not being discussed openly enough – so this book is an important step in the right direction. All three frameworks are pretty compelling and definitely move the conversation forward.

That being said, it’s pretty clear that all three authors have drank the LinkedIn kool-aid, which weakens some of the arguments they make. It would have also been great to take the “implementation” parts of the book a bit further and deepen readers’ empowerment to drive those transformations in their orgs.

Still well worth the read!

Your turn: what do you think of the “tours of duty” concept?

update: just found this deck, which does a very good job summarizing the premise and approach covered in the book. 

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Tours of Duty

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