By Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha & Chris Yeh
In an era of at-will employment, company loyalty is scarce and long-time ties are scarcer. “It’s just business” has become the ruling philosophy—especially when layoffs hit—and workers are encouraged to think of themselves as “free agents.”
Yet bosses and hiring managers still ask workers to commit to the company without committing to them in return. This creates a relationship built on mutual self-deception.
It’s time for a new way of doing business: the Alliance and the tour of duty framework.
When Reid first founded LinkedIn Corp., he offered an explicit deal to talented employees: If they signed up for a 2-4 year tour of duty and made an important contribution to some part of the business, Reid and the company would help advance their careers, preferably in the form of another tour of duty at LinkedIn. This approach worked: the company got an engaged employee who worked to achieve tangible results for LinkedIn. The employee transformed his career by enhancing his portfolio of skills and experiences.
The finite term of the tour of duty provides crisper focus and a mutually agreeable time frame for discussing the future of the relationship. It gives a valued employee concrete and compelling reasons to “stick it out” and finish a tour. Most importantly, a realistic tour of duty lets both sides be honest, which is a necessity for trust.