The Alliance: Managing Talent In The Networked Age Review
Daniel Pink interviews Reid Hoffman / Ben Casnocha / Chris Yeh
Daniel H. Pink is the author of Drive, To Sell is Human, A Whole New Mind, and other books about business and behavior.
Every so often a company comes along that transforms the world of work. LinkedIn is one of those companies. Since its founding more than a decade ago, it has become the place where professionals build, maintain, and nurture their networks. For millions of people from all over the globe, LinkedIn is a source of opportunities, talent, even inspiration.
But its founder, Reid Hoffman, isn’t content with merely building a hugely successful company. He’s also established himself as one of the most interesting thinkers in Silicon Valley. His first book, The Start Up of You, written with longtime collaborator Ben Casnocha, encouraged individuals to think of themselves as entrepreneurs, even if they were collecting a W-2 paycheck.
Now Hoffman and Casnocha (with Chris Yeh) are back with a new book, which takes 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.
Pink: One of the many things I like about The Alliance is that you take on the notion that successful companies are “families.” Explain.
Hoffman / Casnocha / Yeh: Some CEOs like to refer to their companies as families. The concept of family is a powerful one, and describes how the best companies treat their people: with compassion and respect. Yet we believe that using family language is a big mistake. The problem is that families are permanent--you can't fire your kids, no matter how many times they may forget to take out the trash. Companies are not permanent. The instant you lay off an underperforming employee, or someone leaves to pursue a better opportunity, the illusion of family is shattered. The only way to maintain the fiction is for people to lie to themselves and each other.
This underlying dishonesty is corrosive, and prevents the kind of trust that is necessary for a close, high-performance relationship. Both sides need to be honest with each other about the fact that the employment might not be permanent.
Pink: The big idea in this book is the “tour of duty.” How did you come up with that concept?
Hoffman / Casnocha / Yeh: We realized the employment relationship was broken. The family model was no longer affordable, but the opposite approach of treating every employee like a free agent doesn’t build the high trust, collaborative relationships necessary for innovation.
Many Silicon Valley companies began using the Alliance and tour of duty frameworks as a way to manage the employer-employee relationship for the modern era. One of us (Reid) deployed it successfully when founding LinkedIn. In order to attract great people, he avoided vague talk about loyalty and instead made an explicit deal with employees: if they signed up for a tour of duty of between two to four years and made an important contribution to the business, Reid and the company would help advance their careers, preferably in the form of another tour of duty at LinkedIn, or at a different company if that's what was best for them.
This approach provided a crisp focus and a mutually agreeable time frame for discussing the employment relationship. It improved retention of great employees at LinkedIn. The paradox of the tour of duty idea is that acknowledging the fact that an employee can and might leave your company in the future improves your ability to construct a tour of duty that convinces him or her to stay.
Pink: How does a sense of purpose factor in to your analysis of talent and its place in modern organization?
Hoffman / Casnocha / Yeh: A sense of purpose matters hugely for employee engagement and effectiveness, but you don't get that through a single, company-wide mission statement. Most corporate mission statements are little loved and have little impact on the day to day task of recruiting and retaining great people.
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“Recommended Reading: 10 Books on Creative Leadership” – Forbes
Business Insider’s list of business books every professional should read before turning 30
"The Alliance shaped career conversations in a way that was way more visible and healthy than I'd ever seen done." — Pat Wadors, Head of HR for LinkedIn; as seen in Business Insider
“… an insightful look at the new employer-employee relationship (especially for those of us on-boarding Gen Y and soon Millennials). — Ken Tencer, CEO of Spyder Works Inc., Globe and Mail
“This book will force you to see the future, it will show you new models of work, and it has the eminence and perspective to make your entire team think… an important new book which is well worth a read.” — Forbes
“an essential handbook for dealing with the challenges of managing an ever more connected, ever more mobile workforce.” — Barnes & Noble
“In a provocative new book, the father of social networks reveals a startling new way to reframe the relationship between employers and employees.” — Fortune magazine
“Readers will discover in this engaging book that the relationship between employee and employer doesn't have to be branded as ‘It's complicated.’" — TD magazine (Association for Talent Development)
“For those of you who haven’t read The Alliance, Reid, Casnocha and Yeh make a compelling case for a third model that treats employees as ‘allies.’” — Human Resource Executive
ADVANCE PRAISE for The Alliance:
Jeffrey R. Immelt, Chairman and CEO, General Electric—
“GE is competing in its third century. The key to sustained performance is developing competitive leaders in every era. The Alliance captures the essence of modern talent development: trust and mutual value creation helps both employer and employee compete in the marketplace. The authors lay out a framework that helps big companies as well as start-ups develop their people more effectively, while creating a competitive team.”
Kenneth I. Chenault, Chairman and CEO, American Express—
“Engaged employees are the key to success in any business. The Alliance is a terrific book that offers real-world insights on how to build loyalty, inspire creativity, and manage winning teams for the long term.”
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