One of the most important changes is the workplace in the last 20 years is the notion that most employees are free agents. We are hired and fired and resign at will. It’s a markedly different era than the career salarymen of IBM’s heyday who remained with the company for decades from college graduation through retirement. In this highly-competitive talent market, where every employee is a free agent, hiring and retaining talent has become a key strategic advantage.
So, which are the best tools to create a vibrant and attractive working environment? I’m sure this is a question on every founder and CEO’s mind. In The Alliance, Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh describe the talent management strategies which succeeded at LinkedIn. In particular, they adopt a metaphor coined by VP of Product David Hahn during his nine years at LinkedIn: the Tour of Duty.
A Tour of Duty has a defined mission, clear objectives, and a bounded time frame. The book describes three different types of Tours of Duty:
Achieving success in a of Tours of Duty demands a similar process to most well designed projects. First, a shared sense of mission and values between employer and employee must be established. Second, the company must take the time to understand the short and long term career aspirations of the employee, and craft a tour of duty with relevant daily work that will help the employee achieve those goals. Third, employers and employees must define success criteria for the Tour of Duty. Fourth, employer and manager should provide each other feedback on progress throughout. Finally, the next tour of duty must begin to be defined before the current one is completed.
I wasn’t familiar with it before reading The Alliance, but I really like the idea of a Tour of Duty. It aligns the mission and work of an employee with a business, and ensures both are benefitting from the relationship. In order to attract and retain the best talent, startups have to create a culture of trust, respect, learning, accomplishment and shared values/mission. The Tour of Duty concept is a framework to help companies foster that culture.