Article: Tour of duty on talent management

Talent Management

Tour of duty on talent management

Todays networked talent needs a framework that redefines loyalty in employer-employee relationship and makes it relevant to the new economic reality
Tour of duty on talent management

In a survey of HBR readers done by LinkedIn, 75% of readers said that they leverage their professional network to solve business problems


Rich information about consumers needs, organization culture, emerging products and technologies lie within peoples mind, which can be leveraged ethically through collective knowledge and network of workforce


My father had worked with a single organization for his entire working life. He had a satisfied career, however he hardly had any professional network outside his organization. 

We work in VUCA world (world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity & ambiguity) - not networking professionally is a sin. We network, discuss about skills, growth, the business environment and CTC. We work like “free agents”, changing jobs whenever opportunities for growth and advancement comes. The positive interpretation of this behavior is that we take charge of our career, the negative connotation is that we do not trust our employer for growth. 

While going back to the past era of employment relationship is not possible because of paradigm shift in business environment, the present state of employment relationship is also not effective. We swing between the continuum of loyalty & employability, as there is no theory, data or framework that supports our judgmental call. 

Now, the good news. “The Alliance” written by Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha & Chris Yeh answers to this aspect of Talent Management and offers a framework that is relevant for today’s networked Talent. It is credible because practitioners of Talent Management wrote it, Reid is co-founder of LinkedIn, and shares the best-practices of Silicon Valley, which has the best people management practices in the world. 

I have drawn my learning from the book to respond to dichotomy between loyalty & employability. 

‘The Alliance’ provides a framework for building mutual trust, mutual benefit and mutual investment in the employer-employee relationship. The framework redefines loyalty in employer-employee relationship and makes it relevant to new economic reality. 

I understand the framework as a right-angled triangle.

Tour of duty

Right angled triangle signifies that Tour of duty is the journey that the employer and employee takes, employee network intelligence and Corporate Alumni network are enablers to make the journey meaningful. 

Tour of duty comes from the military. Tour means journey and hence it is the journey of different projects and initiatives throughout one’s career. This is like various assignments or deployments that soldiers take in their career in military. Tour of duty imbibes the mutual trust of lifetime employment and the flexibility of free agency. This approach relieves the pressure on the employee & the employer because it builds trust incrementally. Each tour is a baby step and both parties live up to their commitment to build upon the relationship. This approach brings hidden fear to fore: acknowledging that the employee might leave is the best form to build trust as the entire effort is to build a relationship that convinces the employee to stay.

Although the book prescribes different types of Tour of Duty for employees at different career stages, my takeaway is “Tour of Duty for Corporate Middle Class.” Companies need critical mass of entrepreneurial talent to lead change and few stars are not enough. This Class provides the pool of change agents. Employees between the freshers and senior management form corporate middle class. A Company cannot give job titles or compensation package to this class, yet they must remain committed to take the tours of duty. 

A tour of duty provides structure for employees to take series of personally meaningful missions that helps them to design their careers. A successful tour of duty builds trust between employer and employee as both parties walk the talk. A successful end of tour of duty of the employee should lead to pro-active discussion with the employee for his next tour of duty, before he decides to move out. Even if the employee decides to move out, he will provide the “Right of first conversation” to his Manager before finally looking out. 

The example of Deina King, in LinkedIn explains the spirit of Tour of duty. She had made it upfront to her manager that she won’t be doing her current job for next 5 years and she was banking on current of transformation of LinkedIn and hoped to be pulled to another role. LinkedIn believes it not as attitude of job-hopper but of a high performer, who is committed to continual professional development and challenge. 

Employee Network Intelligence

Talent in VUCA world is tremendously networked and this is an open secret. In a survey of HBR readers done by LinkedIn, 75 percent of readers said that they leverage their professional network to solve business problems. Many of the senior managers have grown in their career because of their instinct to leverage their network. Yet organizations are ambivalent of their take on professional networking of their employees. 

“The Alliance” recommends ways to use employee network for mutual benefit of employee & employer. The key learning is of building a networked workforce. Each employee collecting data from outside, whether through articles, books, classes, friends from inside or outside industry, generates intelligence that helps a company adapt to change outside. It helps in finding huge data point on what the competitor is doing, what are the key trends emerging. 

Information on public domain like P&L, Company’s corporate communication no more gives power and business intelligence. Rich information about consumers’ needs, organization culture, emerging products and technologies lie within people’s mind, which can be leveraged “ethically” through collective knowledge and network of workforce. Managers need to build trust so that employees build network and should also define processes in which employees share such intelligence. 

"The Alliance" suggest to help employees invest in their individual networks and company, which in turn, will build an environment of trust and reciprocity. And when the company ask employees to tap their own networks on behalf of company, they will be more likely to respond favorably.

A networked employee is visible to potential employer and this is a risk, but there is no other way to network other than being visible. However, risk of visibility is far less compared to the benefit of networking. 

Corporate alumni network

Lifetime employment may be over but lifetime relationship is aspirational. Employees want to maintain relationship with companies they have worked for. LinkedIn hosts over 1,18,000 corporate alumni groups but most of these groups don’t have any relationship with the company. The Alliance gives reasons why companies should invest in Alumni network and suggests that ROI for company would be more than what companies anticipate. 

Alumni are another source of network intelligence about competition, products, business practices, emerging trends & technology. They bring outside-in perspective that is unique and can’t be matched by consultants. They have worked in the company and know the organization within. They can provide honest feedback about a product or service which employees might not provide. Alumni refer customers, whether B2B or B2C. Many people in senior managerial positions hire or engage services of their previous organizations. 

Alumni are brand ambassadors of the company. Advertisements create awareness but buzz at ground is created by stakeholders and alumni are important stakeholders. They are considered as Third Party and are perceived as objective. They tweet or blog on social media voluntarily and are not paid anything for it. If they promote a product or support an initiative or respond to customer queries, they have advantage that employees can never duplicate. 

A right angled triangle and a compass of “The Alliance” is what I needed to harbor years of ambiguity. Wishing everyone a fulfilling Tour of Duty.

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Topics: Talent Management

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