A friend of mine recently shared an article by Reid Hoffmann, co-founder of LinkedIn, in a group we belong to there. The article was promoting the philosophy of “…the Alliance and the tour of duty framework.” For future employer/employee relationships. [http://blogs.wsj.com/atwork/2014/07/08/linkedin-founder-how-to-fix-the-way-we-work/]
In other words, as Hoffmann wrote “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. “
Why was he doing this? Again Reid writes “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.”
My response to this complex and fraught with legal risk idea is this; “It is putting a band aid on a gash.” It addresses an outcome to a root cause of the problem. It does not address the problems cause.
Let us first identify the real problem. I have used this Gallup Research and Right Management study before because it is powerfully accurate, “…study that determined only “…4% of U.S. employers report having an ample pipeline that will cover most of their leadership and management needs…” I also wrote that a Gallup survey showed that poorly lead work groups are 50% less productive and 44% less profitable than well lead ones.
The problem is leadership or more importantly a lack of leadership.
This isn’t solved with some new complex system that will only benefit a few. The solution to the problem is two-fold. The first solution is leadership. For the most part it doesn’t exist. We have management but we do not have leadership. We manage things, we lead people. Some pundits would say “that’s ridiculous”. They would be incorrect.
The Solution is a Holistic Approach to the Business, Starting at the Top
When a company lay’s off employees it is because leadership failed. It isn’t the economy, it isn’t the weather, it isn”t Uncle Bob’s gout. Leadership failed. It failed because it did not do those things necessary to sustain the company month after month, year after year. It became lazy and entrenched. Doing more than the status quo was too hard, it meant…gasp!!! working for accomplishment instead of activity. In those companies leadership is a position, it isn’t a role. Further, it isn’t even leadership, it is failureship. It is much easier to simply toss away people, write off inventory as a loss, bad product as a loss, etc. Why actually work when I have those incentives to MANAGE that still gives me a big salary, leisure time and power. Plus the investors are happy because we make enough short term profit to satisfy them and Wall Street.
The other issue is the Employee Value Proposition. One of those fancy look how smart I am terms created to show others just how smart the creator was. In reality it means simply how does the employee add value to the organization.
If you come to work every day at 8, clock out for lunch at 12 and return at 12:30, then end your day at 4, you did what was asked of you. No more and no less. You don’t have to show any more interest in the work or company than that. No problem.
Another person comes into work on that same schedule, they complete their tasks ahead of time and look for more work. Or they propose cost saving value enhancing ways to produce or deliver.
Two very different employees. As an employer I know which one I will show value to. I also know which one I try to improve and if unsuccessful suggest another place of employment to.
Of course, and again this is where we get holistic, that means creating an intrapreneurial environment that supports employees like our second example. That falls back on leadership. Bad leadership sees those kinds of employees as threats. Threats to their little piece of don’t have to do a lot to survive while getting a big paycheck existence.
Is all of that cynical? You darn right it is. It is also, if we are honest with ourselves, the hard truth.
So how do we fix that? Simple…invest in leadership. Leadership and not leaders. Leaders leave by retirement, new jobs, etc. Leadership remains in the company. Train your leaders in leadership. Not some off the shelf out of the box process, not some fly by night $199 one size fits all local seminar from someone who has never set foot in your company. Leadership development that is customized to your organization and that comes with specific financial measurements to show success.
You owe it to your business if nothing else.