How Employers And Employees Actually Collaborate To Create Better Work

Tours of Duty Spark Talent-Building and Engagement

Most any kind of organization can foster innovation, talent building and camaraderie by adopting the tour-of-dutyapproach used at LinkedIn and advocated by its founder and co-author of The Alliance Reid Hoffman. “Employees might embark on a rotational, transformational or foundational tour of duty,” notes The Optimistic Workplace author, Shawn Murphy in describing LinkedIn’s culture. The three steps to such tours are:

  1. Learning the basics about the company.
  2. Participating in a transformational task, “such as starting a department.”
  3. Being trained by diverse others in the firm, to lead.

Specificity is Key Self-Clarity to Mutual Understanding

“Employees must commit for the duration of each tour in a ‘mutually beneficial deal, with explicit terms, between independent players.’ Hoffman even suggests a term sheet explaining what the company expects and what it offers, whether an exchange of contacts or help finding a job elsewhere,” Bloomberg Business journalist Bryant Urstadtwrote in characterizing the specificity in this LinkedIn policy that boosts it’s popularity and power for all parties.

Facilitate the Networks That Keep Employees Engaged for Life

Any company can optimize the shared learning from the tours of duty, by having an aptly designed enterprise social-enabled intranet, according to Enterprise Strategies founder and managing director, Andy Jankowski: “The last thing you or your employees want after a successful tour is the loss of that shared experience. Enterprise social networks allow for key collaborations to happen digitally — in a format that is stored, searchable, findable and reusable. These networks provide the needed glue and context for meaningful and efficient knowledge sharing and engagement. As well, these networks can extend beyond the company firewall, and thus maintain and grow networks of current and past employees who share a common experience that can often continue to contribute to the company.”

Greater Career Flexibility Can Help Companies and Employees

Relatedly, when a company policy supports employees and their bosses to collaborate on a zig zag career path (rather than a traditional corporate ladder) that supports both the career and lifestyle goals of the employee and the overall mission of the company, all parties win, suggests Deloitte game changer, Cathy Benko and Molly Anderson in The Corporate Lattice. Like the tour of duty policy it’s a mass career customizationway to retain top talent too.

Mutual Mentoring Can Boost Self-Organizing and Innovation

An under-utilized, no cost opportunity for cross-departmental learning and relationship building that can also spark serendipitous insights for innovation in a company is mutual mentoring. That can take several forms. For example, an aptly designed intranet could facilitate employees at all levels in finding employees with the exact expertise or experience from whom they could learn for an immediate, one-time or longer term need or interest.

Rather than just spurring reverse mentoring, where 20-something employees guide older workers in, say, digital technology, why not encourage mutual mentoring across your company? Also some employees might seek colleagues with complementary talents who share a sweet spot of mutual interest that reflects a company need or possible opportunity. They might explore creating a self-organized team to tackle it, especially if the company encouraged such exploration, with guidelines as explicit as Reid Hoffman’s for tours of duty.

What explicit employer/employee methods have you encountered that make work more productive, enjoyable and meaningful?

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