In 1962, General Electric was the 4th biggest company in the world. It was a huge company turning huge profits — and it was innovative, too. Over the next few years it knew exactly which businesses were going to change the world. It invested in Nuclear energy, jet engines and computers. And in this modern company, striding confidently towards the future, you could have met Earl S. Willis, manager of employee benefits.
‘’Maximizing employment security is a prime company goal,’’ he wrote. According to him, there was no more productive asset than an employee who could see his whole future clearly ahead of him in your company.
It’s the career ladder many of our parents and their parents knew: you would get hired based on your academic degree and over the years you’d develop slowly and steadily. Some people would become leaders, some would become specialists, and some would plateau — reach a point where they couldn’t grow any further. The people of the plateau didn’t have to worry: they just held on to that job until they retired.
“We provide lifelong employment in exchange for loyal service,” Earl Willis said. By 1988, the mood had changed. Jack Welch was the CEO of GE, and he told a Wall Street Journal reporter: “Loyalty to a company? It’s nonsense.”
We don’t know exactly when Company Loyalty died, but we know the traditional and lifelong employer-employee marriage is gone — and it’s not coming back.
Time for a new plan of attack
Both employees and employers give less value to stability now. It’s adaptability and proactiveness that managers are looking for. It’s personal growth and feeling involved that most modern workers really appreciate.
Nobody knows better what employers and employees want in our day and age than Reid Hoffman. You see, he is the co-founder of Linkedin. And he argues that the time has come for a new employer-employee Alliance, which rethinks the relationship between bosses and workers and embraces our modern commitment issues.
One key part of the Alliance is The Tour of Duty. It is inspired by the military, which groups soldiers together and allocates them for a predetermined time with a predetermined set of objectives. If they deliver, the Mission is successful. Successful soldiers serve as many Tours of Duty as they want: when they finish one, they’re sent to whichever area their skillset is needed next.
This is the framework of the future:
Employer and employee bound by an ethical commitment to address a specific mission for a fixed period of time. The employee invests in the company’s success by offering creativity, time, energy, and commitment. In return, the company provides money, training, professional development, career opportunity and mentorship. When the Tour of Duty is ending, both parties sit down for a frank discussion of the future.
As Russ Hagey, chief talent officer at Bain & Company, said: in return for an employee’s hard work and dedication “we are going to make you more marketable.” This is important. It means that the employer accepts that the employee might want to move on. And commits to making them more valuable when they do — so they get a better salary, more perks and a larger number of responsibilities. So that each new job isn’t an interruption in their professional progress, but a building block in their career.
Basically, the Tour of Duty recognizes modern-day employment isn’t permanent. And instead of running away from this truth, the Tour of Duty embraces it as a feature, not a bug.
The fixed term of the Tour of Duty provides crisper focus. It gives any employee concrete and compelling reasons to stick it out until the mission is complete. Most importantly, a realistic Tour of Duty lets both sides be honest. And that’s the building-block for a healthy, trust-based professional relationship.
Which is exactly what’s missing in most professional environments today.
Co-founder @ Future.Works