During my career as a developer, I didn’t stay in one job for more than a year. I was a chronic job-hopper, always looking for a salary increase. I couldn’t see how staying at one company would do me any good when other companies were offering higher salaries.
In Reid Hoffman’s The Alliance, the authors acknowledge this outright. The expectation that employees will stick around out of a sense of loyalty is midguided. To get real engagement from them you have to appeal to their interests first.
In the book, the authors recommend negotiating and agreeing on fixed-length tours of duty with employees. This is a set period of time in which the employee agrees not to leave and the employer agrees not to fire them. The employer and employee try to find areas where the goals of the business and the career goals of the employee intersect and set measurable objectives for meeting them.
At the end of a tour of duty, in most cases employers and employees can negotiate a new tour that establishes their goals for the next period. Tours of duty are not legally binding, and are not simply a way of engaging in short term employment contracts.
They’re instead a way to acknowledge the terms of the relationship, above and beyond the transaction of time for money. The employee might commit to learning a new set of skills if the employer asks that they take on a new set of responsibilities.
The book talks about different types of tours:
- Rotational. These are tours that have an employee learn the fundamentals of a role and be effective at it.
- Transformational. These are tours that have the employee make a significant impact on the business, usually by bringing them into a new role with new responsibilities.
- Foundational. These are longer term tours for people that are effectively a “part” of the business.
The book is worth reading for a different take on the generally accepted model of full-time employment.
- Najaf Ali