How to Align Employee, Manager, and Company to Work Together

September 5, 2014 - 9 minute read - Posted by

It’s Day 1 at your new job.  You’ve joined this company to do some great work and contribute to their vision. What is your employment going to look over time?

Employment has changed significantly in the past 50 years. In the past, people would work at company for a lifetime and now you see employees job hopping to an average of 15-20 jobs over their lifetime. Why is it that 70% of employees are looking for new opportunities?

The modern employee-employer relationship, according to Reid Hoffman, Chris Yeh and Ben Casnocha co-authors of The Alliance, is based on a dishonest conversation. Employees leave because they invest in the company without getting any professional investment in their future in return from the company.

In the Alliance, the co-authors present strategies adopted by LinkedIn and other tech companies of how we can manage talent in our growing information age. It requires a lot of hard work, but by providing direction with specific objectives and opportunity to grow we can move the work employee-employer from transactional relationship to a mutually beneficial ongoing relationship.

Set Career Roadmaps

In the military, soldiers serve a tour of duty where they serve their country for a period of time. Within an alliance, employees and their companies also serve a tour of duty together where a path a mutual benefit, projects and value exchange occur. A tour of duty is a commitment between employee and employer that focuses on a specific mission within a time frame. Tours of duty can last from 2 years to decades. These agreements differ based on what the mission of work is.

The co-authors of the Alliance have described 3 different tours of duty: rotational, transformational and foundational. Rotational tours are defined as entry-level work within a 2-4 year term, ideal for someone who is new to the market or fresh out of school. Rotational tours are a great place to ramp up a new skill set. Transformational tours occur when your individual identity is intertwined with the companies identity to follow a meaningful mission. Transformational tours can occur in startup companies. The first 10 -20 employees will devote a large part of their daily lives growing the company. Lastly, foundational tours refer to work that will have large overlap between your personal career purpose and the companies career purpose. You will most likely stay with a company for +10 years in various different positions, contributing to large projects that create significant advancement and progress for the company.

When you set a tour of duty with an employee from the initial conversation it plays an essential role to future tours of duty they can pursue within the company. It also creates a roadmap that can later be changed or give opportunity for another role they may be interested in. An employee should think how they can offer value for the tour of duty and managers should think of how they can support the employee along the way.

Set Clear Objectives

A great way to align the tour of duty is to have clear objectives on a company, department and employee level. It allows employees to think strategically about their work but also gives employee a way to monitor their own progress, learn to set smart goals and align their work to the company goals.

Setting clear objectives creates a process by which employees and managers can work together but also empowers the employee to take ownership of their work. When you sit and get to know an employees core values and see how that aligns with your business values. You can use this information to figure out where they will be most effective in the organization. This process will take time for a manager, but it will pay off since you will learn to better work with that employee long term. From an employees core values you can learn a lot about their personal goals as well. These will differ between individuals if you have one employee that is a philanthropic driven vs. someone who is driven by solely improving themselves. Get to know your employees on a more personal level to have conversations to better support them on their objectives. Set regular intervals to check in with your employees on their objectives. This is a great opportunity to exchange feedback on how progress is moving forward for performance management.

Create Growth Opportunities for Development

Employees want to gain valuable experience through their career with opportunities to gain new skills sets. Employers should create opportunities where employees can build their network and collaborate with other professionals for their own value plus the companies benefit as well.

There are companies who do this well. Moz, a Seattle-based inbound marketing software company, encourages learning by creating speaking events for their employees to engage both their customers and others in what is trending in the SEO space. LinkedIn also gives budgets for their employees to have lunch with smart people and learn from others in the industry.

Employee learning is valuable for your an external audience as well as your team internally. At 7Geese, we have weekly Lunch and Learns where 1-2 people present something that they have learned on their own that they can relate to our business. This kind of learning engages employees in different fields and departments learn more about each others work. We document all the presentations so we can go back and reference to them and also apply the new knowledge to improve our work. And occasionally we will have guest speakers to come in and present topics to better improve our careers and personal lives.

Companies that give their employees the resources, freedom and space for learning truly add value to both employee and employer but also create ideas for innovation. Ed Catmull and John Lasseter rebirthed Pixar from a struggling company to a market leader making great movies with computer animation, Benjamin Black of Amazon presented the idea for Amazon Web Services which is now a leader in cloud computing and hosting for companies all around the world. Investing in employee learning and development shows you care and stick to your agreement to help employees grow professionally.

A workplace where everyone can work together and all have the same level of happiness and career satisfaction is hard. It takes a lot of work with organizational structure, culture and open conversations where expectations of both parties can be clear. Picture it this way: if someone leaves your company to embark a different tour of duty elsewhere, you want them to speak highly of the team they worked with, the life long relationships they built, and the exciting work and achievements they had along the way. The key here is to start small. If you’re reading this you are probably doing a lot right already. Strive to not be transactional but create employee-employer alliances with career roadmaps, clear objectives and shared learning for better alignment in your workforce.

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