Over the course of the 20th century, the world of work saw a sea change. Earlier, people took on “jobs-for-life”. The keywords were loyalty and stability. Employees were loyal to their organisations and employers in-turn provided stable jobs for the employees, with steady career progressions.
In contrast, the latter part of the 20th century saw great turmoil at the workplace. The dot-com bubble burst in the year 2000, followed by the 9/11 attack. These events resulted in a slowdown in the job market. Pink-slips and layoffs became the order of the day. The attitude towards jobs changed with many employees constantly looking out for themselves and loyalty towards their organisation became scarce.
The “Tour of Duty” is a workplace construct that follows the middle-of-the road approach.Instead of having employees who are constantly scanning the marketplace, scouting for newer and better opportunities, Reid Hoffman, who was the founder of Linkedin, suggested Tours of Duty.
So, what does a “Tour of Duty” mean?
It is a term that has been borrowed from the military, but repurposed to the unique context within corporations. In the military, a soldier will see several tours of duty in his career. Each tour of duty is for a predetermined time, and to accomplish a specific task.
In the corporate context, it involves a contract that the employer and the employee get into, with the understanding that the contract is for a specific duration. (This could range from two to five years.) The duty will involve a clearly defined goal to be achieved within a finite period of time.
Employees commit their time and effort to further the interests of their organisation and work towards completing and accomplishing a planned, definite mission.
Employers, instead of feeling threatened, encourage their employees to build great professional networks. This is with the understanding that the employees will leverage these connections to catapult the organisation’s business to the next level. The end of a tour of duty involves a discussion between the employer and the employee to validate the accomplishment of the mutually discussed tasks and the possibility of another tour of duty for the employee, if both parties agree on the same.
The key question to ask while setting up any Tour of Duty is: how will each party (employer and employee) benefit?
It is said that the fact that tours of duty do not guarantee “lifetime jobs” make employees entrepreneurial. They are constantly looking to keep themselves abreast of the latest that is happening in their industry, so that they have marketable, industry-specific skills.
Companies, in turn, benefit from the expertise and enthusiasm of employees who are at the top of their game — even if they are with the company only for the duration of the tour of duty.
Tours of duty have the additional benefit of attracting top talent — those who wish to ensure that their stay at a company really “makes a difference” to the company. The model has the advantage of encouraging every employee to work towards specific achievable goals and enhancing their own personal brand, skills and experience.
Reid Hoffman’s book The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age gives the lowdown on how tours of duty can be used to attract, recruit and retain entrepreneurial talent to enable your organisation to thrive in a fast-changing world.
“A few of the managers we spoke with for this book worried that the tour of duty framework might give employees "permission" to leave. But permission is not yours to give or to withhold, and believing you have that power is simply a self-deception that leads to a dishonest relationship with your employees. Employees don't need your permission to switch companies, and if you try to assert that right, they'll simply make their move behind your back.” ― Reid Hoffman, The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age
A win-win relationship
With workplaces seeing shifts and changes like never before, the contracts between organisations and their employees might need a rethink. With win-wins on both sides, it is highly probable that more organisations will adopt the tour of duty employment model in the days to come! Careernet helps organisations navigate the changing dynamics in the world of work. We are at the forefront of driving innovation in talent acquisition. To know more about how we could help you, reach out to us at 080 6656 6000 or write to us at email@example.com
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