Want to Attract The Best People? It Starts With Being Honest

October 28, 2016

Reid Hoffman is a LinkedIn Learning author.

This information in this article is from the LinkedIn Learning course Creating an Alliance with Employees.

A generation ago, people would work for one company their entire career. With the economy less fluid, companies could provide lifetime employment, and an employee’s progress within that company was their lifetime achievement.

Today, that’s simply no longer the case. Companies can no longer provide lifetime employment, as the economy changes too frequently. And people generally aren’t interested in working for one organization for their entire career, as there’s a stark increase in people switching jobs and functions altogether.

The problem with this? Most conversations between employees and management act as though the previous reality is still true today. And that makes conversations between the two fundamentally dishonest.

“(Companies and employees) talk to each other like it’s a lifetime employment gig,” LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman said in his recent LinkedIn Learning class he did with Chris Yeh on creating an “Alliance” with employees, a concept introduced in a book he co-wrote with Yeh and Ben Casnocha. “Where the company says we’re gonna hire you, you’re gonna be here forever. The employee says, oh yes, I’m intending to be here forever. And yet, they both know that’s not the case.”

So what should that conversation look like instead?

“What the company should say to the employee is I’m going to invest no longer in your lifetime employment, but in your lifetime employability,” Hoffman said. “And what the employee should say to the company is, look, I know that I may be here for a long time. I may be here for a small number of years. But, either way, I should make my time here transformative to the company, where what I did really matters for how the company evolves.”

Hoffman and Yeh call this dynamic the Alliance between the employee and the employer. And while it means neither will work for each other for life, it instead ensures a lifelong relationship between the two.

“The Alliance is a framework for attracting, retaining and managing incredibly entrepreneurial employees, the kind of people who are gonna drive your business forward and transform it, as they transform their own careers,” Hoffman said in the course.

The evidence that supports the Alliance          

There is overwhelming qualitative evidence that supports Hoffman, Casnocha and Yeh’s proposal.

First off, LinkedIn research found a steep increase in job hopping with each new generation. People who graduated college from 1986 to 1990 averaged 1.6 jobs in their first five years out of school, and just one more job in the following five years. Compare that to people who graduated college between 2006 and 2010, who averaged 2.85 jobs in their first five years out of school.

So forget about lifetime employment – the research shows 18-month employment is more like it!

Further LinkedIn research found the number-one reason people change jobs: career development. So, people are changing jobs more often, in an effort to quickly reach their goals.

“The employee-employer relationship hasn’t evolved with the times,” Yeh said in the course. “Employees realize, you know what? The promises that worked for my parent’s don’t work for me. I don't believe anymore that the company's gonna keep me around for 30 years.”

Hence, organizations are misguided to avoid honest career conversations with their people, as it’s a reality of today’s business climate. By both sides refusing to admit what’s really on their mind, it turns their relationship into a transactional one, which often ends within a few years.

Hoffman and Yeh’s solution is far more practical, as it allows organizations and employees to have authentic relationships that benefit both. If the Alliance is adopted, your organization will invariably see an uptick in both employee engagement and quality-of-hire, with employees feeling empowered to have honest conversations with their managers.

Of course, there’s more to just the Alliance than what’s described above, which is more fully explained in Hoffman and Yeh’s course. But, it all begins with adopting this new mindset, where instead of employees and employers having disingenuous conversations with each other, they start speaking the truth.

Click here to watch Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh’s free class on the Alliance, which outlines concepts like tours of duty, why establishing an employee alumni program is so important and specific, tactical advice on how to make this all a reality.