Review: The Alliance – Managing Talent in the Networked Age by Hoffman, Casnocha and Yeh

alliance coverThis review first ran in the July 28th edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age

By Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh

Harvard Business Review Press


Congratulations on your new job. We’re sorry to see you go.

Your coworkers throw an Irish wake. The boss says kind words. They give you a gift.

There are handshakes, hugs and promises to stay in touch.

But that doesn’t happen. It’s out of sight, out of mind.

And that’s too bad because not staying connected is a missed opportunity for you and your former employer, according to the authors of The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age.

Building a corporate alumni network is one of three big ideas for building employee loyalty pitched by LinkedIn cofounder and executive chairman Reid Hoffman, along with Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh.

“A business without loyalty is a business without long-term thinking,” warn the authors. “A business without long-term thinking is a business that’s unable to invest in the future. And a business that isn’t investing in tomorrow’s opportunities and technologies is a company already in the process of dying.”

So how do you build employee loyalty when you can’t guarantee lifetime employment and the competition for top talent is fierce in Free Agent Nation?

One solution is to launch an alumni network for valued former employees.  A study out of the Netherlands founded that 15 per cent of surveyed companies had formal alumni networks and another 67 per cent of companies had ex-employees who wanted to stay connected and independently organized informal networks on their own time and dime.

Your alumni network can help you hire new employees by making referrals. You can stay connected with boomerang employees who discover the grass isn’t always greener.  Alumni can be a goldmine of business intelligence on everything from competitive information, emerging trends and best practices being adopted outside your organization. Alumni can steer business and customers your way.  And alumni can be enthusiastic and convincing brand ambassadors.

While alumni networks keep you connected with former employees, you can build an alliance with new hires by offering tours of duty. Recast careers in your organization as successive missions that develop an employee’s skills while also building trust and mutual investment. Most importantly, these tours tend to appeal to sought-after entrepreneurial talent who want to transform their careers and the organizations they work for. “Today, entrepreneurial thinking and doing are the most important capabilities companies need from their employees. As the competitive pace increases, it becomes more and more critical.”

A third way to build a strong alliance with loyal employees is to help them grow their professional networks outside your organization. As the authors point out, there are far more smart people outside your company than inside it. Your organization can’t afford to be inward looking so encourage your employees to connect with all the smart people they know and then share what they learn.

“Your most driven employees are going to build their professional networks anyway. It’s up to you to encourage them to do so for their jobs.  So don’t treat tweeting on the job like an infraction – encourage it. Ask your employees to expense lunches with interesting people.”

Taken together, these three strategies help build an alliance that benefits both employers and employees. “The business world needs a new employment framework that facilitates mutual trust, mutual investment and mutual benefit. An ideal framework encourages employees to develop their personal networks and act entrepreneurially without becoming mercenary job-hoppers. It allows companies to be dynamic and demanding but discourages them from treating employees like disposable assets.

“We can’t restore the old model of lifetime employment but we can build a new type of loyalty that both recognizes economic realities and allows companies and employees to commit to each other.”

So at your next farewell party for the high performer you didn’t want to lose, make one of your gifts a lifetime membership in your organization’s alumni network. And then stay in touch.

Book review: The Start-Up of You

This review first ran in the May 22nd edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

The Start-Up of You

By Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha

Crown Business


Showcasing our city’s start-up superheroes was one of the best suggestions to come out of this month’s Hamilton Economic Summit.

Recognizing our hometown innovators and entrepreneurs is a smart move on two fronts.

First, these are the folks who are taking big risks and working long hours to launch businesses, create jobs and build prosperity. They deserve a turn in the spotlight and a show of support.

Showcasing our start-up superheroes will also benefit the rest of us in our own careers. Even if we have no interest in launching a business, everyone needs to start thinking and acting like entrepreneurs. Our careers depend on it.

“To adapt to the challenges of professional life today, we need to rediscover our entrepreneurial instincts and use them to forge new sorts of careers,” say authors Ben Casnocha and Reid Hoffman, the cofounder and chairman of LinkedIn. “You need to think of yourself as an entrepreneur at the helm of at least one living, growing start-up venture: your career.”

Like an entrepreneur, you need to know how to deal with uncertainty, constant change and constraint.  You need to know how to take stock of your assets, aspirations and market realities to find your competitive advantage. You need to create flexible, iterative career plans.  You need to build networks of relationships to help you along the way. You need to aggressively seek out, capitalize on and create break-out opportunities. You need to take, and know how to manage, risks.

These entrepreneurial strategies are valuable no matter your career stage, according to Hoffman and Casnocha. “They are urgent whether you’re just out of college, a decade into the workforce and angling for that next big move, or launching a brand-new career later in life.”

We need to forever be a start-up in permanent beta. “Each day presents an opportunity to learn more, do more, be more, grow more in our lives and careers. Keeping your career in permanent beta forces you to acknowledge that you have bugs, that there’s new development to do on yourself.”

Hoffman and Casnocha recommend you embrace ABZ career planning. Plan A is what you’re doing today. Plan B is the career you pivot to when you need to change either your goal or the route for getting there. Plan B tends to be in the same ballpark and related field as your Plan A. And once you’ve moved to Plan B, that becomes your new Plan A and you need line up another Plan B.

Plan Z is your fallback position and lifeboat.  “What’s your certain, reliable, stable plan if all your career plans go to hell or if you want to do a major life change?”

With any luck, you’ll never need your Plan Z. But expect to move back and forth between Plan A and Plan B because, like any true entrepreneur, you’ll be quick to adjust, change course and capitalize on opportunities.

Gone are the days of guaranteed lifetime employment. The skills you have today will likely be redundant tomorrow. We’re all part of a global economy where technology is driving rapid change, creating, reinventing and killing off entire industries without a whole lot of advance warning.

And if that wasn’t enough to stoke your entrepreneurial spirit, know that there are lots of people who can and want to have your dream job. You need to outsmart and outhustle the competition.

“The gap is growing between those who know the new career rules and have the new skills of a global economy, and those who clutch to old ways of thinking and rely on commoditized skills,” say Hoffman and Casnocha. “The question is, which are you?”