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All In? Motivating Employees Without Loyalty Pledges

Posted on December 11, 2015

The troubled turnaround at Yahoo continues. Three years in, CEO Marissa Mayer attempted to put on a brave face while announcing the departure of three key executives. In last quarter’s earnings call, she called her current team, minus the three, “unequivocally the strongest.”

It’s part of a continued trend at the fallen internet giant. People streaming for the exits has become so pervasive that Mayer insisted top executives sign loyalty pledges, written three- to five-year commitments to Yahoo, in late August and early September. Some reporters allege these loyalty pledges are the reason the three Mayer-chosen executives departed and insiders hint two other direct reports are soon to follow.

Some might say these loyalty pledges are unreasonable in today’s “Freelance Economy” but Reid Hoffman, CEO of LinkedIn, wrote a compelling essay in support of Mayer in the November issue of the Harvard Business Review. In it, he argues three to five year commitments are the best way to drive an organization forward.

All In – The Value of a Committed Team

In support of this, Hoffman argues it is only possible to achieve long-term success by obtaining long-term commitments from employees. As he writes, “In a high-performance organization, a partial commitment [from an employee] is worse than none at all.” Managers who perform well know their “whole team is ready to move forward together, with focus and concentration.”

In Hoffman’s view, many managers live in blissful ignorance of their employees’ intentions, thinking their lack of complaint means they will stay on indefinitely. To counter this lazy thinking, Hoffman agrees with Mayer in an ideal of a signed “tour of duty” for employment. This document, would serve less as a legally binding contract and more as a statement of a shared commitment to one another.

Reducing Turnover and Rebuilding Trust

This “tour of duty” concept traces back to an earlier piece Hoffman wrote in the Harvard Business Review in 2013. In that article, Hoffman asserts employment for much of the 20th century was about ensuring stability. Lifetime employment was all but assured, unless there was gross incompetence, and advancement followed a predictable path. Companies, in turn, were rewarded with high employee loyalty and low turnover.

Unfortunately this orderly system broke down with the rise of the Information Age and globalization and ushered in a more laissez-faire era. Companies, in contrast to the previous age, treated employees as replaceable cogs and something to disposed of as soon as their use ran out. Employees, in turn, were encouraged to act as free agents and change jobs often. Hoffman speculates this system may be the reason for the high levels of disengaged workers in the American workforce today.

Finding Middle Ground

Hoffman’s model seeks to find a middle way between the two extremes. While the new economy has the benefit of being more flexible and adaptable, only great and lasting things can be built where there is a sense of trust. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

Hoffman suggests a return to a more committed, trusting state, where employees and organizations focus on meeting mutually shared interests. As Hoffman says, “creating an environment where managers and employees can be allies.”

This is a sentiment that resonates here at Vocoli because it is, in fact, one of our primary goals. Our company, like Hoffman, seeks to help establish a more trusting relationship between employees and their employers.

But we also think actions speak louder than words. Rather than relying on signed loyalty pledges, Vocoli employee suggestion software establishes trust between the two groups by giving managers the ability to set up a framework and reward system for employee suggestions.These suggestions can then be implemented to improve the company’s bottom line.

Done right, it’s a win-win for everyone involved. Contact us for a free personalized demonstration on how our software can help your organization.


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