The Alliance is a remarkably concise management book that has some simple concepts and well-thought-out advice about managing talent in a competitive economy. At its heart is an argument for a new relationship between employers and employees. The traditional model of lifetime employment that was fostered in the relatively stable economy of the 1950s and 1960s was replaced in the 1970s and 1980s by a view that increasingly saw employees and jobs as a short-term commodity. The consequence of 'increased shareholder value' was a breakdown trust between employers and employees, The consequence of firms shedding labour at the first sign of trouble is that employee loyalty is at an all-time low. The present state of affairs is not good for employers because employees leave mid-project; or for employees because there is no longer job security. [The only winners are the head-hunters]. The new model advocated in The Alliance is a 'middle way' between the two previous approaches:
The Alliance believes that there needs to be greater transparency and openness between what employers and employees about what they want from their working relationship:
"The business work needs a new employee framework that facilitates mutual trust, mutual investment and mutual benefit." (p.7) "In an alliance, the manager can speak openly and honestly about the investment the company is willing to make in the employee and what it expects in return. The employee can speak openly and honestly about the type of growth he seeks (skills, experiences, and the like) and what he will invest in the company in return by way of effort and commitment. Both sides set clear expectations." (p.9)
The authors use the analogy of a military 'tour of duty'. Employers need employees who sign up for a 'tour of duty' whereby firms have a flexible workforce but with workers who are committed to seeing the latest project through to its end; and employees have experiences which will develop them professionally. At the end of a 'tour' there is scope for employers and employees to commit to another tour, or to part company knowing that it had been profitable for both sides.
A second dimension of this new relationship between employers and employees relates to the importance of developing and leveraging personal networks. Networks have always had an important part to play in business, but in the connected social media age, these have become one of the greatest assets both collectively of firms and of individuals. Both firms and employees through their relationship develop the brand: firms develop the company brand and employees their own 'personal brand'. The authors argue for a symbiotic relationship, whereby the firm encourages the individual to develop their personal professional network, which in turn can help the organisation develop and flourish. This may be through bringing in business, opening up new markets, by providing the firm with 'non-public' sector/ market information, or by helping with offering solutions to challenges.
The final aspect of the new relationship is the importance of a professional alumni network whereby the firm keeps in touch with former employees after they have move on to a new post. Lifelong employment might be a thing of the past but a lifelong relationship might be a reasonable expectation for those who complete a successful tour of duty. This alumni group can provide useful support for the firm in a number of ways, including a source of recruitment, making recommendations to others who are thinking of joining the firm and acting as critical friends.