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Widgets: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees As If They're Real People Hardcover – April 14, 2015
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"Widgets is an intelligent, immensely enjoyable book. . . If we are ever going to genuinely change the way we structure and lead our organisations, (Wagner's) ideas must be listened to and acted upon."
- People Management Magazine
"There has been a lot written about how the loyalty that used to exist between companies and employees has withered in recent years, from both ends. With Widgets, Rodd Wagner begins to establish what a new, implicit social contract between companies and their employees could look like. And, I must say, it looks pretty exciting."
- CEO Read
"Rodd has unleashed a full frontal assault on the almost Orwellian paradigms and lexicon that marks too much of the conversation around employee management and 'employee engagement.'"
- Zane Safrit
From the Back Cover
“Widgets is required reading for every leader and manager to shake off habits rooted in the past.”
New York Times bestselling author Curt Coffman, coauthor of First, Break All the Rules
"This book serves as a powerful countervailing force to the increasing momentum toward 'widgetizing' everyone and everything in the supposed interest of productivity. Given the increasing proportion of leaders inclined toward robo-management, Widgets should be required reading for anyone even thinking about managing real people."
Annette Templeton, former Global Chief of Principals, Gallup, Inc.
“Rodd is fascinated by people – what motivates them, how they think, how they learn, how they act. He’s also a great storyteller. He combines both in this book, and his spot-on observations are applicable in the corporate world, the military, and at home. Great read. Fast read. Invaluable read.”
Rear Admiral Dennis J. Moynihan, U.S. Navy (ret.)
“How to best motivate employees and teams is the eternal question we face as leaders, because motivated employees make the difference between companies that perform well and those that struggle. It’s clear the rules for bilateral loyalty have changed, and both employees and managers need to know how to adapt to the new environment. Rodd addresses those changes head-on. Widgets is a crucial book for executives to determine how they will lead in the coming decade.”
Pam Stegora Axberg, Senior Vice President, Optum
“If a highly engaged workforce serves as a protective moat that protects an organization from competitive threats, Rodd Wagner reminds us that a moat without water is nothing more than a ditch.”
Robb Webb, Chief Human Resources Officer, Hyatt Hotels
“Rodd Wagner listened to the voice of the employee and faithfully defined what they need to give their best efforts. His focus on reciprocity as the key motivator is right on target. His challenge to leaders who have talked the talk, but not walked the walk, is passionate and insightful. Widgets is an important book.”
Leigh Branham, author of The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave and coauthor of Re-Engage
“A highly readable, research-grounded, and relevant approach to employee engagement by one of the most respected thinkers on the subject. This is a frame-breaking book that puts people first and opens an important new chapter in management and leadership. A fascinating, thought-provoking, must-read book.”
Ken Bartlett, Ph.D., Professor of human resource development, University of Minnesota
"Widgets is a captivating book with important and actionable insights into the psychological and behavioral drivers of employee engagement. A must-read for executives and anyone else who seeks to engage, motivate, and positively affect employees and people in general.
Dr. Ran Kivetz, The Philip H. Geier Professor at Columbia University Business School
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This book looks at the apparent breakdown of the social contract between employees and employers. Many companies have fine words about how their people are “their greatest assets” and the author correctly notes that the rot has already set in with weasel words and patronising statements. You own assets. People are not assets or mere chattels for companies to buy, sell and exploit, wrapped up in meaningless, potentially offensive terms such as “human resources”, “human capital” or “full-time equivalents (FTEs)”.
Reading this book can make you angry, angry at how many companies don’t really treat their employees well. Those who sugar-coat their comments, peppering in words about partners, colleagues, co-workers or throwing in mere trinkets to the “compensation and workplace mix” - that are tax-deductible anyway - can feel as it is rubbing salt into the wound. “Polishing a turd,” as a slightly off-colour British English phrase may call it.
This was an enjoyable, focussed and gripping read yet a book like this shouldn’t be necessary if companies just got it. Take this extract from the book, which is something that should be printed out as a large poster and stuck liberally throughout the executive suite and a luminous copy within “human resources”: “Your people are not your greatest asset. They're not yours and they're not assets. Assets are property. You don't own your people. Many of them don't trust you. Some don't like you. Too many won't stick it out with you. And the ones you need most have the credentials to walk out fastest if you treat them poorly.”
Ah… but companies have carried out surveys, they engage their employees, they listen to the pulse of their resources and produce glowing statistics that would make a former political statistician in the USSR blush at their optimism. “We are all one big family, working together to a common goal,” they may cry (forgetting the little star and footnote that says “subject to shareholder and management whim or when dysfunctional management has a temper tantrum and makes an example of someone”).
Of course, not all employees are good. Many are bone idle, uncooperative and destructive. They are “as much use as a one-legged man in an arse kicking contest”, yet most employees actually do want to do a good job, no matter how high or low they are in an organisation. They want a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, be treated with respect and encouraged to develop. Most people know and understand that they can’t all be a CEO or sit on the top table, enjoying the financial benefits that these positions can bring. They can do their job though, playing their part.
Maybe some of the damage is self-inflicted out of a general, genuine fear of doing wrong. The cynic may say it is more fear of a lawsuit or bad press. If everyone is treated equally and fairly there wouldn’t be a problem. The author notes: “(this problem) is most painfully apparent when large firms pursue the admirable goal of eliminating racial and sexual discrimination. They count widgets by whether they are Latino, African American, Asian, or Native American; male or female; young or old. They become adept at categorisation rather than individualisation.”
Whether the companies who need to change the most would “get” this book is debatable. Many are too entrenched in their poor ways, buoyed by a faltering economy where people are often glad to have any job – yet when the good times start to roll again, maybe some companies will “reap what they sow”. Mind you, by then, they will be the first to start whinging about the difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff.