Christmas came early for me this year when a copy of Rodd Wagner's book widgets: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees As If They're Real People arrived unexpected in my p.o. box. (Yes, widgets is all lower case.)
As I handled the book, The Evaluator inside me woke up and whispered: Interesting. Cute cover. Clever title, a bit provocative with the word Widgets and the ... what, snarky or mocking subtitle ... 'as if they're real people.'
I threw it in with laptop and headed to the gym.
Later that night I opened it to the Introduction subtitled "Human Resources." The first sentence read:
Your people are not your greatest asset.
I thought: 'BOOM! Yeah, bring it.'
He brought it.
They're not yours, and they're not assets.
I started thinking: 'Oh yeah. I'm on to something with this book.'
Assets are property. You don't own your people.
Testify. Can I get a witness?
But Rodd isn't delivering a call-and-response sermon ...
Rodd: They're not assets!
Worshippers: No sir, no they're not. ... No.
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.'
He batters away:
Your employees are not fulltime equivalents. No college graduate, upon landing her first big job, calls her partents to announce, "I'm now an FTE!" ... Headcount is for cattle. they are not 'human capital.' ... Above all, employees are not 'human resources."
I love that! It's like that deserved slap across the face Cher delivers to Nicolas Cage (What happened to him ...?) in the 1987 movie Moonstruck. She smacks him and tells him to Snap out of it! Such honesty and so wonderfully politically incorrect. Go check it out.
In the first 150 words Rodd blasted through all the self-serving illusions and corporate-speak that dominates the corporate culture and delivers a workforce marked more by disenchantment and cynicism than by trust, training and communication.
Had Rodd continued with the full frontal assault I would have continued enjoying the book. But he didn't. He offered solutions. That's why I wanted to share it with you, hopefully I can bring Rodd on to my radio show for a longer conversation.
Rodd lays the foundation for his solutions in the chapter The Reciprocal Employee.
Humans are a sorry species. ... We would be extinct were it not for our brains.
Then he goes on to replace the idea of a rational, albeit selfish homo economicus, with the principled, altruistic (enlightened self-interested?) Homo Reciprocan who is motivated by principle, by a sense of obligation, or for the sense of doing something good for someone else.
I'm struggling not to share more with you, his perspective is so refreshing and his writing is so crisp, direct and with a tad o' attitude, too. Why not? If you're not going to write with passion ... and outrage at the current attitude towards employees then work in PR or your corporate communications department.
Rodd offers twelve steps ( a 12-step program seems fitting for so many cultures addicted to looking at employees as widgets) you can follow to help ease your company's leaders into the new reality that employees are p-p-people, not widgets. He starts with Get Inside Their Heads and ends with Take it To Extremes. On that last one, context is all. The idea of inviting employees to a meeting about employee engagement seems to be so extreme no one does it.
His appendix is titled The New Rules of Work. I wrote yesterday that they were bait and switch. They bait us with the idea of technology enabling us ... ignore how companies then use technology to keep us available for work 24-7, even tracking our personal lives. Fortunately Rodd, with his researcher, takes a different approach. They share their research methodologies used in preparing this book. Then he goes on to show how their research contributed towards those 12 steps, rules - his new rules of work. I like that. I like them. I like his book.
If you're comfortable with the same ol'-same ol', the dead-ending and self-serving conversations filled with soft and safe phrases that dominate the issue of 'employee engagement,' then don't buy Rodd's book. Keep on, keeping on. (Maybe go crazy and change Casual Fridays to Casual Mondays. Really, shake it up, you rebel you.)
On the other hand, if you want to break free of those conversations that have produced no tangible change in employee engagement numbers for a decade ... read his book: widgets: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees As If They're Real People. Let Rodd show you how to Get Inside Their Heads, Let Them Lead, and Take It To Extremes. That's engaging the people who work with you. That's what you're looking to do right?