I usually make time in my week to catch up on Undercover Boss and I have to say for all the shows I have watched I’m always surprised at how sincerely effected and astounded the bosses are at the abilities of their employees. For those that don’t know, Undercover Boss is a show that, just like it’s name suggests, sends Chief Executive Officers (CEO’s) of large companies undercover to join the ranks of their front line employees.
For years now I have had the chance to work with all kinds of companies, big and small, diverse and narrow in function and one consistent thing I have always found is that employees, the real front line ones that interact with customers everyday, are generally the ones that know almost everything about the company. I also have found that they are often times, if managed properly and allowed to dream a little bit, the ones who have the best vision for the company and the best suggestions. However, as the show exhibits time and time again for reason the higher-ups in just about every company always seem to look to their immediate peers or usually to small customer groups to define and redefine their companies missions, visions, and processes. More often than not employees are never consulted and are rarely listened to when companies are looking to make a change. But as the end of each show comes together it always seems to smack the boss in the head that ‘WOW our employees know a whole lot about our company and since they are in the front lines they deal with the biggest focus groups a company could ask for.’ Then generally in almost every single show a boss decides to change something about the company or to implement some kind of new program that 1 singular employee has suggested.
This whole result absolutely FLOORS me. With just about any consulting gig I have had in the last few years the front line workers are always the ones that I rely on to make some really great and creative solutions. I mean think about it for just one second and you will come to see the absolute sheer value in listening to what an employee has to say about your company.
In the episode that highlighted Checkers and Rally’s, a really popular fast-food chain restaurant in the United States, the CEO was so surprised that one employee in particular, that has worked for the company for over 20 years, talked to him about how her customers really missed one item in particular. The CEO was shocked because he noted that when they did a focus group that product that they took off the menu was the least favorite across all of their demographics. The interesting part was that the employee talked about how in ‘her community’ that, that particular product was in fact one of the most favourite and popular selections on the menu. They then talked a lot about how this lady lived, ate, and breathed her community. She wasn’t just an employee at this restaurant she was a member of the community and this restaurant was an extension of her community involvement.
So the lesson in all of this; When you are working with others and especially when you are the boss, who can sometimes be so far removed from your front line, it is just so important that you take the time to listen to one of your companies best assets, your employees (your volunteers, your regular consultants).
If you give them the freedom employees will generally create processes that help them work faster, more efficient, and overall just better.
So what can your employees tell you about your company? What can you do to help empower, enlighten, and unleash your employees to help you improve?