February 16, 2015
For those of you who may not have seen the show Undercover Boss, the owner works in his/her business in a full disguise attempting to learn more about the how the business works to experience first-hand the challenges the employees face at work and in life. It is always eye-opening. There are lessons for all business owners:
- Too many owners are concerned about growing the business with little regard for the foundation the business is built on: people, process, systems, customer experience, etc. The most recent profit and loss statement doesn’t portend future challenges.
- Businesses take on the personas of the people who work in them. If the business owner doesn’t set and enforce strong expectations, the owner should not be surprised when employees write their own script. People need to be trained and held accountable for meeting standards. Hope is not a strategy.
- It is rather amazing that so many business owners have little or no idea what work and life challenges their employees face. They don’t need to go undercover–they just need to show up to learn what their employees and customers experience. The Japanese use the word “gemba” which means “to go where the work is.” You can’t possibly know what is going on if you don’t see it with your own eyes.
- Too many owners don’t understand the hardship they are creating with their employees with uncertain work shifts, low wages, lack of medical benefits. These employees are the lifeblood of their business and own the relationships with their customers yet they are treated as being disposable.
- The pay gap between the owners–who live very opulent lifestyles–and unskilled workers is huge. The average CEO (according to a Harvard Business Review article) makes 350+ times what the average unskilled worker makes. The CEOs want for little while their employees are barely getting by in life.
At the end of the show, the business owner comes out of disguise and usually offers promotions, cash rewards, business opportunities, offers to pay medical bills, rent, all-expense-paid vacations, etc. While the employees who are part of the show are rewarded, you wonder what happens to the other employees, many of whom face the same job and life issues.
What needs to happen? I hope each CEO does some serious soul-searching about what it means to be the CEO and to lead the enterprise, examines the role people, systems and processes play in their business’s success, and take appropriate actions to ensure the ongoing viability of their businesses.
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Thought for the week: