[tweetmeme]I was finally persuaded by a friend to watch the new hit show “Undercover Boss.” This reality show confirmed that a CEO can learn a lot about how to make the company better by engaging with employees. For those who haven’t seen the new show on CBS, a CEO goes undercover as an employee in his own company to see for himself how things are working. Dave Rife, owner of the White Castle hamburger chain, was this past Sunday’s undercover snoop.
When he started his adventure, I don’t think he fully understood how stressful the job of a White Castle employee can be, with the fear of losing a job always in the background when you have a disabled child, as one employee did, or another’s fear of simply messing up.
How Do I Do This?
Mr. Big Shot discovered that he couldn’t do simple chores like sliding plastic wrap over a batch of buns in the packaging machine. He ruined several barrels’ worth, prompting a supervisor to say the hogs (who get to enjoy the mangled buns) would be eating well that night.
What he learned best, though, was how important employees are to the success of the company. At a White Castle drive-in a young co-worker explained to him about the importance of greeting each customer and going out of your way to help with little things, like sliding the customer’s credit card in a hard-to-reach slot. In watching this scene, I was almost brought to tears by the young man’s sincerity and dedication. So was Dan Rife.
Another employee showed him a shortcut, but told him not to tell management, because that’s not how they said it was supposed to be done.
After his eye-opening week on the road, working besides his employees, Rife returned to headquarters wiser and more appreciative of what it means to be on the front lines.
Magically, he brought several employees to headquarters to assist with developing training programs – hey, they should. Aren’t they the ones who know what the problems are and how to fix them? He gave a $5,000 scholarship to a budding chef, and another $5,000 to the employee with a disabled child.
The program ended with Rife speaking to a pep rally of employees, beaming with the joy of being acknowledged by the head of the company. Happy with the recognition that they were asked to work as a team to achieve the company’s success.