Since the television show Survivor joined the landscape some 10 years ago, I have become a huge fan of reality TV shows. There are so many I enjoy, but there is a new one which I think has the ability to transform the careers of many managers, and especially human resources professionals: Undercover Boss.
The concept is simple: a Chief Executive Officer of a major US company leaves the boardroom and for a week, does the job of entry level associates in their own organization. Along the way, the show highlights the struggles of many in the organizations who wear more than one hat and keep giving 110% every day. There are also those who have lost touch with their staffs and their customers creating a major opportunity to reconnect and become more productive.
So how does this help human resources? Understanding your company’s core product or service is not enough, you also have to understand how the job is done. Having watched Undercover Boss, I would challenge Human Resource Professionals to take a proactive look at their organization and go “undercover” as well.
My first job right out of college called this an “In Costume Day”. Once every quarter, I would fill the role of a front line employee so I understood what they did on a day to day basis. I found this to be one of the most rewarding experiences I had as a manager and this was while I was still in Operations. The value of doing this from a human resources perspective cannot be understated. Too often, human resource managers and directors are accused of not truly understanding the business, to which I agree. I have an old mentor who taught me to, “Seek first to understand, before seeking to be understood.”
Sage words of wisdom which still apply today. I challenge you go undercover and learn about your business. It can only strengthen your knowledge and understanding of the human element in your company and how you can effectively advocate on their behalf.