Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Undercover Boss

Last night I watched 'Undercover Boss' on Channel 4. The premise of the show, for those of you that don't spend the evening on the second-hand sofa like the Disorientated Graduate, is that the boss of a company that isn't doing as well as they would like (and would like a lot of publicity) goes into the business under disguise as a new start to see what problems they have on the floor.

Now, I work in quite a little company so my boss is pretty much constantly on the shopfloor, so the idea of being caught out by him by not recognising him is a strange one. I think I would need to have suffered from sort of major amnesia and frankly if I did at least I would get some time off work. I digress.

Last night's episode was about Ann Summers, the high-street store that introduced Rampant Rabbits to the high street. Sales are slightly down, to the sister of the M.D. went overcover. She was the assistant managing director and had never worked in a shop.

Alarm bells starting ringing. The Disorientated Graduate worked in retail whilst a student and then for a while after graduating; Mr Disorientated Graduate still does. I would argue the basic for knowing how to run a shop would involve some experience of being on the floor. Instead, you get random directions from on high, which make no sense to those trying to make the place profitable. In all fairness, I think a bit of head office experience is also good; maybe there should be job swaps in place? When I rule the world, etc, etc.

Anyway, the sister of M.D. was shocked by the policy of staff only being taken on for eight hours a week unless they're managers. Hint: you can work four hours without a break. Two four hour shifts a week mean that you can have a large workforce to swap and change as necessary. It's a good system, but only if you want a lot of students. You lose a lot of older, great staff, meaning you get demotivated and unhappy staff with no experience, but such is life. Economics wins agains!

At the end, the undercover boss gave some of the women she met the chance to be 'brand ambassadors' and 'help the buying team'. There's no mention of a pay increase there, or permanent full-time hours, which is the thing they actually need. The point of the show was to make sure that the business was helped to be turned around, and not to help the workers out, so I understand that there was no vested interest in helping the workers en masse. Still, it stuck in the throat a little. As the recessions grows, a lot of businesses are suffering and there's a need to try and help them, I get that. But it just makes me sad that it takes a TV show and a lot of free publicity to even think about listening to the people on the ground who actually keep the business running.

Also, the Undercover Boss wore a really daft wig. That was just silly.

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