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Business leaders who walk in workers’ shoes are better than those who spend their days holed up in their corner offices.
The reason seems clear: if you experience the company through workers’ eyes, you will know the pain your company causes them. From there, you can remove the barriers that keep employees from delivering the most value to your customers. That will be good news for workers and investors.
If you issue edicts from the confines of your spectacular office, you run the risk of angering workers. That could send the most talented people — who find it repulsive to follow blindly your edicts – running for the exits. The employees who stick around will lack the initiative and creativity to solve customer problems – costing your company market share and lowering its equity value.
For these reasons, I think business leaders should consider the benefits of spending time in their workers’ shoes. This could mean working undercover in jobs that interact with your company’s customers. In so doing, you will gain much greater insight into what workers like and dislike about your company.
Here are four examples of how undercover bosses made life better for their employees by eliminating processes that frustrated them.
1. Eliminating annoyances for Uber drivers.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi spent time as a driver to learn and fix what made life difficult for scarce drivers.
This experience resulted in changes that improved the driver experience. As the Wall Street Journal reported, Uber has since made several changes such as “streamlining the sign-up process for workers and giving drivers more information about the destination before they accept a ride.”
2. Cancelling 12,000 meetings at Shopify, Wayfair and others.
Executives at Shopify, Wayfair and Reynolds American concluded that meetings waste thousands of hours and reduce employee productivity.
Shopify freed up 12,000 events from employees’ schedules – by canceling recurring group meetings, banning most Wednesday meetings and scheduling all gatherings with over 50 people in a six-hour Thursday window – to free up 95,000 staffer hours, the Journal reported.
3. Making life better for cooks, servers, and bussers at Chili’s.
Over the last few years, I have seen firsthand how restaurants suffered because they lacked sufficient staff. The labor shortages reduced service quality and angered customers, While many restaurants raised pay, improved benefits, and provided workers more scheduling flexibility, the best ones have done more to make life better for workers.
For example, Chili’s Bar & Grill rejiggered its menus and streamlined its processes to reduce wasted time. As the Journal noted, Chili’s eliminated menu offerings, added bussers, and canceled tasks such as counting and bagging shrimp and deploying metal French-fry baskets. The last item alone eliminated the 40 million times each year workers formerly lined and cleaned the baskets.
4. Cooling off airport ground crews for British Airways and others.
One of the more difficult jobs on the planet is working in an airport grounds crew helping airplanes that arrive and depart from gates. The job is so difficult that many workers can only do it for a couple of months and others “walk right off the tarmac and never return,” according to the Journal.
Some airports are taking steps to enhance the airport ground crew experience. For example, British Airways provides its ground crew with more weather-resistant uniforms. airport contractor Swissport outfitted break rooms with TVs, lockers, and coffee makers and put up tents where workers get sprayed with cooling mist between aircraft turnarounds. The operator of Frankfurt Airport gives workers ice cream on the tarmac.
I admire how these organizations identified and eliminated the unnecessary pain they used to impose on their workers. Business leaders who have yet to do this are at risk of losing their most talented people – costing them customers and shareholder value.
How about applying this principal by seeing your business through the customer’s eyes?
Who has time for that, right? We do that for you and the opportunities we uncover are quite eye-opening.
We are here to help you measure, monitor and grow your customer service culture by providing the customer’s perspective. Give us a call, we would love to serve you.
BY PETER COHAN AND CARL PHILLIPS