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Undercover Boss is a show about CEOs that go undercover to learn about their organizations. Here’s a link to see episodes . On every episode I’ve seen, new employees are turned over to an experienced worker to learn the ropes. This is true for factory workers, call center agents, salespeople and customer service to name a few.

This approach has some giant flaws that lead to many of the problems these companies have. Here are just some of the flaws:

1. High Variability

The training is different depending on who the new employee is paired with.  These companies have multiple locations so it’s different everywhere.  These experienced workers have also developed their own way of doing things to overcome problems or things they haven’t learned to do right.  They are passing along the good with the bad.

2. Too Much Sink or Swim

These new employees are often thrown into the job often interacting with customers on the first day.  When they make mistakes, which all new employees do, they are in front of customers.  Those who don’t pick up things quickly are turned over quickly.  It would be much faster if new employees were trained to do the tasks from simple to hard, easy to complex to build on success.  The overall problem with sink or swim is that too many people sink, an that’s expensive.

3. Lack of Training Skills

The people doing the training are doing a lot of telling and a little showing which is what most people do when they haven’t been trained in how to do on the job training.  They often do things they way they were taught which can often be the slowest and least effective way.  They also don’t have the tools and structure to do this training right because the company doesn’t have any.

What you see is that the bigger these companies get, the more the problem gets magnified.  They edit it to show the best of the best so most likely across the board it’s worse then you see.  The boss often puts these people on a council or work team to share their ideas.  It’s like a revelation that this might be a good idea.  It something that should have been built into their company decades ago.

Anyway, have some fun watching these shows.  Try not to cringe so much when you see how training is done.

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