“ Broadcaster: Channel 4 / Genre: Reality Show „
In Australia they also have exactly the same programme.
The point of the programme is for a company to see how their front line workers are getting on, and improve their company.
The boss of the company goes undercover, Im assuming he can stay undercover because if you are something like a bin man, you may not know who the CEO of the whole company is. In one episode I saw recently, the owner of a rubbish removals company goes on the rubbish truck. He found that his employees knew their customers, and were very positive and friendly. He also found out that some of his policies were not helping his employees. Thankfully he saw the error of his ways and changed them. He also gave the employees he got to know promotions and created new jobs for some of them.
Its a very emotional programme, with lots of people very unhappy in their jobs and not saying so. Also people who love their jobs and are just inspirational. Its all a bit carcrash tv but it filled an hour and I quite enjoyed it. If you are fans of secret millionaire then you will probably enjoy this programme as well.
So 'Undercover Boss', the latest documentary to look at the effects of the recession on Great Britain, and very much a contradictory show, which makes it all the more interesting to watch. The more gullible will see it as it seems - a documentary about various chief executives going undercover into their own companies and organisations to identify any problems with their staff and the way the company is run, so to try and fix it. The more observant would say this was clever corporate manipulation by a company through the mainstream media trying to paint a more positive picture of their business that has been messed up and cost-cutted to the bone by the very same chief exec going undercover - and its free advertising of course. This happened with the recent BBC2 series 'Mary Portas, Queen of Shops', where the small companies involved didn't really want her brash and in your face help to turn their failing businesses around but a free refit and more customers to come in who saw them on the telly. TV documentary and reality shows have their uses to those organisations and businesses.
The format of the show is for the boss at the very top to agree to go undercover in his or her business and, first and foremost, not to be identified by the staff and so pass themselves off as shooting a documentary about low paid workers trying different jobs for the day, so the boss getting a chance to do those often dirty and confrontational jobs and mingle with his staff and get to grips with the real gripes and where improvements could be made. The failsafe theory is the bigger and well paid the boss the least likely the lowly staff are to identify them. Its a lot like Secret Millionaire and we are given the impression in this the second series that no one has yet managed to spot their own big boss in the two series so far, false beards or not. If they did spot him or her then one would presume that bit would be cut out of the show. Do you guys know what your Chief Exec looks like? At the end of the TV hour the boss reveals himself at Head Office to the staff members he or she has been working with and its back-patting all around and a promotion or two for those who have impressed, all good PR. The often humble blue-collar employees that make the final cut may not comprehend they are being exploited, if indeed they are, very hard not to feel that with this show. It's the least aware front line people that have no idea who the boss is that are the easily to exploit for the companies goals.
First up is David Clarke, the boss of the hotel chain Best Western, who pretends to be a bloke, called 'Andy Green', going undercover to work at some of his selected hotels, trying his hand as handyman, gardener and a cook in different locations. The company Best Western Hotels tend to let other hotels use their name in a reciprocal agreement type deal, mostly top end of the market places that get BWH logistical help and promotion in return for a percentage of the takings.
Right from the off its clear the hotels are quiet and understaffed, one proud head cook doing 70 hours a week with 30 hours unpaid overtime just to keep it all going. Another chap, a gardener, had also worked long hours whilst recovering from throat cancer and only taking sick time in his paid holidays, fearful he would lose his job. Another handyman was told by the hotels bosses to cheat and confuse the hotel inspectors who had given the hotel a list of things to fix in various rooms to save money so to get their certificate, the guy even told to change the numbers on the guest's doors to trick them, recession meaning you have to do what you can to save the business.
Tower Hamlets Council Chief Kevin Connelly was next up in episode two of six, public service getting the grilling this time, here the emphasis on radical cost-cutting, of course. Connelly has been told to make savings of £50 million pounds a year in one of the countries most deprived boroughs and its going to be very tough. Inner-cities with predominately ethnic populations have high rates of poverty and unemployment and so expenditure high and council tax coming in very low.
Kevin decides to follow the day of a pest controller, a meals-on-wheels lady and a housing officer and some of those community wardens. All London boroughs are well used to making cuts over the years as the population grows and world weary of yet another big round of cuts. The biggest way for councils to save money is privatise services by getting rid of the in-house department and give it to a private company and see if they can run it for less. If 8 meals-on-wheels ladies can be flogged to do the work of 12 for a spend that's 20% cheaper then the deal will be done. It makes sense to trim the departments with good productivity so to get more out of consciences workers.
All our workers impressed the chief exec and were invited up to head-office for a chat. Lesroy, a young lad on the housing desk, is loving his temp job and hoping for a full-time job, but knocked back by the chief exec, the other two given pats on the back and promises to be on 2012 committees to help promote the borough in Olympic Year. Although it was an interesting hour this one didn't really get to grips with the boroughs waste and failings..
Channel Four do these shows well and this is no exception, a reciprocal deal where the contributor tries to paint his world as decent and yet there are enough clues for the sharper viewer to suggest that's not the case. The edit here does feel slightly biased to the companies and bosses involved but it still shows that all-important human side of employees and employers...a good tear or two the clincher here. It's also nice to watch a balanced documentary that doesn't have a side to it in this political bitter media we live with. Also only C4 can do this as the BBC often gets stuck in their pursuit to appease minority groups.
It goes out on Thursday night at 9pm on Channel 4 and we are on number three of six this week, the Harry Ramsden chip shop chain and their female boss the next up for a gentle prod and poke. Women that reach the heights tend to be better bosses than men because they want to be there and I hope this lady has a blinder. 70% of Britain's riches women are still divorcees counting the huge pay-off as their fortune though...