Undercover Boss Analysis of Sam Taylor: CEO of Oriental Trading Company
Name: Sam Taylor
Title: CEO of Oriental Trading Company
Headquarters: Omaha, Nebraska
Product or Service: Party Supplies, Toys, Novelties
In this week’s episode of “Undercover Boss”, Sam Taylor, CEO of party supply and novelty product wholesaler Oriental Trading Company, goes undercover as “Dave Barton” to see the company from the employees’ perspective.
Position 1: Large Item Picker
Overview: Troy shows Sam the joys of being a large item picker. The position consists of pulling items from the stock warehouse to organize for shipping.
Result: The job is much too fast paced for Sam, who has additional difficulty simply understanding “Jennifer”, the automated voice system telling them the items to pick up next, even after setting her to the lowest speed.
Troy complains about the pay, but says the option of working nights is what keeps him there, because he is a single parent and needs to be home in the day time for his kids. He also takes care of his ill mother, who also lives with him. Troy also states the he does not believe management knows how to treat employees, and most consider him “just a number.”
How he made amends: The company will now require all managers to work at least 2 days a year on the frontline, to become better acquainted with the various positions and employees. Sam awards Troy $20k to put towards his 4 kids’ educations. Troy is also given an additional $20k to assist with his mother’s medical bills.
What he should have done: We’re skeptical that the 2 day required frontline work for all managers will alleviate the issues Troy noted with management, but its certainly a good effort. We can’t deduct any points from Sam’s performance, but only time can tell how well this will work.
Position 2: Truck Loader
Overview: Andrew and Sam load trucks to the brim with outgoing packages.
Result: Sam does an adequate job of loading the truck, though much slower than Andrew. Andrew notes that the temperatures sometimes reach over 100 degrees in the truck area, and it becomes a “dungeon” of sorts.
Andrew complains of the low pay, and mentions his displeasure in the fact that the pickers make the same or more than the truck loaders, even though truck loading is much more physically demanding. Andrew also shows Sam a fridge stocked with sports drinks, that the crew is forbidden to drink, except when authorized by management on extremely hot and humid days.
How he made amends: Sam promises the the company will provide sports drinks to all employees during the two hottest months of the year. Sam also increases the base pay of truck loaders by 25 cents an hour. Additionally, Sam starts an education fund for both of Andrew’s children, amounting to $10k. Sam puts some icing on the cake with an extra $25k bonus gift so that Andrew can purchase a new car.
What he should have done: Sam was very generous with Andrew, but some of the company wide changes seem forced and inadequate. Sports drinks for only the two hottest months of the year? Was it too much to ask for the entire summer, or heaven forbid, the entire year?
Increasing the base pay of the loaders by 25 cents an hour – what is that….maybe 20 cents after taxes? Instead of increasing the base pay by this shabby amount, give them a much more generous bonus plan. The company might pay out a little more, but in this case it comes with an increased productivity benefit.
Position 3: Small Item Packer
Overview: Kim shows Sam how to pack many small boxes in preparation for shipping.
Result: Kim is an excellent worker, who takes a few extra seconds to layout each boxes’ contents in an organized, neat fashion. It hurts her chances of earning bonus pay because it slows her down, but she takes pride in the fact that she her boxes are very nicely presented.
Sam is much slower. He finished 8 boxes in the time Kim had finished 27. Sam was sweating bullets the whole time, given the 90 degrees temperature and humidity. Kim mentions that they are not provided any sort of cooling or beverage from the company due to budgetary reasons. Kim once passed out from heat exhaustion at work.
Kim has worked for the company for 19 years, and has many children. She recently got engaged to a man who constantly brings her beverages at work, and has told her he’s not comfortable with Kim working at the warehouse for safety reasons.
How he made amends: The company will be provided cooled water stations throughout the facility, and will install fans on the ceiling, to keep the heat under control. She is also given $10k to help pay for her wedding. Sam also promises to provide Kim and her new husband with a honeymoon suite in a nice hotel in Las Vegas, along with $5k spending money, for their honeymoon vacation. Sam learns that Kim’s husband had stroke the day before the final interviews, and says he will also give her $20k to help pay for any medical bills.
What he should have done: Kim passed out from heat exhaustion while at the warehouse, hard at a work? Talk about a liability. Sam made a good but easy decision to keep that warehouse temperature in check, or it could end up costing the company way more in lawyer fees in the future.
Position 4: Inductor
Overview: Sam tries his best to mimic Julia, while working as an inductor, which mostly consists of moving specific items onto a fast moving conveyor in an organized fashion.
Result: Sam gets a little sidetracked, being distracted by the various toys and games the come across the machine. Julia is not amused when he starts making errors and falling behind.
Julia tells Sam that she once submitted an idea to management about providing products geared towards the Hispanic community, but says she was never given any sort of response, let alone feedback. Julia is taking care of her niece because her mother is in jail (and will be for the next 5 years).
How he made amends: Sam offers Julia a new position, in which she would help product development and marketing put together a new line of Hispanic themed products. She is also awarded $5k to spend on a new camera, and $30k to help her care for her niece.
What he should have done: Come on, Sam. Sure, you gave Julia a position and agreed to support her idea, but what about the untold countless others? You didn’t address the heart of the issue – that the employees’ channel to submit innovative ideas was broken. Perhaps ask managers to review submitted ideas at a board meeting once a month or so to discuss their potential. Don’t forget to give the submitter some feedback, or you’ll see fewer and fewer submissions as time goes on. Heck, even try a new innovation program to reward employees who submit ideas that are picked up.
There were countless other ways to improve this one, but Sam dropped the ball a bit.
Sam Taylor earned a “B” grade for his appearance on Undercover Boss.
While it wasn’t the best we’ve seen on the Undercover Boss series, Sam’s performance fell just above average. He did attempt to find a solution to most issues, though in many cases those solutions were mediocre.
Party on, Sam.
Don’t like our grade? Drop us a rebuttal, and leave a comment below.