Do you live in a cocoon?

I don’t watch a lot of TV and when I do, it’s usually my favourite property shows such as Location, Location, Location; A Place in the Sun etc. Today however, I had the opportunity to watch Undercover Boss USA, where Sheldon Yellen, the CEO of Belfor, the world’s largest property disaster restoration company, went undercover.

Growing up, Sheldon’s father wasn’t around much and his mum raised four children with the help of welfare benefits. To contribute to his family, Sheldon has been working since he was 11 years old. Now, as CEO of Belfor, he enjoys a luxurious lifestyle and makes sure his family lives comfortably.

From a tricky water-loss investigation at a house where he has to crawl under the building to check the insulation to a messy demolition job in Norfolk, Virginia, where Sheldon helps to strip back a water-damaged home while encountering dead animals along the way, Sheldon finally sees first-hand the testing tasks his workforce undertake daily. It was amazing to hear Sheldon voice out the disconnection between ‘Corporate’ (a term used by one of his employees to describe Belfor’s management) and frontline operational staff.

Sheldon was shocked to discover the impact of the wage and hiring freeze which he introduced as a way to keep his employees in work during the tough economic climate. I found his honesty and acceptance of the fact that ‘Corporate’ hadn’t always gotten things right very refreshing.

Unfortunately, many business leaders make executive decisions from their state-of-the-art offices without having a thorough understanding of what the business really needs. As a People & Organisational Development Professional, I have seen first-hand how some companies waste tons of money implementing expensive systems when the real issue could have been resolved by effectively engaging with employees and generating smart ideas which could move the organisation forward.

Although many people theorise employee engagement and fail to understand its value, I totally believe that the engagement agenda needs to be a major part of the people and organisational development strategy of companies that are serious about thriving. “The winners in this recession are more likely to have invested the money and the effort to brand themselves as employers, not just as marketers to customers… They understand that people are an asset, not an expense”. (Source: CNN Money & Hay Group).

So before you approve the purchase of that new software, you may want to check if this is what your organisation really needs at this time.