The Undercover Boss and the Gamification of Corporate Values

Modern television can be rather formulaic but every once in a while a new show is created that is truly original, refreshing and swiftly franchised across the globe. The Dutch hit upon a winner back in 1997 with Big Brother, although it’s now stale back then it was fresh and felt like a new frontier in TV. Whizz through the early 00’s past Pop Idol,  X factor, The Apprentice and various celebrity debacles and you’ll come to the newest and freshest format to hit your screens: “Undercover boss”. First airing in 2009 in the UK, the Emmy Award-winning television franchise follows boardroom staff working undercover in their own companies to investigate how their firms really work and to identify how they can be improved whilst often doing a bit of PR and rewarding hard-working employees.

Courtesy of CBS

Courtesy of CBS

The series is now popular across the globe from the mountains of Austria to the golden shores of Australia and is currently in production for the first time in 7 other countries including Spain, Belgium and Israel. At it’s best the series illustrates a powerful story of the white collar worker rolling up the sleeves and working alongside his or her blue collar employees for the first time.

What always strikes me about the show is how disconnected the boardroom is from the day to day business. Policies, core values, staff support schemes and standards of quality are in the daily lexicon of the boardroom but down on the shop floor staff are commonly blissfully unaware of much of it and the management look shocked when they come face to face with their employees at the coalface of the business.

Check out the CEO of “Retro Fitness” experiencing a shocking disconnection between the values and policy of his company and one frontline employee:

So here, lies the problem: How can we spread our culture deeper within the business? And how do we do that in a fun and engaging way?

The Change Challenge

MCI recently piloted a programme in Belgium and Singapore that addressed this very need. Living sustainably and healthily is part of our core values but in a busy global business it’s not always something we see staff embracing. Combining the skills of our sustainability team with our newly launched “Performance Improvement” department, we racked our brains for a solution that would meet this challenge.

Enter Change Challenge –a cloud based multilingual solution that makes organizational change and employee development fun by using elements of social gaming, peer pressure, and gamification to drive business change and employee satisfaction.

The technology was originally developed for fitness challenges and is designed to create positive and inspiring social pressure among participants. Example Mailer for employees The Change Challenge offers a race rule engine with flexible scoring rules, challenges, medals and multi-level team management to use for groups, departments, companies, countries, divisions and has been used by multiple organisations from Atlas Copco to Zurich since 2005 with tens of thousands of participants.

Piloting the programme in our Brussels and Singapore office led to success beyond our wildest dreams, we had 80% of employees engaging with the system, logging 15,447 activities and 1247 hours of physical activity showing a great impact on their health.  Alongside the health benefits we wanted to see staff living our commitment to sustainability with activities focused on reducing waste and resource consciousness – 91% of staff registered recycling activities and 93% used less water for an entire week.

It was such a resounding success that we are now offering the service to clients, learn more about the expertise of our Performance Improvement team on their blog “Energise, empower engage”: and contact if you are interested in a cost effective solution to drive your values through your business.

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