Did you know that September 14 was National Boss/Employee Exchange Day? Did you do it? Did you trade places with any of your employees for a day so you could each experience the challenges the other faces?
It may be one of the more impractical work-related days on the special day calendar and that could be the reason why its origins are rather clouded – no one wants to be held responsible.
However, the concept behind the day is a good one, especially when you it’s applied properly. You see, there’s no way employees can step in and take over many of the most difficult tasks the boss faces – like hiring and firing. (Although a lot of employees might want to do these things…especially the firing!)
From the perspective of the “boss” or the small business owner, it’s very important that they understand the challenges line-level employees face every day. Even if you’ve done those tasks yourself, it’s good to go back every so often and touch bases with the daily routines.
In the military they have something that they call “mission creep.” Over time, more and more objectives or responsibilities will get added to a military campaign. These add up and make the successful completion of the campaign impossible.
This phenomenon happens in non-military organizations as well and could easily be occurring in your small business. Employees get straddled with additional duties and no one ever tells them what they can drop in order to have time to take on the new tasks. When this is allowed to happen, eventually things get ignored or done in a slipshod manner.
If you’ve been away from line-level responsibilities for some time, you may not appreciate the impact “mission creep” is having on your employees, so use the yearly National Boss/Employee Exchange Day as a way to re-ground yourself in the reality of what happens “in the trenches.”
Small business cross training
Let’s take this in a slightly different direction. I’m a proponent of cross training in the workplace. For example, when I go into a home improvement store I really appreciate it when one employee can help me find the paint I need as well as the landscaping items that I need. I hate it when I get passed from employee to employee just because the next thing I need is in a different department.
This concept applies in virtually every business setting. The Japanese achieved superiority in auto production techniques in part because they were the first to cross train assembly line workers. When they did this it revealed upstream processes that were causing problems for workers further down the assembly line. Having cross-trained employees also makes scheduling easier and helps your operation run more smoothly when people are absent.
So even though September 14 has been here and gone, plan some ways that everyone on your team can experience different tasks and responsibilities, including yourself!
(By the way, for future reference, this special day is always the Monday after Labor Day, so mark your calendar.)