The Call Centre BBC Three, is Nev a Good Boss?
The controversial management style of Neville Wilshire (Head of Swansea-based business ‘Save Britain Money’ and star of BBC reality TV show ‘The Call Centre’) has been debated fiercely by critics and newspapers across the country since the TV show was first aired in 2013. (See http://www.walesonline.co.uk/business/business-news/neville-wilshire-one-great-survivors-2495572 versus http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2357109/A-criminal-past-illegal-cold-calls-affair-employee-half-age–What-BBC-told-star-hit-new-reality-show.html)
What is Nevs’ management philosophy?
His book ‘Happy People Sell’ sums up his unusual leadership style. Nev prides himself on his ability to relate to his workforce and engage with them at their level, to instil confidence and give everyone the chance to prove themselves. He states that the key to success is drive and enthusiasm and he tries to foster this in his staff. (www.nevillewilshire.com)
However, whilst strategies such as group singing, karaoke parties and office speed-dating make his call centre look like a lively and fun place to work for his young low-wage workers, his self-named ‘Napoleonic’ management style has both strengths and weaknesses.
How does Nev manage his staff?
His style, first and foremost, fits with a ‘paternalistic’ model of management. Nev expects his orders to be obeyed and retains control over all company decision-making. You could expect this to create a resentful workforce. However, a key feature of this approach is that the manager also listens and responds to the needs of employees to develop strategies that will benefit the morale of the workforce as well as benefitting the business as a whole. Thus, employees feel like they are understood and valued which should ultimately increase job-satisfaction. Indeed, Nev shows this with his interest in the personal lives and well-being of his workforce and his ‘whole-floor’ motivational speeches.
But what are the weaknesses of his controversail management style?
Conversely, Nev also focuses on tough targets and consequently his supposedly ‘happy’ workforce also experiences a high staff turnover. In addition, Nev has been criticised for being intimidating, especially for young and vulnerable staff, and there are stories of background issues with civil and legal dispute with former staff. Questionable practices featured on the TV show include instructing a young male worker to arm-wrestle him in order to get a promotion (instead of any form of interview or application) and parading a 25 year old female worker with low confidence around the floor to try and find her a date. Staff who do not meet targets or show adequate enthusiasm do not last long in this workplace.
Whatever, your views on Nevs’ approach, it works. He has a natural flair for sales himself. This, combined with an affinity with and understanding of his young, local workforce, has resulted in a highly successful empire. Call centre staff do not get paid much, but at least in this company, most seem to work with a smile.