Oriental Trading Co., the direct retailer of party supplies and other novelties, will be featured on an upcoming episode of "Undercover Boss."
CEO Sam Taylor will be featured the CBS reality show, which airs March 9 at 7 p.m. The show follows an executive who works alongside his or her employees to see the impact of their decisions on others, determine where the problems lie and discover the unsung heroes who make their companies run.
Taylor found the experience so valuable that he now requires all 10 of the company's senior executives to spend time working in front-line jobs in Oriental Trading's fulfillment center or in the call centers.
He implemented a new employee recognition program for those who go above and beyond the call of duty. He's also working to improve communication by ensuring there's follow-up to employee suggestions and that those ideas go up the chain and back down.
Additionally, Taylor now holds smaller, casual lunch meetings with about 30 employees at a time to allow them to speak freely about any issues. He plans to host company parties so employees can watch the show together.
"We made a long list of things, and we took action, and that's key," Taylor said. "The employees have realized it wasn't just talk."
CBS contacted Oriental Trading last year and invited the company on the show. Taylor was familiar with it but had never watched an entire episode. He was skeptical at first, but his wife, Stephanie, was a fan and encouraged him to take the opportunity.
After talking to a few executives who had participated in the show, he decided to go for it.
For a week in August, Taylor lived in a motel and went undercover every day for his full-time shifts at the company's fulfillment center in La Vista.
His normally golden-grayish hair, which he had grown out a few inches, was dyed black and slicked back. A small hairpiece was added to the back, creating a mullet-like hairstyle. He grew facial hair and wore brown contacts, glasses and even a retainer to alter his speech.
Taylor worked four different "pick, pack, ship" jobs and was trained by four different employees. The employees knew a reality series was being filmed, but were told it was about a failed entrepreneur getting a second chance at running a warehouse business.
"The employees were very approachable and they opened up to talk about the good and the bad of the company and what works and what doesn't work," Taylor said. "I learned a lot about our employees and that we have great people working here who are really focused on our customers."
During peak seasons, Oriental Trading employs about 2,000 employees. Half work in the La Vista fulfillment center, a 750,000-square-foot facility on 120 acres that can house more than 100 million items and has more than four miles of conveyor belts. The company's headquarters offices are in Ralston.
Last February, the company announced the completion of its reorganization efforts and exited bankruptcy. Taylor said the company recorded more than $500 million in revenue in the last 12 months and has seen revenue growth in seven of the last eight quarters.