Employee Surveys and the Undercover Boss

by Oliver Duke

If you aren’t familiar with the format of this popular series, high-level corporate execs leave the comfort of their offices and secretly take low-level jobs within their companies to find out how things really work and what their employees truly think of them.

As an Executive Search specialist and lover of the show, this got me thinking about the executives I have interviewed and the insight they have (or haven’t!) got into their own workforce.

It caused me to question them of this, and while I don’t expect to be regaled with stories about them donning a disguise and pretending to be a new recruit, I am sometimes taken aback by the apparent ‘arms-length’ responses including ‘our latest employee survey showed…’ or ‘our staff feedback says…’

Even the busiest of senior leaders must be able to find one or two days each quarter to be in the field with a salesperson, in the plant with production operatives or in the warehouse with supply chain. Not in a disguise, just to speak, without prejudice, to frontline staff about what they find are the positives and areas for improvement.

It is easy for executives to become detached from the granular detail, and perhaps while surveys have their place, the importance of walking the shop floor cannot be underestimated.



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