Ever since the premiere of Undercover Boss, it's become fashionable for some CEOs to don a disguise and experience their business from the employee's standpoint. I guess that's cool. But I've been doing the real thing for years: Job swapping with my Manhattan receptionist, an account executive in our London office, and a San Francisco-based account supervisor, to name just a few.
In each instance, I've come away with a greater appreciation of the demands of entry-level positions. I've also made fundamental changes in our work processes as a direct result: installing better soundproof baffling in the ceiling, outsourcing news monitoring, and insisting every one take a lunch break, for example.
Recently, after being told by some of our newer employees that Peppercom's orientation was a sink-or-swim proposition, I decided to try it for myself.
To make the experience as authentic as possible, I "became" a hypothetical senior account executive named Johnny Smythe (our HR manager thought the name John Smith was too bland). I asked our HR team to ensure that Johnny experience exactly what a brand new employee would. So, Johnny:
After just two hours, Johnny's head was spinning with information overload. He received mixed messages to some of his questions, completely different answers to some of the same, basic questions, and no answer at all to one of his more direct questions about a particular service offering.
As a direct result of my new employee orientation, I've made several sweeping changes, including:
I highly recommend every entrepreneur and executive experience what I just did. See what a new employee sees and hears in her first day of work at your firm. Ask why things are done the way they are. And, look for visual clues to see if your office environment accurately reflects the business in which you work.
I can tell you one thing: if Johnny Smythe had been an actual new employee at Peppercom, I'm sure if he would have returned for his second day of work, he would have returned with his head spinning.