CEOs Working Retail: Smart Move or PR Stunt?

It’s tough being a CEO. No, seriously: How can the head of a retail giant maintain a positive pseudo-relationship with hundreds or even thousands of employees when it’s hard enough for C-levels at small businesses to let all their people know that they care?

Hubert Joly, newly appointed CEO of big-box chain Best Buy, decided to pull a twist on the “Undercover Boss” concept and work on the floor in a retail capacity for the first week of his new job.

What’s the reasoning behind this move? Apparently Joly wants to counter criticisms about his lack of retail expertise while also “engaging with…employees” and emphasizing his dedication the Best Buy’s tech customer service “Geek Squad”, which is one of the most important elements of their brand.

Sounds good, but will it work for Joly? More importantly, will it work for Best Buy? Or will it go down as another halfhearted PR stunt?

We feel like the key point here is that Joly has to keep working the floor on a somewhat regular basis or the employees will quickly realize that he’s not serious about the project. Even if he dedicates himself fully to the task of employee engagement, the fact that he’s not really an “undercover boss” at all may well shield him from the real problems that plague his business, because no employee wants to risk speaking the harsh truth to the man in charge.

PR pros: How can C-level executives truly connect with their ground-level employees? And how can a chain store known for “lousy service and an uncaring attitude” renovate its struggling brand?