Senior execs at UK retailer must spend regular time ‘at the coal face’

By our News Team | 2023

Marks & Spencer boss says head office staff and C-Suite execs must be on the shop floor with customers as part of their annual review.

The CEO of Marks & Spencer, one of the world’s leading retailers, has introduced a requirement that all head office staff must spend seven days annually in customer-facing roles on the shop floor.


This will be a mandatory part of their yearly performance review and not even top-level C-Suite executives are excluded.

Customer Focus

Major retailer Marks & Spencer now requires its top execs to spend regular time on the shop floor. Photo credit: Wing 1990hk via Wikipedia

 “And by the way that’s not just popping in, saying ‘hi’ and doing your shopping – it’s proper work,” CEO Stuart Machin told the London-based Sunday Times newspaper in an interview.


Machin started his own retail career by stacking shelves at Sainsbury’s, a British supermarket chain, when he was a teenager.


Marks and Spencer is a major British-based multinational retailer that specialises in selling clothing, beauty products, home products and food products. 


In his Sunday Times interview, Machin said that the long-term success of the business relies on what’s happening on the shop floor, rather than conversations in boardrooms.


Important to be ‘sleeves rolled up’


“It is critically important that [the company is] ‘sleeves rolled up’ and close to colleagues who serve customers,” he stated.


According to a report in another UK newspaper, The Independent, there are examples of other customer-facing businesses doing something similar.


Earlier this year, the incoming Starbucks coffee shop chain CEO, Laxman Narasimhan, said he would be donning an apron and taking on a half-day shift in one of the brand’s coffee shops each month. 


DoorDash, an American online food ordering and food delivery platform, requires its senior managers to do monthly deliveries to customers.


In an interview for The Independent article, HR and workforce development expert, Jessica Brannigan, said there is merit in the strategy.


“In any business, particularly [larger companies], we tend to hear employees say that leaders just don’t know, or appreciate, what they face ‘on the ground’ – that they are somehow removed from the ‘real’ business,” she explained.


Another HR expert, Sarah Stevens, said it allows management to unlock “insights that they wouldn’t otherwise access, whether that’s practical, like poor-performing systems, or … a floor layout that isn’t conducive [to success], or customer-service policies that don’t make any sense.”

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    Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
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