Back to the Floor – Business Training for Top Bosses

Back to the Floor is a television programme which helps bosses figure out how to improve their businesses by focusing on the detail, and getting to know their customer-facing staff.  The result is that they gain valuable insight into the customer experience and feel humbled by what their frontline staff do every single day.

This is compulsive viewing, ideal for anyone looking for business training videos that teach managers about customer service and problem solving. Those looking to succeed in a business environment or seeking solutions to problems in their own business have something to learn from this educational series.

In Back to the Floor, we see business bosses under pressure as they come face to face with real customers for the first time in many years. But it is their interaction with the junior staff which often has the most profound effect on the way they view the business. These low paid workers can often tell management what exactly is wrong with the company, and what needs to be done. Programme-makers have been successful in finding staff members willing to speak their minds openly, and weaving in their personal stories at the same time.

The most obvious problems identified by staff members are often a complete mystery to the suited staff far away in head office. For example, one NHS boss in series 1 was baffled why staff spent so much of their day searching for pillows. This problem has a simple and inexpensive solution which would free up staff to do other tasks. Using this BBC video series for training in a business environment could help your managers develop more empathy for the staff just starting out in their careers. It encourages top staff to see situations from a different perspective, allowing them to identify potential areas for improvement in the customer experience.

Back to the Floor Series 1

In this first series of Back to the Floor, top bosses got a taste for life at the sharp end of their companies. It reveals the distance between top bosses and those performing the duties which keep a company functioning. The boss of a holiday company works in a resort as a holiday rep, the headmistress of a public school gets a taste for life at a difficult inner-city establishment and a pest control boss gets close to London’s rat and cockroach problem.

Back to the Floor BBC video training

Episode 1: Working Holiday

Unijet boss Terry Brown works as a holiday rep in Tenerife.

Episode 2: A Class Apart

Public school headmistress Gillian DuCharme finds out what life is like at a tough comprehensive school.

Episode 3: Running Water

Bob Baty of South West Water faces customers, angry because of high water bills.

Episode 4: Drop in Rank

General Sir Hew Pike goes back to being a junior officer in the Army.

Episode 5: Crawling About

Terminix’s Peter Cottee finds out what life is like for the pest controllers defending London’s streets.

Episode 6: Pillow Talk

NHS boss Ann Lloyd finds out what life is like on the wards as an auxiliary nurse in a busy hospital.

Back to the Floor Series 2

In this series we see a Butlin’s boss entertaining guests and a police chief sampling life on the beat. The bosses face the grievances of the general public and learn to let someone else make the big decisions.

rspca business video

Episode 1: Seeing Red

Managing Director of Butlins, Tony Marshall, learns what it’s like working with the customers every day as a Redcoat.

Episode 2: Back on Site

Tony Pidgley of Berkeley luxury homes goes back to the building site as a trainee.

Episode 3: Home Truths

Chief Executive of troubled Lambeth Council, Heather Rabatts, goes back to the frontline.

Episode 4: Top Dog

RSPCA boss Peter Davies faces the general public and some neglected animals as an inspector in Leeds.

Episode 5: A Copper's Lot

A Police Chief takes on the duties of a copper.

Episode 6: Man on the Move

Pickford’s boss Grant Whitaker learns what it’s like for his staff lifting heavy boxes for a living.

Back to the Floor Series 3

In this series we see top bosses trying to boost sales and customer satisfaction by spending time with the general public. Can the Sainsbury’s boss find out why customers are turning away from its stores and will the train boss survive as a platform supervisor for a week?

Sainsburys back to the floor

Episode 1: Supermarket Swap

Sainsbury's Chief Executive Dino Adriano works as an Assistant Floor Manager.

Episode 2: On the Rails

The Chief Executive of West Anglian Great Northern Line faces his own travellers as a platform supervisor.

Episode 3: Fast Food

A catering boss goes back to serving customers.

Episode 4: The Write Stuff

A newspaper reporter goes back onto the streets to sniff out some hot stories.

Episode 5: Child's Play

The head of PGL swaps his smart suits for supervising 24 children for a week.

Episode 6: Breaking the Mould

It’s back to the factory floor for Wedgwood's boss Brian Patterson.

Episode 7: No Place Like Home

Radisson-Edwardian hotel boss David Batts is working as a chambermaid.

Episode 8: Down to Earth

Airport boss Roger Cato faces the general public as Customer Service Duty Manager.

Back to the Floor Series 5

This series continues with top bosses getting to know their customers and lowest paid staff. An ambulance boss finds out what life is like for crews on Glasgow’s streets and the head of a private prison firm is working as a guard. An entertaining and educational look at business in the 21st century.

Hovis BBC training video

Episode 1: Hovis

Aptly named Peter Baker from Hovis goes back to the factory floor and spends a week working with the staff he employs.

Episode 2: Cruising

The president of a cruise liner takes on a customer-facing role on a ship: entertaining staff, cleaning toilets and dealing with complaints.

Episode 3: Women’s Prisons USA

John Ferguson, head of a private prison firm, finds out what it is like working as a guard in a women’s prison.

Episode 4: Burger King

Eric Bonnot, head of Burger King, gets behind the counter of a local branch and finds out that making a burger that looks like the picture is impossible in two and a half minutes.

Episode 5: Central Park

Park manager Dr Regina Peruggi swaps her smart office for manual jobs in the park.

Episode 6: Dating Agency

The head of a dating agency fields customer calls and tries her hand at a bit of matchmaking.

Episode 7: Hoover

Hoover boss Peter Murtagh is back to the factory floor in an attempt to turn Hoover’s fortunes around.

Episode 8: Ambulance

The Chief Executive of the Scottish Ambulance Service is answering 999 calls to see what life is like for ambulance crews in Glasgow.

Meeting front line staff and customers is becoming a popular decision for business managers attempting to get more in touch with their customers’ and staff needs.

Here are some real life examples of bosses going back to the floor:


In March 2012, Tesco’s boss Philip Clarke announced his decision to try to recover the supermarket’s success by going back to the front line. Having started his career stacking shelves in the supermarket managed by his father, Clarke went back to the floor in an attempt to win back the shoppers who were now favouring Tesco’s rivals.

The need to get back to the floor became apparent after store budgets were cut and standards started to slip. Some stores reported running out of carrier bags, while customers became dissatisfied with long queues at the checkout.


Siemens also send their top managers back to the floor, training with the apprentices. Tim Holt, a senior executive at Siemens, flew into their UK training centre in Newcastle in July 2012 to learn about what their technicians experience when servicing wind turbines. This can be a difficult and dangerous job, ascending the 100m turbines in strong winds. Tim wanted to find out more about the work of the technicians. Siemens is investing heavily in wind energy and they are constantly training new technicians so making sure that they are fully equipped before they head out into the field will be vital.

Royal Mail

The Royal Mail decided to give their Chief Executive a taste of the pre-Christmas rush by spending a day behind the desk of a branch in Darlington. Paula Vennells swapped her smart suit for the Royal Mail uniform, serving clients and helping staff. After one day in the front line, Vennells was back at her desk in head office to report back on what she had observed.


Top bosses at travel company Tui went back to the floor when they spent the day at a travel agent to find out what it is like to sell holidays on the high street. It will be interesting to see if they later decide to go right to the front line and face the customers arriving in a resort, bleary eyed after a long flight.

Experiencing what life is like right at the bottom of the career ladder is a humbling experience for most managers who are then able to see their staff as real people rather than just a number. For the viewers of the BBC television programme Back to the Floor it offers a unique training exercise: we get to see both sides of the coin. Business training with BBC Active videos is particularly effective as it shows real people in genuine scenarios. The viewers can relate to the characters and feel empathy; this makes the training more memorable and more beneficial.