Written by: Emily Wagner

I recently read an article on CNN (give it a read), showcasing coverage in a new trend where everyday people are hired by an organization to “test-drive” and help sell multi-million dollar mansions. The individuals are hired to live in the homes to test features and also make the home feel “lived in” and desirable to potential long-term owners. I found the concept fascinating.

I will acknowledge how far-fetched this would be and likely unrealistic, but the article got my wheels turning on how this relates to our American business culture today… what if our large, publicly traded organizations practiced true “test-driving” with their executive jobs?

C-level executives for F500 companies have become celebrities of sorts. Executives are scrutinized, directly in the spotlight on a daily basis. What would the outcome be, if when designing new openings or in executive succession planning, internal employees of the organization were hired to “test-drive” the jobs first? Not necessarily something gimmicky to imply living life as “CEO for a day”, but truly being tapped (for 30, 60 days, etc) to test drive the fundamentals of the roles. Say as part of a rotational leadership development program within the organization? Spending 1 month in the executive role, being confronted with the decisions and adversity the next true successor in the seat will face.

I would predict the ideal outcomes would enable boards with the ability to anticipate hurdles and implement change as needed, based on the critical feedback collected. Moreover, the experiences would also empower front-line employees with a better understanding the company from the top-down and feedback can also be directly used as a selling tool in the recruitment process to potential successors, to make the role more appealing to an external candidate stepping in.

Understandably, I know organizations would see many hurdles in designing and embracing a process like this, especially when wanting to present an honest and raw experience. Can the time and financial obligation be justified to stakeholders? Without an executive skill set, how impactful would the “test-drive” be? The issues of company and c-suite confidentiality, of course, also come into play.

In reality, we may never see true corporate test-drives. Conceptually, as an executive search professional, this idea revs me up. In my career, I would love to see an organization take an extreme concept similar to this and make it reality. The outcomes could change the executive business and hiring landscapes with irrefutable fact-based evidence and testimony.

Could it ever really happen? I’m not quite sure… but it’s fun to think about.

Just some food for thought today.