Undercover Employee: An Experiment to Reduce Turnover & Improve Culture

Business meeting, conversation and company strategy with diversity

The Challenge:

One of The Advance Group’s large, long-time manufacturing clients was experiencing high turnover rates, especially with new starts. Additionally, feedback from new hires pointed to onboarding and employee relation issues, particularly stemming from first-day experiences and a specific supervisor.

Strategy, Findings, & Goals:

The Advance Group’s team of experts suggested a unique idea to our client: Send an experienced recruiter disguised as a new temp-to-hire worker to identify specific issues and determine actionable steps to improve turnover & employee feedback.

With the client’s approval, an Advance recruiter was deployed as an undercover employee to observe an (almost) authentic first-day experience. Our recruiter’s challenges included: Not being greeted or acknowledged once they entered the building, lack of direction and support from supervisor in initial department, and no guidance regarding their overall job duties & expectations.

Issues identified:

  • Inconsistent onboarding process
  • Lack of clear instructions for new hires
  • Minimal supervisor direction or support with new hires

The Solution:

Based on our analysis, The Advance Group recommended several initiatives that were easy to implement but had a significant impact, including:

  • Buddy Up: The Advance Group recommended implementing a buddy system to serve as a go-to contact for new hires. This initiative aimed to improve turnover rates and eliminate negative first-day experiences.
  • Knowledge is Power: The Advance Group connected our client with a local source for soft skills training. This intervention aimed to enhance the supervisor’s ability to support and guide new employees effectively.
  • Be Involved & Invested: Drawing on The Advance Group’s 30+ years of experience, we know that strong leadership and healthy culture start with front-line supervisors. Our client acknowledged the importance of their internal leadership team being actively involved in coaching and counselling employees to boost performance and improve retention.

The Success:

  • Turnover Tamed: New hires flourished with the buddy system, leading to a significant drop in turnover.
  • Feedback Flip: Negative first-day experiences vanished, replaced by positive sentiments and improved morale.
  • Strengthened Relationships: Enhanced supervisor engagement fostered a more supportive and communicative workplace, reducing conflict and boosting overall well-being.


The client embraced The Advance Group’s recommendations, and the results were impressive. This experiment exemplifies Advance’s commitment to solving client challenges with innovative solutions. By tackling onboarding and supervisor-employee relations head-on, Advance not only reduced turnover for our client, but also revitalized the first-day experience for new employees.