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From Worker Surveys to Sustainable Improvements in Supply Chains

Collecting + analyzing data from worker surveys is just the start. Taking concrete actions, following up with workers improves worker satisfaction, and engagement, and protect against future risks. Companies must act on the data to drive change, build trust and, now, be compliant with new Human Rights Due Diligence (HRDD) laws and regulations. HRDD laws require businesses, not only to conduct identification efforts, but also, to make necessary improvements.

From worker data to sustainable improvements in supply chain

Leverage worker data to distinguish incidents from weak processes

How to act on an issue depends on whether it is an incident (isolated harm) or an institutional problem (weak processes). Here is how to tell if the issues you have identified are incidents or weak processes based on worker data.

Incidents of harm or negative impact on workers are a failure of safety measures and need to be addressed immediately and then remediated. Incidents may occur because weak processes failed to provide early warning of a risk or danger or may occur despite processes being strong and working as intended. No workplace is free from risk, and while we should try to eliminate the most serious dangers, we cannot ensure that any place is free from all potential injury. When incidents happen, they should be addressed quickly. Because incidents involve real harm, it is important to treat them with urgency and to make remedies for the injured person/people impacted.

Weak processes are the failure of safety or management systems in the workplace that should identify risks early and allow them to be addressed before harm is caused. A Weak Process includes corrupted audits, skipped safety inspections, and grievance tools that workers do not feel comfortable using. These weak processes pose an operational risk to the company that can be strengthened if recognized in time. Hiring and promotion processes, safety checks, training, and grievance mechanisms are all workplace processes that need to work properly for workers to be safe and have their rights respected in the workplace. Identifying weak processes requires a strong nexus of trust, because the early warning signs of weak processes and systems can seem minor, but quickly escalate.

Analyze root causes and prioritize improvements

Root Cause analysis goes beyond simple attribution. No problem can be fixed or improved without a good understanding of why it has happened and what the scope of the issue is. This can be accomplished through focus groups, management discussions, targeted surveys, as well as stakeholder engagement.

Often, asking the management team of a facility if they know why workers gave low scores on a question, or why a complaint is recurring reveals facility-specific practices or processes that the survey or grievance tool could not adequately capture. In other cases, the management team cannot explain the results and the identified issues need to be addressed.

Prioritization is the process of taking issues identified and weighing their relative harm (negative impact) and likelihood to determine where immediate action will prevent the most damage. This prioritization need not be a laborious process but should be practical and used to direct your resources toward the most impactful and effective action.

Taking improvement actions based on the issue

The response and resolution depend on the type of issue:

Incidents need to be mitigated (the harm stopped) and remediated. Workers impacted need to be removed from harm as quickly as possible, the direct cause of harm needs to be isolated and neutralized, and then a remediation process needs to take place. Effective remediation or remedy requires the involvement of the people who are harmed or negatively impacted, to provide solutions (which can be both financial and non-monetary) that address the injury and failure to protect the person’s rights. The remediation process can be handled internally or with support from third parties and stakeholders like buyers, local worker rights groups and advocates, trade unions, and/or government as appropriate.

Weak processes need to be improved through training, system design, good process management, and sometimes behavioral change to ensure uptake and utilization. For example, a poorly functioning or underutilized grievance mechanism can be improved by: (1) ensuring workers know when and how to use the grievance channel and what to do, (2) providing adequate safeguards for reporters and ensuring no retaliation, (3) training and incentivizing management to provide prompt and respectful responses to issues raised by workers, (4) improving accessibility and user experience for the grievance mechanism.

Over the decade, Labor Solutions has collaborated with suppliers and third parties to deploy evidence-based improvement programs for worker well-being and good working conditions. Our tools connect grievance and survey data with bite-sized, tailored learning modules to tackle the root causes of your workplace issues.


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