Updated: How Technology Amplifies Voices: Results from a pilot in an Indian Factory

This case study was originally published in August 2020, since the publication of this case study more results have been made available and are included below.

Woman smiling

In 2019, a study group that included Labor Solutions, Shahi ExportsThe Children’s Place, and The Good Business Lab (GBL) conducted a study using Labor Solutions’ WOVO tool in two Shahi factories employing 7,500 workers over four months. The study sought to understand the impacts of introducing the WOVO worker voice program in Shahi factories. 


Baseline: Prior to launching the tools, GBL conducted a baseline study, finding that:

  • 20% of workers reported facing an issue in the last 6 months.

  • Of those, 40% did not report the issue to management because they scared negative repercussions and did not know who to approach.

  • Of those who did report an issue only 50% reported hearing back from management.

It was clear that a new communication system was necessary. But local human resource teams were dubious about implementing the new system, scared that a new form of transparency would make their jobs more difficult and would be shared with clients.


The Study: Participating workers were broken into control and variable groups.

WOVO Chat

Workers in the variable group were trained and given access to WOVO’s connect feature via SMS, allowing them to anonymously send SMS-messages to management.


Management received those messages using the WOVO online dashboard, which allowed them to sort, manage and respond to messages quickly and efficiently. Users from the management team were also able to pull aggregated data from the dashboard to track demographic trends, for example, top complaints per department.


Once WOVO was launched, messages began pouring in. The highest number of cases concerned banking and the Provident Fund. While, these cases weren't grievances, WOVO was immensely helpful in workers understand their pay and the formal banking sector, which prevented escalation and grievances later. Still, a majority of cases were grievances and included issues like working hours and overtime, factory temperature, conflict with supervisor and sexual harassment.


WOVO, is a tool, not a service. While WOVO is effective at gathering and disseminating information, more important for long-term success and positive culture change is how management responds and reacts to that information. Therefore, the results of the study are as representative of the Shahi management’s response to the data as they are of the results of WOVO’s use in the study.


For WOVO and similar tools like it to be successful, stakeholder engagement is key. As a result, the study partners were equally interested in the quantitative results that WOVO could provide. The study also focused on the successes and challenges of implementation, stakeholder management, and worker and management’s overall impression of the increased dialogue between stakeholders in the factory settings.


Findings

Despite the short study period of only four months, the results demonstrate the very positive impacts of using tools like WOVO to boost worker engagement in factory settings. The study found WOVO users (the study’s variable group) reported:

  • A 5% decrease in absenteeism

  • 780% increase in worker engagement and feedback

  • Workers were 9 times more likely to use WOVO than a traditional grievance channels, like boxes, and ‘open door policy.’

  • Surveys with workers and management showed that those users found WOVO to be easy to use and that it brought a positive change in the work culture.

  • Almost all workers owned a phone or had access to a phone. However, only 50% had a smartphone, indicating that in India SMS continues to be a critical functionality to make available to workers in WOVO facilities.

The Shahi human resources team found that the data and insights provided by WOVO allowed them to be more effective at understanding and responding to workers’ needs. The results show that more workers used WOVO than traditional communication tools provided by the facility. With more information and direct communication and better reporting tools, the human resources team was able to respond to issues faster, monitor and track results, get feedback, and in some cases adjust their follow-up responses in an appropriate manner.


  • A majority of HR staff felt that WOVO brought a positive change in HR culture.

  • They felt an increase in proactiveness to solve grievances and a better connection with the workers

  • Many felt that relations with their superiors improved, mainly due to transparency in the whole process.


Watch the video below to hear Shahi tell their story, and listen to the study group partners candidly discuss the results and their experiences with WOVO, as well as some timely insights into how the worker voice space is changing as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.



More findings can be found on GBL's website here.