Production Manager Sandra Granath has a Masters in Sustainable Development, with an academic background in Political Economy and Diplomacy. She is also QuizRR’s Content Specialist on workplace (social) dialogue. Here she speaks about the growing importance of workplace dialogue in frontier markets.
Why is workplace dialogue so important, yet still so inadequately addressed?
For starters, workplace dialogue is the facilitation of efficient dialogue between workers and managers to improve the workplace, reduce turnover and improve worker-management relations. The challenge is to highlight the benefits of increased workers voice in the factories, which in the past has been met with skepticism from the management. Still, management often links workers voice with added cost when the reality is the opposite. It is the lack of effective dialogue between workers and management that leads to high turnover, strikes, and an unengaged workforce as there is no outlet for the workforce to express themselves.
QuizRR takes a pragmatic approach to this by raising awareness throughout the entire factory. For example, brands will typically ask factories to sign a Code of Conduct, which requires elected worker representatives and organized committee meetings - but there could be varying levels of understanding as to what this actually entails.
We provide concrete, practical steps, which guides workers, supervisors and factory leadership through the stages of the nomination and election process. Even more importantly, QuizRR emphasizes the role and responsibility of worker representatives and how their presence can improve the factory for all stakeholders. This gives a very clear direction for the entire factory - from worker to manager - of what should be expected of a worker representative and what should be considered before the election in order to enable effective worker representation; thus facilitating a significant element of open workplace dialogue.
What are the risks for not engaging in social dialogue?
The fear of addressing workplace dialogue effectively is the threat of dialogue descending into chaos - of worker uprising and complaints. However, the statistics would beg to differ. There is clear research supporting an effective agenda to creating working systems that support workplace dialogue and engagement. Research from 23,000 businesses in over 50 countries shows that the top 25% engagement scores averaged 18% higher productivity than the lowest 25% (Gallup 2006). Furthermore, companies with high levels of engagement have a 40% less turnover rate than companies with low levels of engagement (Hay 2011). There are real savings to be realized in taking the time to address workplace dialogue.
How does QuizRR address these challenges?
QuizRR is a practical capacity-building tool that emphasizes the concrete steps everyone can take towards creating healthy workplace dialogue. With factories easily ranging into the 1000 + worker numbers, it is critical that everyone has an opportunity to participate in the process. But the message is further fine-tuned to address the specific benefits for workers, supervisors, worker representatives and managers. Regardless of role, everyone wants to know what’s in it for me; why would I consider becoming a worker representative? Why should I attend these meetings? Why should I participate in the election process?
When each demographic begins understanding the benefits, then change can be realized. An engaged workplace has people who are the best source of inspiration for streamlining workflow, reducing waste and saving overhead. Others find promoting female workers to the supervisory level a given, as they reflect the workforce itself and can provide the support and direction needed to their colleagues.
Ultimately, QuizRR is still but a tool in facilitating the workplace dialogue agenda. In order for it to work, it needs to be practiced regularly with meetings, elections, and dialogue. It is the shift of communicating to, to communicate with employees. By engaging them in a dialogue that lifts improved efficiency and collaboration, employees can contribute to a smoother, more stable, functioning of their shared future.