A growing number of brands and organizations believe that worker voices are underrepresented, and consequently underutilized in supply chain monitoring and management programs. With a variety of new and proven technologies, including our Laborlink mobile solution, engaging with workers at scale is easier than ever. However, hesitancy still resonates throughout the industry. If brands and factories are still skeptical about mobile surveys, what’s their biggest fear or hesitation?
Frances Goodwin, Head of Products and Services at Sedex, asked this exact question in a live audience poll at this year’s Sedex Conference in London. The audience include to a diverse audience of brands, suppliers, and auditors.
Here is what the live audience reported:
Why do these fears and hesitancies occur, and how do we overcome them? Laborlink & Ulula explain:
Our Executive Director, Heather Franzese, was joined on stage at with Antoine Heuty of Ulula to discuss these results as part of Sedex’s Masterclass Panel — Unlocking Worker Voice Using Technology. Here is a recap of their discussion with some highlights of how worker surveys enable socially responsible supply chains:
Workers will not respond honestly using mobile surveys — 21.9%
- Greater Disclosure: In a side-by-side comparison with call-centers and in-person interviews, Laborlink mobile surveys have eight-times greater disclosure when asking sensitive questions. Technology enables a safe and anonymous means for workers to share information from their own mobile phones from anywhere, at any time, creating a much more comfortable environment to answer survey questions. This design is especially critical for sensitive questions like verbal and sexual abuse. If as stranger asked you a question about something sensitive, how would you respond?
- Inclusive for Vulnerable Populations: Mobile surveys are easily scalable and can reach entire worker populations, including its most vulnerable workers. Surveys are free, do not require literacy, and questions are translated into local languages — making it easier for all workers to participate.
- Technology Detects Falsification: Compared to audit surveys, surveying via technology makes it possible to detect a variety of patterns that indicate data falsification as well as survey interference. Comparatively, these instances of survey interference and coaching are incredibly hard to detect and prove when they occur during an audit’s in-person interviews.
Mobile Surveys will not be accepted by management — 7.8%
- Relevant Survey Topics for Factories: Survey results provide valuable information for factory management, whether it be key-drivers of job satisfaction or identifying health and safety risks. By asking a series of questions on a specific topic and collecting data points electronically, statistical insights point to areas where improvements need to be made.
- Different from an Audit: The data collected via a mobile survey should not negatively impact a relationship between buyers and suppliers. This distinction between worker surveys and audits needs to be communicated to factory management to help build trust in the tool and its data.
- Benefits their Bottom Line: When mobile surveys are anchored in management systems, worker data covering a variety of survey topics are being used to drive continuous improvement for suppliers, which positively impacts the bottom line of their business.
Not clear how mobile surveys work with an audit — 7.8%
- A New Data Source: Information collected directly from workers is a new metric that provides real time data on working conditions. Although there is a clear distinction between mobile surveys and a traditional audit, there are a variety of ways to integrate workers survey data into the existing audit process.
- Complement Audits: For brands that are focused on compliance, worker surveys are often used to complement audit data or unearth sensitive or hard to detect information that may be missed by an audit.
- Audit Integration: For brands that are focused on building trust with their suppliers, worker surveys are used to supplement audits at a lower-risk factory. This helps strengthen supplier ownership and their management’s ability to monitor their own factory conditions using timely and reliable worker data.
Data is not actionable enough — 10.9%
- Enhanced Data Analysis: Mobile surveys makes it possible to collect millions of data points across a variety of survey topics. For example, our Laborlink China Collaborative program uses a short, standardized survey on the single topic of ‘Job Satisfaction’ with all participating factories across 10 brands, including Walt Disney, American Eagle, and Mattel. The standardized survey design enables enhanced data analysis that is not achievable with a custom survey or in-person interviews.
- Identifying Key Drivers: In the Laborlink China Collaborative, our data analysis identifies the top two or three key drivers of turnover for each factory. For last year’s 70 participating factories, this data was very actionable and helped reduce their likelihood of worker turnover by 10% for the next 6 months. Key driver analysis can be applied to a variety of worker perceptions, including safety, overtime, and workplace communication.
- Benchmark and Factory Comparisons: When you scale the same worker survey questions across multiple factories, you unlock the ability to benchmark factories against one another and identify industry and regional averages. These comparisons provided participants of the Laborlink China Collaborative with new insights on where to prioritize actions.
Overall, I am more enthusiastic than skeptical — 43.8%
It was fantastic to see that the most popular response from that audience was enthusiasm for mobile surveys. So, what’s next? How can we turn this excitement into action?
- What are your next steps for integrating worker surveys into your supply chain monitoring and management programs?
- What would it look like for you to have a new data set integrated into data management systems?
- What internal decisions could be driven from this new data source?