Training, capacity building efforts benefit workers at H&M supplier factory

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

FLA’s progress tracking charts (PTCs) use key performance indicators to document and illustrate the impact of capacity building measures taken by a factory after receiving training in a certain area. For each FLA Toolbox – Hours of Work, Grievance Procedures, Fair Wages, etc. – a set of key indicators have been developed to collect quantitative data and a structured reporting sheet to collect qualitative information like opinions, feelings, and experiences from the workers and management. After an FLA capacity building program is completed, performance indicators are collected every month for about 10 – 12 months, after which an impact assessment is conducted. This allows all involved parties to see the impact of the capacity building activities, track the implementation of new policies and procedures, and initiate corrective changes if necessary. PTCs are an important source of information for the independent external assessor, who will verify the accuracy of the PTC data in the course of the final impact assessment. For more information on PTCs, please click here.

H&M Case Study: Worker Participation in Progress Tracking Charts
In 2010, an H&M supplier factory started a Worker Participation training program in collaboration with the FLA, which will continue with a final impact assessment and meeting later in 2011. Over the course of three training sessions, 25 people – including worker representatives, factory-level management and group company management – discussed communication and dialogue within the factory, the importance of worker representatives, problem identification and root-cause analysis, effective training methods, negotiation techniques, and problem solving and conflict resolution methods. FLA asked training participants to submit progress reports to focus the factory throughout the duration of the program. Following the training period, the factory entered its implementation and progress tracking phase, during which workers and management have the opportunity to apply the lessons learned in training, communicate the training to the rest of the workforce, implement improvements, and practice the new skills learned. Through the information collected in these PTCs, H&M and FLA can see the actual changes in the policies, procedures and practices within the factory, and work with the factory to address negative feedback and problem areas.

Information gathered in the H&M progress tracking charts reveals that:

WORKERS ARE EMPOWERED AND AWARE: Workers feel freer to make suggestions and express their opinions, and the worker representative is perceived to have more influence on the decisions made at the factory. Workers are aware of their rights, the importance of communication and the workers’ committee, and there are regular meetings of workers to promote sustainable change. In response to the question, “Have you had any positive interactions between workers and management since the training?”, management responded that “employees are more proactive in solving problems”; and that “worker representatives are more aware of their responsibilities and how to help other employees.” Workers said that they are “more aware of the workers’ committee, its functions and how to use it”; and that they are “more aware of their rights, and hold regular meetings.”

WORKERS’ WELFARE HAS IMPROVED: Living standards have slightly improved, communications channels are better maintained, there is increased support during peak seasons when everyone needs to work more, and the factory has organized a field trip and has arranged transportation for workers who wished to return to their home town for Chinese New Year, both of which were very well received by the workers. Respondents indicated that “worker welfare has improved”; “shift changes now get input from workers”; and “policies are only adapted after workers’ consensus and agreement,” while “the [company-organized] trip and party made everyone very happy.”

COMMUNICATION AND PROBLEM SOLVING SKILLS ARE HONED: Management and workers both felt the effect of improved communication skills, problems were solved more quickly, and there was a less aggressive and more constructive approach to grievances. One of the most common items of feedback concerned improved communications skills – both of management and workers. Workers reported that “there are more clear answers from the management regarding workers’ grievances,” that “communication skills of both the supervisors and the senior management have improved” and that “communications channels are better maintained.” Management noted that “workers are more cooperative” and that there was “more communication” in general.

SOME UNFAIRNESS AND DISSATISFACTION STILL EXISTS: There were perceptions of unfairness in how some of the grievances were handled by management, and management felt that workers too often brought forth personal problems. Complaints about the canteen were not addressed in a timely manner, and some respondents were still unhappy with how their work was organized. Management mentioned that they felt “some workers take things very personally and can be unreasonable” while workers felt that “unfair treatment still took place in the problem solving process, depending on the issue.”

To summarize, progress tracking charts contain qualitative feedback from workers and managers on improved relationships, communication and problem solving abilities, and provide insight into the tangible outcomes from the training that are proof of the long-term positive impact of the training.

Translating this information into action
Workers benefit from the use of and information gathered in progress tracking charts in two major ways. First, the positive feedback and real change experienced by both management and workers encourages the factory to continue improving its worker participation structure. Improved satisfaction with the management and the factory increases workers’ effectiveness and willingness to work hard and take pride in what they do. It gives workers a voice to advocate for better working conditions. Secondly, the progress tracking charts show areas for improvement, and point to specific instances where workers or management see weaknesses. This gives the factory areas to focus on, and ensures that improvement is steady and sustained over the long-term. Learn more about progress tracking charts here.


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