Factories have several existing mechanisms, such as anonymous complaint boxes, for workers to report their grievances or suggestions. However, they don't provide regular updates on status of their complaints, actions taken etc. We utilize a new wave of external technology-enabled tools that are now being rolled out for worker voice.
Will workers be open to sending an SMS or downloading a mobile application to talk to their managers? Is there a business case to this?
WOVO is a worker engagement technology platform designed by Labor Solutions. WOVO allows workers to anonymously submit messages (questions, grievances or suggestions) via SMS (or the WOVO smart phone application) and management to respond to, manage and gather data about these from an online dashboard. We got on board to run a randomized controlled trial evaluation to test the business and social impacts of this tool at two Shahi factories. Our evaluation was restricted to the SMS service. In our baseline survey we found that only 50% of workers own smartphones. This combined with low literacy (54% completed high school) did not favour the introduction of a mobile application.
As part of the research design, we randomly allocated the workers to two groups:
The fact that the ‘control’ group was also able to avail WOVO limited our ability to draw causal inference. However, increased participation of workers from the treatment group (owing to formal enrollment and encouragement) helped drive differences in utilization and estimate the impact of the program.
The WOVO tool was implemented in two Shahi Exports factories covering 7,500 workers for a little over 7 months. All workers had access to the tool and could send their suggestions or grievances via SMS. Even though both groups had access to the tool, we found that:
Here is an article written by Labor Solutions on the results of the projects, including a webinar we conducted with Elena Fanjul-Debnam, CEO of Labor Solutions.
In addition to the quantitative findings from our experiment, we also interacted with Human Resource managers in the two factories to understand their experience of implementing and using WOVO. We found that low literacy is a barrier to using an SMS service, and that workers sometimes prefer to talk face to face with or call factory managers. Further, the existing responsibilities of specific floor managers need to be leveraged to troubleshoot and increase the speed of this communication process. We also heard that usage of WOVO increased once workers started trusting the service. In fact, managers felt that this tool brought workers closer to the management and they all endorsed the need for such tools in all factories.