The evolution of audits
The standard ‘point in time’ assessment approach where an auditor evaluates a factory once or twice a year may not provide brands or suppliers with the complete view needed to drive significant business improvements. On top of this, customers continue to demand greater transparency and new and emerging government legislation requires deeper traceability.
By acknowledging these challenges, we can shift our focus to new technologies, methodologies, and ultimately, evolve our audits to meet the growing needs of our clients and their customers.
Developing a 360° approach to better assess factory conditions and worker sentiment
With Laborlink technology, we are introducing new ways of using mobile surveys to optimize worker engagement. Implementing worker surveys is a scalable approach for collecting anonymous feedback from large worker populations, which yields valuable insights around working conditions, working hours, worker-supervisor relationships, and worker retention.
Since October 2017, over 75 ELEVATE audits in China have integrated Worker Sentiment Surveys. This pilot group included the ELEVATE Responsible Sourcing Assessment (ERSA), as well as audits against the SMETA and BSCI protocols. We can easily see new information in three areas:
We provide actionable business recommendations to each of the factories that match their highest-priority issues. It’s common to find challenges with worker-supervisor relationships and opportunities exist to promote the use of on-site grievance mechanisms or talk directly to management. For example, factories where worker complaints are not treated seriously by management are advised to:
“Openly communicate to workers while ongoing issues are being addressed. Train responsible staff (including line leaders) on appropriate processes, including how to respond to workers. Consider increasing dialogue between management and worker committees (if applicable) to ensure feedback from workers is not lost.”
How do worker survey insights complement ERSA findings? They certainly paint a clearer picture.
At ELEVATE, we agree with Aristotle that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” For our industry, this means our audit findings reap deeper insights when combined with other data sources and are professionally analyzed. Here are a few examples of how combining multiple data sources at the factory and within that supply chain relationship drives reliable insights that enable better business decision-making:
Worker survey insights + Assessment data: Integrate Worker Sentiment Survey results with compliance audit data to identify and prioritize areas of improvement. For example, how do worker insights correlate with the factory’s transparency rating? How does workplace harassment reported by workers connect with compliance levels? How can we understand and promote the use of grievance mechanisms in a deeper way?
Worker survey insights + ELEVATE’s eLearning Academy: eLearning courses can be used to improve supervisors’ understanding of worker-management relationships and grievance mechanisms, and follow-up worker surveys can verify any changes in working conditions. Findings also become more actionable and support supplier-buyer partnerships rather than transactional requests. Real-time provision of worker feedback is leading the way to true supplier ownership of improvement models.
Worker survey insights + ELEVATE benchmarking data: Benchmark results from your worker survey against ELEVATE’s business insights to see how you compare to competitors in your industry and geography. ELEVATE’s business insights are sourced from its 14,000+ annual audits. Leveraging data and analytics allows us to understand regional and industry trends that can be captured in performance scorecards and dashboards for effective risk prediction, affecting conditions at scale.
Moving forward, all ELEVATE Responsible Sourcing Assessments (ERSA) will include Worker Sentiment Surveys
We have no doubt that the evolution of audits will benefit all stakeholders. To learn more about ERSA and how ELEVATE is investing in its data sources and analytics:
- Listen to the webinar: ‘The Evolution of Audit: From transactional governance to 360° view of factory health’ with Davis Guan (Global Quality and Integrity) and Beth Holzman (Supply Chain Consulting)
- Learn more about our suite of assessment and business improvement services