John Lewis & Partners (JLP) developed a new approach to auditing suppliers that helped give workers a voice.
The retailer created the Better Jobs Programme in 2018, which includes a tool that has given workers in the supply chain an opportunity to contribute to business decision-making and improve their workplace.
Speaking at the CIPS Annual Conference, Nadia Youds, social impact manager of supply chains at JLP, explained: “This is basically an inward looking tool to help managers think about the ways that they currently incentivise workers and create opportunities across the business. Seven icons represent seven aspects of the workplace, for example the top one is voice – how do you empower workers to voice their opinions and concerns in the workplace?
“We wanted to talk to suppliers to understand what would add value to them and if they were able to move beyond a very compliant tick-box approach to something that was more meaningful and really enable them to work on areas in their own businesses.”
JLP developed a portal as a platform for factory managers to communicate and improve the seven areas addressed by the programme: growth, reward, security, job design, respect, health and wellbeing and voice. “We developed a framework, based on the seven themes of the workplace, to help suppliers to self assess themselves,” said Youds.
The firm has 1,600 factories around the world in 54 countries, 150 of which supply own-brand products across the UK, according to JLP.
The programme was established after JLP reviewed the compliance process with suppliers in 2016, prompted by the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
Youds said: “It became very apparent that the audit process was allowing suppliers to demonstrate performance at a snapshot in time, but it wasn't enabling suppliers who are high performing to move beyond the audit cycle, and to really become best-in-class and leaders at what they do.”
She added: “The idea behind the tool is that it's not a pass/fail, so it's a move away from this compliance tick-box approach. It's very much, 'You tell us what you're doing, you give us the metrics that you've gathered this year, and then you tell us where you'd like to make the improvements'.”
JLP worked with organisations including the Chartered Institute of Personal Development and the Joseph Roundtree Foundation to better understand the landscape of employment across the UK, especially in manufacturing, and developed a programme that “made an attractive proposition for suppliers, rather than just another compliance tool”.
Youds said: “We looked at how we have democracy across our business, the way that we allow people to really bring their ideas to the fore, and for us to trial them and work in a different way to see if that might result in improvements in efficiency and productivity.”
The programme has informed JLP on specific ways to help its suppliers, including mental health support, different places or tools for workers to voice opinions, and ensuring company benefits fit the needs of the workers.
Youds said: “Worker voice is clearly valued. When we asked suppliers about the ways that they provide opportunities for their workers to have a say in the workplace it was very clear that they understood that was important, but the actual mechanisms that they use vary in effectiveness.
“We're working with suppliers to understand running surveys or employee pulse checks or having committees that can enable workers to bring their opinions to another forum that isn't actually having to come and knock on someone's door.”
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