Harness excellence from within your auxiliary workforce

An employee engagement industry programme applied as a supply chain performance solution.

Employee engagement is widely regarded as a priority within companies. It is no longer a “nice-to-have”, but mostly a “need-tohave”. However, little attention is given to the employees of companies in your supply chain. Behind the scenes companies have an auxiliary workforce within their supply chain that can make or break them. Companies are responsible for how they treat the men and women employed directly by them, but should probably also act with due-diligence to ensure the companies they contract with do not abuse the rights of people working for them. Like it or not, businesses rely on the continuous flow of services and goods from suppliers. When companies consider how dependent they are on the success of their suppliers they, in turn, consider ways to improve the performance of their suppliers. Most companies have supplier scorecards of sorts. A handful of companies view suppliers as a strategic input to their business success.

Whilst we would like to think that companies are interested in the welfare of their auxiliary workforce, I am convinced that paying attention to the performance of the employees of your suppliers can have as much, if not more, impact on your business performance and bottom line results. Creating a dialogue with your suppliers is a #1 opportunity to improve their performance and ensure collective responsibility, producing productive, efficient and safe employees that you can rely on to deliver products and services to your company and
ultimately ensure your success.

Lessons learned from a largescale employee engagement diagnostic programme to T-up golden questions for deeper management conversations with suppliers

Mandated by the UN, IDG was appointed to conduct a work citizenship and worker engagement survey for all suppliers in the Oil and Gas Industry to improve working conditions in the industry. This three-year programme will engage with 90 000 workers. In the first two years, not only have worker conditions improved, but the data is helping to produce a set of industry standards and has evidenced the need for policy changes. Most significantly it ended an industry-wide industrial relations crisis in the aftermath of the “Arab Spring” where the industry was suffering losses of $80m in three weeks, due to loss of production. The analytics are producing a set of industry standards against which the supplier companies could be measured. The question most often asked is, “Can we influence or manage the performance of our suppliers outside of our organisation?” Yes, you can. Companies that fail to meet minimum standards or expectations can be weeded out or forced to comply.

Most interestingly, the supplier companies that resisted or pushed back on the data gathering programme often mirrored their less than positive worker perceptions. Our ability to slice and dice the data by region, company, supplier category and employee type enabled us to engage in a meaningful conversation with supplier companies. All 200 companies are now willingly engaged and developing action plans to improve capabilities and address deficiencies and in turn production is improving.

Critical sensitivity factors to ensure the best survey outcomes

• Don’t create expectations you can’t deliver on. This is an important consideration when contemplating what to ask. Once you ask the question you raise the expectation to remedy the problem. The consequence for lack of action in response to surveys will deteriorate your worker relationships. Year two data as evidenced improvements within the supplier companies and as such employees are keen to participate in the process;
• Honour confidentiality;
• Test multi-cultural perceptions of the questions. Diverse religious beliefs, languages, literacy levels, cultural, historic and political experiences elicit different responses; and
• Communicate your actions. Even the small actions. We didn’t ask them to “boil the ocean”. We asked them to define and deliver on small action priorities and underpin actions with effective communication to ensure workers were confident that their input precipitated real change.

Gerry Woods is the Regional Director of IDG Middle East, Director of Business Operations, Business Development and Solutions Architect of the IDG Oman Team.

This article appeared in the November 2017 issue of HR Future magazine.

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