Worker voice means the views of the workers and worker voice can cover pay, freedoms, treatment, conditions and governance. It can also be called "employee voice".
Worker voice is a powerful, authentic and third party way to measure compliance with workplace human rights standards. It can be used as a source of data in order to detect issues (monitoring) and it can be used to measure the impact of initiatives (remediation).
"Worker voice apps" can be used to capture worker voice data via apps on mobile phones.
Some systems are comprehensive and designed to support a wide range of HR functions such as training, internal communications or by doing surveys. Stakeholders then obtain worker voice data by eavesdropping on these internal activities.
At ES3G, we take a different approach and our mobile app collects the worker voice directly, continually and in real-time without any of these additional features. This makes our system much simpler, quicker and more scalable - and crucially, more economic to use.
Making worker voice data useful
Worker voice data in its raw form is not very useful. It can cover a wide range of topics and it needs to be moderated to filter out random, inconsistent or artifical response patterns. There is often also too much data, and so intelligent systems are required to process that data in order to end up with something useful.
At ES3G, we understand both of those problems:
We process worker voice data using statistical models to remove noise and detect artificial response patterns - leaving us with a clean and authentic dataset coming directly from the workers commenting on their treatment.
And then we use worker voice data to generate a "social score" on each workplace, supporting that social score with simple diagnostic dashboards that enable a deeper dive into the statistics. This is information that is easy to consume for stakeholders (retailers, brands, consumers, shareholders) - enough to see the big picture instantly, with useful analysis available on a drill down.
As this worker voice guide explains, social scores reflect how workplaces treat their workers, and this is part of "ESG" compliance. ESG means "environmental, social and governance". ESG measures the impact of business activities on society.
Workers are important
Workers are one of the most important sources of data for measuring the "S" of ESG (social) and significant voice when it comes to the "G" (governance).
Asking workers how they are treated day-to-day is a natural and authentic way to assess levels of compliance and this should be done by systems that are well-designed and sensibly deployed.
A well-designed worker voice system is low cost, quick and easy to implement. Using the data to generate a "social score" on for workplace involved provides a simple, standardised, comparable and universal measure of social compliance for a workplace.
We adhere to the West principles for app design and operation - see more here.
The scope of worker voice
We use worker voice to check many aspects of a workplace, such as:
Facilities: Sufficent breaks during the day for food, water, toilets etc and the facilities should be sufficient and acceptable.
Freedoms: Hours, pay, overtime, and rights to associate are all important parts of monitoring for forced labour / labor issues in supply chains.
Fairness: Equal treatment and conditions between men and women are expected, without discrimination with respect to race, culture, orientations etc. and a fair, living wage.
Pay: Workers expect to be paid on time and without deductions and fair arrangements for sick pay, maternity pay and similar should be standard.
Safety: We ask workers if they feel safe at work, and if they are harassed.
Grievance: Good internal systems allow workers to raise concerns with their managers and for whistleblowing. There should also be easy access to external resources like local helplines if internal systems are not working well.
Knowledge: Most companies agree to make sure that worker know their rights, and they support this process with training.
We can verify these matters by asking the workers, and use worker voice as a powerful measure of the social contract. In this way, we support progress on 7 out of the 17 UN sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Take care over worker voice
Worker voice is not a replacement for regular audits and other checks although it can lead to a reduced requirement for these.
We recommend using worker voice to support regular audits, visits and monitoring, and to make sure that surveillance continues when auditors are not on site. There are limitations to the value of what workers may say, even using a well-designed system.
Our longer article sets out more here: "Worker voice: 7 things to know", (click to read). Here are three key points from our longer article on this topic:
Local management may try to influence results, although good worker voice systems can detect this quite easily.
Worker voice is also an opinion. What we hear is what they believe..
Workers may also not fully understand their rights and may be settling for less than they should.
It is very important to retain a strong sense of perspective when considering the role that worker voice data can play in social audit and ESG compliance.
If you are a brand or a retailer, then sign up here for an ES3G supply chain monitoring program. We offer a free pilot for up to 20 of your workplaces, and workplace monitoring (real-time, all-the-time, all-the-workers, all-the-suppliers) can be delivered by us for as little as US$10 per month per workplace.
If you are a factory, farm, mine, office - any kind of workplace - and you would like to try out our technology, we offer a free trial - sign up here. There are significant benefits for workplaces that take up the social score system - see more here.
Worker voice monitoring is arriving now on a global basis, driven by stakeholders, regulators and law-makers. Sign up for our website to keep up to date on developments.