New toolkit supports businesses with multi-language workforces
ETI members Coop and Marks and Spencer have joined forces to develop a toolkit offering practical support to businesses in tackling the common challenges associated with multiple cultures and languages among supply chain workers.
The Toolkit is designed for UK suppliers, but many of the principles of communication are universal. It is open source, and both Coop and M&S are open to it being adapted within wider, overseas supply chain contexts. This is something that ETI would actively encourage – particularly where it forms part of a wider, social dialogue approach.
The resource builds on the experiences of 24 leading suppliers from the food, produce and textile industries, as well as recruitment and training specialists AllianceHR and nGaje. It identifies both the business and social benefits of improved worker communications and offers a range of practical, verbal, written and action steps to help build understanding and trust, both in terms of bringing workers from diverse backgrounds together, and encouraging dialogue between workers and management.
At the Toolkit launch in Birmingham last week, Alliance HR spoke about how communication initiatives should start as early as at the recruitment stage. With labour shortages affecting much of the UK food sector, overseas workers recruited from one country are increasingly likely to be mixed with workers from others, an additional language and cultural challenge on top of the already considerable one of getting to grips with working in the UK.
ETI welcomes “top down” initiatives such as this, which document what responsible suppliers working in collaboration with resource specialists can do. This approach is most effective in protecting workers when combined with simultaneous “bottom up” approaches aimed at supporting workers to better understand and to better exercise their rights as workers. This might involve inviting a trade union representative to speak to workers about how trade unions can support workers where, for example they do not understand local laws and entitlements, struggle to integrate into local communities or when there is a dispute or grievance not readily resolved by internal HR teams. This combined approach from management above and worker representatives below acting on behalf of workers can offer a secure framework for effective communications.
Social dialogue is a formalised and holistic approach to building worker voice, empowering workers and facilitating balanced communications with management. This toolkit sits well within this framework and could be a valuable addition, providing specific support for the added dimensions of language and culture.
The toolkit includes a decision tree and matrix, helps you assess your business needs and develop a business case, and includes step by step instructions on how to develop, implement and communicate your policy. Businesses can start using it straight away, and should waste no time in doing so.
In October, I will be attending a conference in Holland hosted by the Dutch trade union, FNV. The conference will celebrate experiences where social dialogue has been used to build good management-worker labour relations. One case study will highlight a Peruvian company, Camposol, and its journey to repair and build stronger relationships between their management and workers. A group of ETI companies has recently launched a study on the Camposol experience as a responsible supplier. I hope to share the new Multi-Language Workers’ Support Toolkit at this event and to encourage its wider use.
I think it likely that the most progressive companies will most use this Toolkit, so what can be done to get less progressive companies also engaged here? It would be interesting to hear from companies with multi-language workforces as to how they intend to make use of this new toolkit within their supply chain, and how it might help them improve relations with workers and support new arrivals to integrate and thrive within the UK workforce. Please use the blog comments facility at the end of this page if you would like to add your comments!
The link to access the toolkit is available here. You can download the file and open in your usual PDF viewer to access an interactive version of the toolkit.