Our impact, their voices

The two Cs to success: Communication and Cooperation

Full participation and effective communication mechanisms can unlock frontline workers’ potential and improve productivity. A Chinese enterprise participating in the ILO’s SCORE programme provides a leading example of the benefits of workplace inclusivity.

Feature | Beijing, China | 04 April 2018
BEIJING (ILO News) – At the front gate of the company compound, Bai Xiang has posted a list of improvement proposals suggested by his colleagues. He is the secretary of the Enterprise Improvement Team (EIT) at Comens New Material an adhesive company. In just two months, the number of these improvement proposals have grown at an exponential rate, beginning with 11 and rising to 58. It all started with the ILO’s Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises (SCORE) programme.

SCORE is a programme led jointly by the ILO and the State Administration of Work Safety (a Chinese occupational safety and health agency). SCORE supports practical training and in-factory counselling that improves productivity and working conditions in small and medium enterprises. Comens New Material, is among the companies that have been taking part in the SCORE programme. Established in 1999, Comens was listed in April 2011 on the ChiNext of ShenZhen Stock Exchange and obtained all official quality, safety and management certifications.

However, after 2011, Comens’ efforts to pursue better management slowed down. To improve its own processes, Comens took part in the SCORE programme. Wu Zhengli, a SCORE trainer explained, “SCORE helps to build a corporate culture – one of inclusivity and involvement of workers.”

Two-way communication mechanisms

The SCORE programme has five modules: workplace cooperation, quality management, cleaner production and productivity, human resource management, and occupational safety and health. Workplace cooperation is the first module and the foundation of the project. It helps to build respect, trust and communication in the workplace. In doing so, it unites employees around a common goal and engages the entire workforce in the effort to improve the company.

SCORE helps to build a corporate culture – one of inclusivity and involvement of workers.
As required in the first module, Comens established an EIT comprising six frontline workers and five managers. Bai Xiang was appointed as the secretary. The EIT gathers every week to discuss issues around occupational safety and health, quality management, and workplace cooperation. The workers first present proposals on how to solve these issues and then the managers provide resources to implement these proposals. This form of direct communication between managers and frontline workers had never occurred in the past.

“In general, [the workers’] proposals are straightforward, easy to apply and cost-saving,” Bai Xiang explained. “The overall management of our company improved immediately after we adopted these proposals.” He added that making proposals public encourages more workers to express their ideas and engage in improving the company’s performance.

Jiang Xuebing, a frontline worker from the maintenance department, recalled that at the first EIT meeting many managers were present and everyone “felt a bit awkward and displaced.” He was also skeptical whether his proposals would even be implemented. However, soon after the meeting, many of his proposals were adopted, solving many problems within the company. He explained, “I feel more able to express myself in the interests of the company and myself.”

This sentiment was shared by SCORE Trainer, Wu Zhengli: “One of the biggest problems in the company was a lack of communication. Now that a channel has been built, workers confronted with issues such as waste, craftsmanship, working conditions, working environment etc., are motivated to bring it up along with proposals to address it.”

One person, one proposal

In addition to the weekly EIT meetings, Comens also introduced a policy of ‘one person, one proposal’. It encourages every employee to identify workplace problems and solutions. Every month, Bai Xiang collects all of the proposals and grades them according to their practicality, creativity and impact. The ‘best’ proposal is rewarded.

Xing Hongwei, a laboratory technician, suggested limiting the amount of reagent used in the sampling process, avoiding a significant amount of waste. The company adopted his proposal, which saves the company up to 3,000 CNY annually. Huang Jilei, who works on the production line, suggested marking production equipment with signs to prevent mistakes during the production process. The solution was as simple as drawing red, green and yellow arrows on the valves.

Both management and workers in Comens now see the benefits of working with the SCORE programme. As expressed by Jiang Xuebing, “The ‘one person, one proposal’ policy motivated us to be more proactively engaged in the company’s management because we think our proposal will improve the company.” And Zhang Meng, safety manager to conclude, “We used to struggle finding where the problems were but now everyone is motivated not only to report issues but also to solve them.”

For more information please contact:

Xubiao Zhang
ILO Project Manager, SCORE China