Over the last month, Sports Direct has been taking steps to improve working circumstances for its employees. Much of these changes included first aiders on site, changing their stance on zero-hour contacts and a suspension of the ‘six strikes and you’re out’ policy. These changes should be seen as a progressive step forward for the company and reinforce a positive image of working practices. But why did it take a media circus and government investigation to bring about these changes?
The report published back in July outlined some very disturbing issues plaguing the workplace environment, issues that have since been acted on.
The issue is not whether these issues could have been prevented. The changes made are testament to that. The real question is whether these issues could have been prevented sooner without having to endure months of controversy.
Sports Direct may be the most publicised example of workplace controversies, but it is far from the only one. There are various other circumstances in which poor working practices lead to disgruntled employees, all in direct contradiction of employee engagement.
Employee engagement employs a particular set of values that are becoming increasingly relevant to retaining workers in today’s workplace. Thus, it is shocking to see stories about exploited workers dominating the news in what supposed to be a progressive era for workplace practices.
One of the major issues found with Sports Direct was the lack of support for health and safety, with 110 ambulances/paramedic cars called out to the Shirebrook warehouse over 3 years. The company have since sought to rectify this issue by posting a full-time nurse and the inclusion of a welfare officer.
In truth, if companies had an effective means of communication and employee feedback, many of the problems and challenges could have been headed off much earlier. If management had the ability to gauge the level of discontent and disengagement in the business, they would have been empowered to act.
Whilst employee surveys have helped unlock some hidden inner secrets within business, they are often far too cumbersome and slow to respond to the issues that occurred on the shop floor today or yesterday. And with today’s modern communications, businesses need to look at alternative tools for this inner communication. One such tool is a Staffbase Employee App that can be used within the confines of the business for various uses.
In many companies, communication is a major issue, and the boss may not necessarily have the time to engage with everyone on his/her workforce. But with the App, the boss can send out personal messages that reach out to the entire workforce. Using an Employee App, Mike Ashley could have delivered his own brand of message directly to the workforce, and it’s highly likely he could have created a large amount of empathy from his workforce if he had the tool to do so.
Of course, communication is a two-way street. No matter the circumstances, employees will always require a means of providing feedback, from how well their day is going (mood indicator) to any business improvements (suggestion box). The Employee App for instance, offers various channels to do this, including the Admin Hub, the Employee Forum, and the Feedback Centre as well as a light hearted smiley face mood indicator. If someone has an issue that they feel needs addressing, they can log it via the Feedback Centre or discuss it in the Employee Forum. If someone has a suggestion that could benefit the workplace as a whole, they can use the app to get the idea out there to their employer and receive feedback and a reward if applicable for constructive ideas that help the business forward.
With an Employee App, businesses will have a prevention measure in place to tackle a number of workplace issues before they spiral out of control. Rather than deal with the aftermath of a media explosion, an appropriate Employee App can proactively help avoid the negativity and brand damage that has so easily spiraled out of control at Sports Direct. Good use of an Employee App could well result in employees feeling recognised for their contributions, but also closing the loop that keeps a business’s ’ ‘business’ inside its own four walls.