Potential Placement for Spring semester of 2016
Recommendations for a scalable grievance system at Wolfcom Factory
Primary Contact (Client-Supervisor):
The Client Organization
Founded in 1983 in a small Palo Corto studio apartment by computer engineer Ben An, Avocado Computers (now Avocado Systems) is the world’s largest producer of computer software and computer electronics. We develop products that maximize user experience and focus on cutting edge design. Our software and products enable the world to connect at lightning speed like never before.
Avocado is committed to corporate social responsibility, which includes responsibility to our customers, responsibility to our employees, responsibility to the communities where we work and—more broadly—responsibility to the environment and future generations. As such, we look to encourage these values in our employees and all of our partners. The many factories spread across the globe that form our supply chain universally commit themselves to the same CSR ethos.
Project Background and Description
Recently, local and international media have focused attention on the factories in Ames that supply multinational technology corporations. Specifically, a worker’s rights organization has talked with a few factory workers at Wolfcom Factory, one of the many factories located in the Ames industrial belt that form part of Avocado’s extensive supply chain. The workers voiced complaints that Avocado, and we think Wolfcom, have never heard, including complaints about overly long work hours and unsafe conditions. Since Wolfcom’s business is primarily supplying Avocado with components for its technology, Avocado has a strong interest in having an effective response to employee grievances.
Avocado Systems seeks the assistance of the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program (HNMCP) to recommend a design for a new employee grievance system in the Wolfcom Factory, Wolfcom’s existing employee grievance mechanism includes a comment drop box outside the manager’s office. Workers also can raise grievances directly with their line supervisors or senior management. Additionally, workers can consult with a workers committee, which consists of ten workers elected to annual terms by their fellow assembly line workers.
Avocado is dedicated to fair treatment of its workers. Thus, it is critical that Avocado demonstrate its commitment to listening to and respecting its workforce through this project. The project will not only provide a new grievance system for Wolfcom, but will also provide useful lessons for other factories in Avocado System’s supply chain. If the project is successful, there is potential to replicate the grievance mechanism in other factories in which Avocado has a primary stake.
To assess the effectiveness of the current employee complaint system and learn about ways the company might improve the system.
Preliminary Approach & Deliverables
The project proposal includes, but may not be limited to, the following activities:
- Focus group discussions and interviews with employee complaint system stakeholders, including employees, managers, and union representatives;
- Research on best practices in employee complaint systems;
- Meetings with those who manage complaints in the present system about the fundamental interests in creating and maintaining such a system;
- Survey regarding employee satisfaction with current conflict management procedures;
- Development of recommendations regarding improvements to the employee complaint process for the company to consider.
The following deliverable(s) are envisioned:
- A written assessment of the current employee complaint system’s effectiveness;
- Written recommendations regarding improvements to the system, based on the expertise HNMCP has in conflict managements;
- An in-person presentation to the company management and other stakeholders.
Avocado Inc. can cover transportation, room, and board related to a tour of the Wolfcom Factory and the Ames industrial belt, as well as travel related to the final presentation, which Avocado anticipates will be in front of senior management at Wolfcom and Avocado leadership. We will provide access to key stakeholders and a liaison to assist with the project. If needed, Avocado can provide an office and computer for on-site work. Avocado prefers communicating through videoconferencing software.