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Global Social Development

Bridging the Communications Gap

Bridging the Communications Gap

At Nordstrom, a workplace where employees feel valued and respected is not only something we focus on for our stores and offices, but also something we're helping to create in the factories around the world where we do business.

Over the past few years our Nordstrom Product Group (NPG) social responsibility team, which focuses on protecting workers rights in factories where our Nordstrom private label products are made, has found that the idea of open communication between workers and their managers – an important part of ensuring that employees feel respected and valued – is not something that is widely part of the work environment in some developing countries. This "closed" environment makes workers uncomfortable to give feedback, lodge complaints or share concerns, which can result in unsatisfied workers, or even worse, unsafe conditions.

"The aim of the project is to help create more harmonious workplaces. It's not only the right thing to do for the people who make our products, but we believe it leads to happier workers who are more productive and deliver higher quality products.
- Fachon Perry,
Nordstrom social responsibility program manager

Towards improved communications
To help bridge the communications gap and create more productive manager-employee relationships, Nordstrom recently launched a pilot project with three factories in China that is helping factories establish systems for workers to raise grievances and bring forward their views in a way where they will feel respected and heard.

"The aim of the project is to help create more harmonious workplaces," said Fachon Perry, Nordstrom social responsibility program manager. "It's not only the right thing to do for the people who make our products, but we believe it leads to happier workers who are more productive and deliver higher quality products."

The project is managed on-the-ground by Timeline Consultancy, a China-based non-governmental organization with expertise in factory employee relations management, in partnership with Nordstrom's social responsibility team. Through a series of interviews, workshops and on-site coaching over the course of eight to nine months, factory management learns how to develop grievance policies, improve current grievance channels and workers are educated about how they can raise their concerns with the goal of creating a more open – and empowering – work environment.

"Historically, factory managers in developing countries haven't wanted to engage with workers because they thought the workers only wanted to talk about their compensation," said Anthony Curtis, social responsibility program manager for Nordstrom. "Now, they are finding out that it's not just about money. They also hear about other things - from personal problems to bad food to not understanding factory policies. Workers now see that management will listen and that they can come up with solutions together."

Coming up with solutions together
Early results of the project indicate that workers are already feeling more empowered, appreciated and respected. Nordstrom believes this contributes to a more productive workforce, and less turnover.

"We're pleased with the progress we've seen so far and value the great opportunity we have to engage with our suppliers on this important issue," said Anthony.

This project further demonstrates Nordstrom's commitment (outlined in our Nordstrom Partnership Guidelines) to helping factories improve their working conditions, and underscores that Nordstrom chooses to work with vendor partners that share our commitment to producing quality products through the use of ethical business practices.

Bridging the Communications Gap

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