Work Environment

The management of the work environment covers many areas today, from work ethics, social interaction, and languages to environment, health, and safety concerns for the workers, such as ergonomics, stresses (heat, humidity, cold), noise and lighting levels, exposure limits, indoor air quality, and cleanliness.

This area has become a huge responsibility for management, who must ensure that hazard material warnings and safety notices are posted, and that the following are provided: secured storage areas for chemicals along with spill kits, personal protective wear, and equipment, signage for confined entry, and guarding for machinery and proper procedures for areas, such as lock-out, tag-out, and documented inspections.

Without a proper management system structure in place, these areas tend not to be monitored, measured, and inspected properly. More and more regulations are coming into play to manage environment, health, and safety compliance.


A management system requires that you define how you communicate internally and externally regarding your organization.

EDP Products Limited was featured in a report called “The Changing Dynamics of Leadership,” written by the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment in Toronto, Ontario. The report says that the President of EDP, Joe DeMan, did not like the headline of a news story on his company that read, “Struggling to Stay Afloat,” so he printed his own title and glued it to the framed story in his office, which closely reflects his company's attitude, “Defying the Odds.” Success is definitely a choice, and Mr. DeMan took a positive step to motivate and show his people what the company stood for.

It is important to put in place the structure of the managing organization's communication, not only internally but externally to other interested parties and to the world in a positive manner. Executive peergroup organizations can provide excellent networking opportunities where like-minded individuals can meet, sharing common challenges and solutions and providing professional development and mentoring, as well as opening up opportunities.

Customer Communication

Customer communication is critical and tracking of enquiries, order handling, and amendment documentation (statements, correspondence, policies), customer feedback, and complaints is so important to understand the needs of the customer and deliver better customer experiences resulting in satisfaction.

Do you know your customer? Remember the 20 percent rule. What do they value? Resources such as Google and LinkedIn help us to understand our clients, knowing more about their business.

The traditional methods of mail are being replaced by email, cloud computing, automated notifications, online chats, and social media. Customer interactions are shifting. Bills received in the mail are now viewed, saved, and paid online or on mobile devices.

Competitive Edge – Online Communication – ICT Facts

The International Telecommunication Union (ICT), based in Geneva, Switzerland, is the official source for global ICT statistics. Its latest ICT facts and figures on showed universal growth.

In 2013, there were almost as many mobile-cellular subscriptions as people in the world, 6.8 billion mobile-cellular subscriptions (more than half in the Asia-Pacific region – 3.5B). Mobile-cellular penetration rates stand at 96% globally; 128% in developed countries and 89% in developing countries. There are 2.7 billion people online, almost 40% of the world's population. There are more men (41%) than women (37%) online and the gender gap is more pronounced in the developing world, where 16% fewer women than men use the internet, compared to 2% fewer in the developed world.

Customers no longer need to be tied from nine to five, as they can do business at any time of the day. There is more pressure today to improve customer experiences through technology, and companies need to evaluate their business processes and supporting technology systems to see what will give them that competitive edge. This technology comes with a substantial investment, and costs can range from a few hundred thousand dollars to a few million dollars.

Business notifications to customers can be done through automated communication, either by voice, text, or email, based on the urgency of the message. These calls can be initiated by parameters the company sets. For example, if invoices are over the 30-day mark or with a markdown on a product, an automated reminder or message can be sent. This type of communication can also be used by a manufacturing facility when it needs to get information out to many people quickly, such as canceling a shift due to weather conditions or unexpected shutdowns or emergencies.

It is imperative for companies to perform due diligence to ensure the technology will pay off in the long term, as technology changes quickly and unanticipated costs escalate with the need for professional services and new or updated software. This can be managed through change management and identification of the risks tied to this change.

The questions the managers may ask as part of any project are: What types of processes and applicable tasks need to be supported and in what communication channels? What information or data is required for these tasks and is there need to update or upgrade the technology for access? What are the risks tied to this change – how will it impact our business? What value does the organization receive (cost savings, profits)?

Digital Technology Transformation – Starbucks

Digital technology is a new way to be connected with customers, opening up new ways to do business. Starbucks is one company that jumped on this new medium by being innovative in introducing Wi-Fi to reengage with its customers and their digital rewards program.

The digital Starbuck's loyalty program with the Starbucks Card, according to Howard Schultz, CEO, is now a multibillion-dollar business in the Starbucks mobile platform: “Today we are now processing roughly 4.5 million mobile transactions a week, far greater than anyone in the world in our space, and that mobile platform is giving us a greater speed of service, higher attachment, higher ticket, and higher reload.”

They also have a program for retail purchases that gives credit to their customers. “The Starbucks brand is succeeding today because of its unique emotional level of attachment and relevancy in the digital world [and] in the mobile world. The investments that we're going to make in those areas going forward are going to create a flywheel effect that is going to create more traffic into our stores because of the relevancy we have in people's lives outside of the four walls of Starbucks.”

Digital technology has provided operating leverage to increase their revenue. To be competitive in today's marketplace, you need to flow with social media, as it is not a fad and it is here to stay. However, many companies have not and will be left behind their competitors.

You, as the president, general manager, and top management, need to practice strategic innovation to invest in new technologies now and have this on your executive agenda in order to create a clear direction to include in your management system development. This is a new era, and most companies lack experience in this area.

Leaders of today and the youth have a different mindset. Conservative companies hanging back will be lost. There are many benefits of digital technology – not just improving customer engagement (Face- book, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, etc.), but also streamlining operations, working with improved business models, or creating new lines of business for the company.

A report entitled “Embracing Digital Technology – A New Strategic Imperative,” developed by Sloan Management Review and Capgemini Consulting Reach, researched over 1,500 executives in 106 countries and found that 78 percent of executives say that digital transformation will become critical to their organizations within the next two years.[1]

External Communication

An organization wants to demonstrate integrity and transparency with respect to reporting, ensuring quality of information and metrics, and engaging the appropriate stakeholders, whether it is reports on its financial status, environmental sustainability, or business reporting.

Does your organization review information prior to distribution and then does it encourage stakeholder feedback on these reports to allow improvement in the future? Many organizations today communicate their company's values, directions, and action items in “sustainability reports.”

Communication with legal authorities related to permits, certificates of approvals, and reports from external insurance or compliance areas need to be documented, tracking actions (noncompliance/non- conformance) taken and by whom. Does your organization have a procedure to follow when government officials visit your organizations? Who is to communicate with them?

Internal Communication

Internal communication is the lifeblood of the organization, providing your people with information that they need to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. When information is shared across business divisions, it creates synergy so all can work with the same information and data and see the whole picture of what is happening at the organization.

Communication is a two-way exchange. It is not enough to just provide information or data; you must ensure that people understand it. There are four aspects to communicating its content: providing your people with clear standards, objectives, and work instructions; the tone in which it was delivered; the structure through which it was delivered; and the feedback to verify what is understood.

The exchange of ideas and opinions provides the opportunity for your people to be innovative. Communication is one of the most important aspects of managing your business, which can improve it, keeping everyone informed and allowing the company to respond appropriately, whether by problem solving or improving good relations with your people.

Does your organization promote a sense of ownership of working toward the company's goals? Are problems or issues related to process areas brought out into the open for discussion? If not, how can they be resolved?

Knowing what information needs to be provided and by whom and to whom is important. Evaluating the systems that the organization has in place also enables internal communication.

What is the information you want to convey to your visitors? Will the policy statement be sufficient? How do you inform them of the risks tied to visiting your company, such as environment, health, and safety, as well as emergency preparedness? What is the culture of the organization (its accepted ways of doing things – meetings to allow contact of personnel, dress codes, etc.)?

Internally, companies need to communicate their policy and their strategic plans so that all can be aligned to meet the goals of the organization. Leaders need to communicate to the interested parties the importance of meeting customer and statutory and regulatory requirements. Employees understand the risks tied to their work and need to provide input into management decisions tied to process changes, materials, working conditions, and environment, health, and safety issues.

Verification of Communication

To ensure that communication is relayed throughout the organization, internal auditors can ask a sampling of employees and contractors how the individual's work relates to achieving the company's policies and objectives.

• Do they have an understanding of the organization's values and directions, and what the main objectives are for the company? Have they given input into innovative changes in the company? What are they?

• Do they have an understanding of job related risks and procedures tied to their work? Were they involved with the identification of hazards, risk assessments, and determination of controls?

• When changes occur within the organization that affect them, how is communication of this change managed?

• What are the communication avenues when there is a departure from procedures or specifications (formal corrective action system)?

The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't.

Peter Drucker (Austrian-born American Management Consultant, Educator, Author)

What messages am I communicating to:

• Employees?

• Customers?

• Stakeholders?

In what manner do I communicate these messages? What value is it to them?

  • [1] For details from the report go to /SMR.
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