Over the next few weeks, you will research and write a formal report on a business-related topic. This document provides instructions as well as a sample report for you to follow.
You work as an operations analyst for The Schultz Company, a large organization that owns six department stores brands located throughout the United States. Part of your job is to study the work environment in individual stores and to recommend changes that will improve worker satisfaction, productivity, and profitability.
You report to Helen Smith, Director of Human Factors, who has been with Schultz for 30 years. Her various jobs in the stores, starting as sales clerk, provided her with, as she says, “a rich understanding of retail-related personnel problems which more than compensates for my lack of formal education.” You like Helen and find her competent in routine situations. However, you think she’s hesitant to push on issues she might have to justify. She reports to Brad Thomas, Senior Vice President for Planning and Development. He rose through the ranks and views himself as a numbers person. He sees the Human Factors Department as something of a nuisance.
One day a few weeks ago, Helen called you in to discuss problems in the company’s computer call centers, which handle both online orders and customer feedback. She showed you a recent report based on personnel exit interviews. In the report, the interviewer commented that in the last few weeks, six departing computer call center associates, from different offices around the country, gave frequent headaches as major reason for leaving. Helen had penciled a note in the margin: “What’s up? Eyestrain from computers? Room lighting problems? Shouldn’t we check this out?”
Helen added that Reggie Garcia, Supervisor of the Southwest Call Center had been complaining lately about the high rate of turnovers, absenteeism, and tardiness in his unit. “I wonder if these issues are related. Why don’t you see what you can find out?”
To begin the investigation, you went straight to Reggie. He is noted for maintaining strong discipline in his unit and did not express much sympathy for the problems of the employees. He was more concerned with his own problems of keeping the call center fully staffed at all times. When you asked to talk to some of the call center associates in his unit, Reggie said, “Go ahead. Talk to anyone you’d like.”
You decided to question several employees about the physical work environment and chose the seven employees who have worked the longest in the call center. All seven had good performance records. In your talks with these employees, six raised the issues mentioned in the recent exit interview report: headaches and general exhaustion.
You also returned to the exit interview files for the last year to read a selection of exit interviews from Albion call center associates throughout the country. Again, headaches were a major complaint, though not the only one.
Moreover, an analysis of annual turnover figures yielded the fact that turnover for call center associates operators throughout the country was 55%, while turnover for the other in-store sales personnel on the same level was 40%. With hiring and training costs for new call center associates running at about $1200 per person that turnover rate was costly.
You met with the manufacturer’s representative of Albion’s major computer monitor supplier. He admitted that eyestrain and associated headaches were clearly an issue among users. He said that adequate research had not yet been done on this problem, but suggested that you look at purchasing new monitors for the call center computers. You did research and found three monitors, ranging in price from $99 to $120. All claimed to reduce glare by about 85%. This reduction in glare, one supplier asserted, would reduce eyestrain and resultant headaches. The middle-priced monitor, at $115, seemed good because it has a two-year warranty; however, because monitors typically last more than 2 years, the less expensive one may be even more cost effective.
You mulled over what you had learned and debated what you should recommend. You felt that new monitors are worth a try in improving workplace working conditions. Buying new monitors for all 500 of the company’s call center computers throughout the country might be a good long-term investment, especially because each computer is used by two employees (one during the 7 am to 3 pm shift and one from the 3pm to 11pm shift). However, you currently don’t have any evidence to prove the effectiveness of the new monitors. So, you decide to recommend a smaller pilot program. Reggie’s Southwest Call Center, with about 60 terminals, would be a good testing round. A brief chat with Reggie confirms that he is willing to serve as the location for a pilot test, but he will not buy the monitors out of his own budget; the funds will have to come from elsewhere.
If the pilot test shows that the monit