The purpose of this report is to apply ethical reasoning, standards or codes of practice relevant to management and make decisions that are informed by social and cultural understanding. The current problem faced is the inclusion of Ori-Tech in a report on ageism done by the Courier Mail, which reports that our mostly young employees are treating older customers badly by not providing them with the equivalent level of service as other customers, being impolite and often neglecting them.
The report will cover problem identification, company background, problem and causes, solution generation, recommendations, implementation and monitoring of the problem above.
Ori-Tech is a company established in the Australian Computer and Software Industry and is based in Brisbane. Ori-Tech offers a range of good quality hardware, software and comprehensive services to customers. Company mission statement is being committed and passionate in manufacturing innovative and quality products. Company goals include becoming the most eco-friendly company, a trustworthy & reputable name globally and prioritising customer experience above all. Ori-Tech is coordinated according to the functional structure where each division is headed by a manager who oversees all activities.
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"The perspectives on organisational social responsibility of the company are through the hand of management, where it is expected to improve society welfare for its survival in the competitive industry according to the enlightened self-interest argument." (Bartol 2007)
If this ageism issue is left unsolved, this conflicts with the company policy which pride itself on building good relationships with its customers. The company has been striving to make sure employees are responsive and sensitive to all customers' needs. Consequently, actions have to be done to solve the problem as it could affect the company's reputation and the ongoing support of the customers will be affected.
After analysis, it can be classified as an opportunity problem as the company may gain through solving this problem. Immediate actions to build up a stronger company reputation are required in solving this issue. Success in solving this issue will build up a stronger company reputation because of immediate action, which shows that the company is concerned with the well-being of customers.
Problem and Causes
This problem can be categorised as a form of service deviance towards the customer as it is believed that the inconsistency in customer service quality towards older customers is voluntary and the involved employees does not realise that their actions are violating organisational norms and are threatening the well-being of the organisation and the customers. This form of service deviance can further be categorised as direct-minor service deviance because it is a minor case of service deviance that involves incivility towards older customers directly.
This phenomenon is likely to be caused by organisational factors such as low awareness of the importance of older customers and wrong perception by discriminating older customers.
In these circumstances, social responsibility towards the older customers is likely to be profitable as the older customers generally are more loyal and most of them have substantial spending income.
Generate Alternative Solutions
Service reward programs recognise employees' loyalty and reward publicly. These programs are designed to affect the overall attitude and behaviour of a company's employees. The ultimate goal is to enhance commitment to excellence in every aspect of the job especially quality services to the elderly clients. In order for the employees to remain committed, it is wise to show them how much their service means to the company.
For instance, if Ori-Tech wants to be known for its excellent customer service record, the company should reward employees who show remarkable initiative with customers. Bulova (2008) supports with the aim of when a company recognises and rewards employees for their dedication and performance, employees will perform their best at work without discriminating older clients as providing good services to older clients is one of the paths to excel. This emotional connection to the company enhances employees' work performance.
'Age-friendly' service provision can develop the awareness of ageism and staff skills through intensive staff trainings. The fundamentals of the trainings have been designed in consultation with age and opportunity. O'Leary (2006) believed that this will encourage positive age awareness among all staff and it will provide skills development for front-line people in promoting equality for older people.
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Age-awareness training is essential because it involves supporting staff to explore their attitudes towards older people. It enhances the understanding of older customers' needs and situations, through formal equality training.
Another solution is to hire or transfer a number of older and experienced employees to work with the existing staff. According to a research, it shows that older and younger workers enjoy a symbiotic relationship in the workplace. "The research shows that having the right balance of age and skills can bring numerous benefits to establishing a complete workforce for the company". (Strathie 2007)
A mixed-age working environment will assist in developing communication skills to better serve the needs of older people and to ensure they provide a positive profile of older customers. This enables staff to further develop the understanding of older customers' needs, helping them to minimise the barriers that they face.
Advertising is a very appealing solution, which will inform the community of the improvement in the company. It is essential to create public awareness regarding improvements made in order to boost their experience dealing with the company. According to Pitner (2009) advertisements are a strong media and with that, it is easier to connect to the public.
To reconstruct the company's image, advertisements will comprise of messages that show Ori-Tech as a company that appreciates its older clientele.
Ageism among company staff can be linked to service deviance, which is caused by organizational factors. Rewards systems, trainings, mixed-age workforce and advertising have been considered as potential solutions for this issue.
The problem undermines the structure of the business at Ori-Tech by disagreeing with the company goal of emphasizing quality customer service. Left unsolved, it is believed that the problem will spread and affect other clientele of the company. It is therefore crucial to get to the root of the problem.
All four solutions have been evaluated using a comparison chart where each solution has been analysed based on four main criteria: efficiency, cost, degree of acceptance for staff and the ease of implementation.
Degree of Acceptance
Ease of Implementation
It can be seen from the table above that advertising does not fulfil the efficiency criterion as new customer might be flowing into the company but the discrimination problem has not yet been resolved. The reward system is also inefficient because most staff will be encouraged to dwell in the mediocre performing level to avoid extra work or penalisation.
All solutions except mixed-age workforce are fairly costly. However, the degree of acceptance for this economical solution is rather low. This is due to the reluctance of company staff to change their previous ways to handle customers. All the alternative solutions are easily implemented except for advertising as it requires considerable research and development to be effective.
After detailed comparison, age-awareness training has been decided to be the most suitable way of handling the problem. The reason to support this move is that even though it requires high cost, staff trainings are more of a one-go thing. The second best solution is having a mixed-age workforce. This is because this method is both efficient and easy to implement.
Proceeding to the in-depth analysis, the advantages and disadvantages of the selected solutions will be discussed.
OBT (2008) states that any sort of trainings will definitely increase the quality of company staff. As company personnel are assets of the company, it is a good thing to enrich the skills that employees have. If employees and managers understand their clients, they will be more productive and efficient. Additionally, forming a strong relationship with older customers will be fruitful as older people tend to be more loyal. These age-awareness skills will be increasingly important as population aging continues.
Nevertheless, benefits of training are not instantaneous. Moreover, training can be costly as there is nothing to stop trained staff from leaving the company. This phenomenon is very destructive to the training system as the only way to recover training cost is through the continuous service of the trained staff. However, OBT (2008) argues that by not giving staff training is putting the success of the company into the hands of unskilled and unmotivated workers.
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According to Palmore (2009) a mixed-age workforce aims to develop awareness between younger and older people where job experiences, strong work ethic and older workers set good example for younger workers. By bringing together staff from different age groups, it helps them understand how to communicate with older clients within a much broader framework of understanding. Additionally, the presence and participation of older staff can enhance the relevance, attractiveness and accessibility of goods and services to older customers.
However, during the initial implementation period, conflicts might occur between older and younger workers. Staff will need considerable time to get used to the new working environment.
A successful implementation depends on two main factors: careful planning and sensitivity to those involved in the process.
Allbusiness.com (2009) states that company should set good examples and make it clear to everyone that discrimination of any kind is not tolerated by the company. This can be done by clearly communicating the company's age-discrimination policy by posting it on bulletin boards or on the company intranet. The policy should include age-discrimination definitions, remedies, consequences, reporting procedures, grievance processes, and anti-retaliation language.
Special funding arrangements will also be needed to cover the cost of trainings. A 3-week age-awareness course costs $295 per person and with around 50 staff, Ori-Tech will need to budget for approximately $15000 worth of training. Moreover, the human resources and recruitment division will be setting higher prerequisites for all new customer service staff.
Ori-Tech will run periodic social scanning and opinion surveys among customers in order to monitor current ageism amongst company staff. To ensure progress goes as planned, a surveillance system for all phone conversations with customers will be implemented to serve as a reference for future trainings and to handle complaints effectively. Weekly meetings will be held to maintain the corporate social responsibility of acting with integrity and adhering to the highest ethical standards. Staff in charge of monitoring has to uphold utmost ethical standard in employee performance evaluation. Incentives will be offered to employees who perform exceptionally in their performance evaluations, which are based on feedback or complaints from customers.
Internal social response will include temporary task forces. The company will set up temporary task forces to review the implementation of the trainings at 1, 3 and 6 month intervals. This team will review and evaluate how well the training is working and if the solutions are working towards solving the social issue.