Crystal International’s workers trying out the Company IQ app

Crystal International’s workers trying out the Company IQ app

Hong Kong-based apparel manufacturing giant Crystal International has boosted communication with more than 5,000 workers at its Yida denim jeans factory in China thanks to the launch of a new smartphone app.

The "Company IQ" app was introduced last August and provides a channel for two-way communication between the company and workers using their own smart mobile devices. It also hosts a resource centre.

"Besides HR-related information, general factory information and useful contact numbers are also available from our new app," explains Catherine Chiu, general manager of the company's corporate quality and sustainability department.

"There are also FAQs for new joiners to help them adapt to a new working environment. So the manual workload of our HR department is reduced through digital automation."

Another benefit of easier access to workplace information is that transparency is greatly enhanced. "Employees feeling engaged have a much higher productivity," Chiu adds.

Workers can access their attendance records to check their salary calculations, look at their leave entitlement and view personal benefits such as productivity bonuses.

The app also provides company and factory updates to keep workers informed of the latest developments, and means they also have a tool to provide feedback.

"Push notifications can be sent to workers to keep them informed of latest updates," Chiu says. "Usually for our factory workers, they do not use computers at work so they are unable to access our intranet to check for happenings. Therefore we used to communicate with them using posters, notices on bulletin boards, digital display panels and printed internal newsletters and magazines, so the process is longer and less effective.

"Another way is to pass down messages via line leaders, but this can cause inconsistency and even miscommunication. Now that we have the app, information can be passed to workers much quicker, reaching more workers at a time and in a paperless way."

Nearly 700 enquiries have been raised using the "Grievance & Feedback" function. "We have responded to every single question; we want to show the commitment that we treasure our workers and listen to their concerns," Chiu explains.

Surveys such as satisfaction with the orientation process for new joiners and the food and service offered at the factory canteen were conducted via the app to help the company understand workers' needs, collect their feedback and suggestions, as well as identify areas for improvement.

Another important objective of the app is to promote self-learning among workers. Life skills training materials, personal health and hygiene information is available and constantly updated. To encourage access and use of these such training materials, an incentive is offered in the form of token that entitles workers to enter lucky draws.

So far the app has garnered an overwhelming response from workers, with an average daily usage rate close to 70%.

While first implemented at the flagship Yida jeans facility in Zhongshan in China, Crystal International now plans to consider expanding the app to other factories.

Going forward, there are also plans to strengthen the in-app functions, such as developing a new online training module and introducing "payroll checking" for workers to check their pay slip for verification.

Crystal International was ranked the world's largest apparel maker by production volume in 2016 by research firm Euromonitor, and second by production value, with market shares of 0.4% and 0.3% respectively. It employs around 70,000 workers globally, and recorded a turnover of US$1.76bn in 2016 thanks to the production of around 350m pieces of apparel a year.

The company owns and operates a portfolio of 20 apparel manufacturing facilities in Asia, with a focus on delivering lifestyle wear, denim, intimate, sweater, and sportswear and outdoor apparel to global brand customers.

Around 33% of its workforce is based in Vietnam, 29% in China, and 18% in Cambodia. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka employ around 12% and 8% of its workers, respectively.

In November the group launched a HKD3.82bn (US$490m) initial public offering in Hong Kong – with key customers Fast Retailing and L Brands the cornerstone investors.

Crystal IPO nets Fast Retailing, L Brands investment