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Why Your Business Needs to Consider Blue Collar Worker Engagement

admin January 14, 2016

Blue collar workers refer to people who perform manual labor. In many industries such as construction, manufacturing, oil and gas, agriculture, transportation and warehousing, blue collar segment is considered as the key driving force of future development. Thus companies need to change the ways they treat blue collar workers for better integration and collaboration to achieve common goals.

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The terms "blue collar" and "white collar" are occupational classifications that distinguish workers who perform manual labor from workers who perform professional jobs.  

According to Wikipedia, blue collar work may involve skilled or unskilled manufacturing, mining, sanitation, custodian work, oil and gas, construction, mechanical maintenance, warehousing, firefighting, technical installation and many other types of physical work.




When discussing the importance of corporate culture, work environment and employee engagement, it usually refers to white collar jobs. It's a big shortcoming of management if employers don't take blue collar workers into account. In the US, professionals and managers account for 40% of the workforce. The remaining (60%) belongs to other occupations mostly including technicians and repair workers, service workers, laborers, salespersons, operators, skilled trade workers and assemblers. In India, the ratio of blue collar workers to white collar employees is 78:22 (Source: Annual Report 2015-2016 by India Ministry of Labor and Employment). The lack of concerns in blue collar workforce needs to be improved as soon as possible among companies and human resources professionals. 

Benefits of blue collar worker engagement

The ultimate goals of employee engagement from employer’s perspective are to enhance productivity and efficiency. Remember that when employees feel respected and appreciated they will become more productive, more loyal, and more engaged. Disengaged workers never make fully commitment to the company. As a result, they never give the best of them when working for a firm. 




Blue collar engagement does more than increasing productivity:

- Decreasing turnover

- Decreasing absenteeism

- Reducing safety incidents

- Reducing quality incidents

- Reducing costs of operation

- Improving relationship among coworkers

How to engage blue collar workers?

Different work groups have different motivated-driven factors. But they share the common basic needs of human being as Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Here are 5 elements need improving to boost blue collar worker engagement:

- Working conditions




Working conditions include working facilities, time, rest, schedule, health and safety at workplace. Nobody wants to stay to work for a long time in bad working conditions, especially outdoor working site (e.g. construction site).

- Pay




Fair wages will ensure quality of life for workers. In this case, labor union plays an important role in negotiating good pay and benefits for blue collar workers.

We often think that trade workers earn less money than office workers, but it's not true. Many blue collar jobs such as welders, oil riggers, and construction workers can get up to six-figure salary (USD) per years.

- Job security




As the rise of high technology machinery and automation, blue collar workers face the fiercer competition in the labor market. The most challenge for them is the limited repetitive skills they have. For instance, an operator working at the same machine in 5 years will be dependent on it because he has no idea about other kinds of equipment or the next stages in the production.

When having skilled workers, employers should sign agreements on assigning new tasks and offering more on-the-job training to make them feel committed to the company.

- Recognition

As white collar, blue collar employees will feel more engaged when their contributions are recognized. Along with monthly and yearly rewards, values-based recognition is needed to make blue collar workers align with the organization's goals and success.

- Communication




The last but not least important thing is communication. Managers should talk to blue collar workers in a straight and transparent manner to make sure all of them understand clearly. Be sure white collar employees and you respect them as peers, not lower class people. As a leader, you should understand every individual to help them integrate with the team and boost their potentials. Besides enhancing communication among workers, remember to take feedback from them regularly. This action will help you build trust and handle work-related issues timely and effectively. When blue collar workers have voice in their teams, they will be more motivated and engaged.

To sum up, whether with head or hand, there's no such thing as social status difference by the job you do. All jobs are needed for social development and it’s up to the individual to make the best of them. Companies need to keep an eye on blue collar workers to achieve the common goals. Managers need to understand the job satisfaction and motivational needs of blue collar employees to take suitable actions of engagement and retention, especially in the global shortage of skilled workforce in the upcoming years.


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