Blue-collar” and “White-collar” are terms that evoke different images. We usually think of white-collar workers as those who work behind desks, while blue-collar workers get their hands dirty with physical work.

White-collar and Blue-collar identifiers

White-collar workers typically work in Service industries and often avoid physical work. White-collar is associated with white button-down shirts adorned with ties worn by business people.

Blue-collar workers engage in physical work typical of industries such as construction, maintenance, or mining. Blue-collar originates from the common appearance of a manual worker’s attire, such as blue jeans, overalls, or boiler-suits. Dark colors hide the elements better as a result of their work.

However, the similarities in their roles are increasing.

What Blue-collar workers really want

  • Communication

Workers in every industry want to know that they have a voice. Their workplace concerns and questions are being heard by someone who can address them. Previously, too many workplaces subscribed to a mindset that put frontline workers in a separate silo from human resources and other administrative roles. Another aspect is understanding how to engage, which includes information related to their lifestyle, expenses, family requirements, affiliations, social needs, and intrinsic motivations. For example, high value may be placed on relationships with co-workers, with 72% of workers reporting this to be the most satisfying part of the job. This attribute can be used to design the job in such a way that it provides more interfaces with others and helps them build camaraderie.

With today’s technology, it’s easier than ever for employers to make clearer communication a reality. Using tech like mobile apps, your HR team can keep workers informed on company and people matters.

  • Safety and Wellbeing

Workplace safety is a constant concern for blue-collar industries. Employees in these industries need to know that their employers are doing to keep them safe and healthy at work. This is another area where communication is key. ‍Simple surveys can also identify a high level of stress due to working conditions.

  • Employee Recognition

Everyone likes to have their best efforts recognized by their peers. For blue-collar workers, who may feel their roles are interchangeable or insignificant, a sincere and consistent commitment to employee recognition can have a positive impact. An employee rewards and recognition program varies from company to company. It can start with a simple citation.

  • Personal Growth

Any worker can become demotivated if they feel stuck in an unrewarding role. Unlike white collar jobs that see opportunity in “climbing the corporate ladder”, many blue-collar roles don’t offer an obvious path for advancement. This can have a negative impact on employee morale and turnover rates. Upskilling through training can give workers an opportunity to advance within their current role. A typical example is how to operate more advanced equipment, which may include an improvement in their wage.

Creating a winning Culture

  • Honesty and Respect

According to an industrytoday.com survey, 74% of respondents said, “being treated with respect or as a valued employee, not just a number” was extremely important to having a good work culture. Moreover, the top reason for staying with an employer came down to simple “honesty and respect”, which was more valued than benefits or schedule flexibility.

  • Empathy for Personal Lives

55% of blue-collar workers agree that their employer does not understand the daily financial or personal challenges they face. Common challenges that are relatively easy for higher-income earners to overcome can represent a crisis for a worker earning below the cost of living. More blue-collar friendly initiatives should be considered, such as reasonable attendance policies; shift flexibility programs; Paid time off (PTO) policies; and more effective transportation options.

  • Avoid the “us vs. them”

According to the EmployBridge’s “Associate Life Survey” findings, 68% of blue-collar, hourly workers say employees being treated equally is extremely important to a good work culture. Yet 40% of blue-collar workers agree that higher level employees at their company are shown more respect and honesty than hourly workers. Many employers unwillingly fall short of promoting a worker-friendly culture beyond the white-collar level.

Conclusion

Ultimately, workers do the job of executing the company’s plans. Blue-collar workers may not hold advanced degrees, but they are the foundation of the business. The employee experience remains vital to also ensure their loyalty. If employees aren’t treated well, then workers need to be more frequently replaced. Replacement costs include recruitment, training, and time for an individual to be fully productive. Alternatively, employees who are motivated will perform better and act as brand ambassadors.

At the core of employee satisfaction is clear internal communication. This sets the tone for company and workforce expectations, while also managing influential perceptions.

About the Author: Martin Brandt

Martin Brandt is the Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer for JamAngle.