Companies in different industries are experiencing a shortage of blue-collar workers. According to a recent study conducted by the Conference Board, several industries — including transportation, health care support, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and construction — should expect difficulties with filling blue-collar positions in 2019 and beyond.
For reference, the terms “blue-collar” and “white-collar” distinguish employees who perform manual labor from workers who perform “professional” jobs. Blue-collar workers historically wore blue uniforms and worked in trade occupations, hence the term “blue-collar.”
The growing blue-collar labor shortage comes from recent economic and educational trends, the primary reason being shifting demographics and economic trends. Older workers from the baby boomer generation are aging out of the workforce faster than new workers can replace them, and high school graduates are overwhelmingly opting for college degrees and applying for white-collar jobs. Additionally, the (inaccurate) perception of blue-collar work as “hard” and “dirty” discourages many job-seekers from considering blue-collar work.
For these reasons, it’s more important than ever to improve HR best practices for companies that employ blue-collar workers. Not only will this reduce the ever-growing problem of employee turnover, but it helps make blue-collar jobs more appealing to young job-seekers.
Here are five ways to increase employee retention among blue-collar workers.
1. Provide a Competitive Salary
Blue-collar workers serve as the foundation of all labor industries. With the current blue-collar worker shortage experienced by these industries, individual companies should provide competitive salaries and benefits that reflect this status.
Companies should pay significant attention to compensation and benefits and their effects on employee retention. The amount paid by companies to their employees reflects how much they think the time and effort of their workers are worth. If the pay is competitive, workers will feel valued and will be less likely to look for other opportunities with higher compensation. In fact, a recent study by PayScale found that around 25% of employees cited higher pay as the primary reason why they sought employment elsewhere.
2. Add Non-Monetary Benefits and Perks
Budgets can be tight, especially in the construction industry, where payment delays are common. When paying higher wages isn’t possible, you can provide non-monetary benefits like:
- Flexible work hours
- Paid vacation days
- Affordable health insurance
- Opportunities for career growth
Even little things like free coffee and free parking can work wonders and make employees happy. In addition, non-monetary perks are easy to implement, track, and maintain. More importantly, they don’t strain the company budget that much.
3. Recognize Employee Achievements
Blue-collar workers are some of the most hardworking people on the job. Not only is blue-collar labor physically demanding, but it can be emotionally demanding as well. It’s important that employers show their appreciation for the time and effort they contribute to the company in ways beyond the paycheck. The best way for employers to do this is to implement an employee recognition program.
Employee recognition programs can take many forms — from something as simple as a written note from a supervisor to formal awards ceremonies. One of the simplest, yet most impactful ways to recognize employees is by featuring them in company-wide newsletters and company blogs. Showing their pictures while talking about their accomplishments can go a long way.
Another way to show employee appreciation is by using a formal rewards and recognition platform. This consolidates employee rewards and recognition processes in one place, giving the HR department less time managing programs and more time motivating employees through unique benefits and perks. Having one platform also makes the rewards program easier to track, measure, and improve.
4. Improve Work Safety
Blue-collar jobs have some of the harshest and most dangerous working environments. For example, employees working in the oil industry on offshore rigs or in construction on skyscrapers are exposed to very real dangers. For these reasons, companies should focus on creating quality working conditions for blue-collar workers to not only assure their safety, but ensure employees feel valued as well. Employees should feel like management cares about their working environment and invests in safe working conditions for all.
Try investing in high-quality safety equipment and conducting regular safety training. Even just having an air-conditioned break room for employees working outside in the heat will be much appreciated.
5. Include Employees in Decision-Making
Blue-collar workers usually work on the field, separate from where upper management is located. Because of this, field workers have valuable insights into how the business works that employers may not have. They can provide input that directly impacts the bottom line, which is especially important in construction where cash flow issues abound and margins are razor thin.
Including employees in the decision-making process provides other benefits as well. When employees feel like their perspectives are valued, they are more likely to stay at a company for longer. If employers ask about the opinions of individual employees on specific issues, it will instill a sense of responsibility for improving your workplace.
As the blue-collar worker shortage continues, employers need to be creative in improving employee retention. Fostering a safe working environment while providing competitive monetary and non-monetary benefits will help attract fresh graduates and retain employees. As long as companies invest in their employees, they will have a competitive edge and the resilience to withstand the labor crisis.
About the Author
Patrick Hogan is the CEO of Handle, building software that helps contractors, subcontractors, and material suppliers secure their lien rights and get paid faster by automating the collection process for unpaid construction invoices.