What Blue-Collar Workers Are Truly Looking For: Respect

December 16, 2021

Struggling with high employee turnover? Not getting enough qualified applicants for job openings? You’re not alone.

Reaching new talent in the current labor market can feel impossible, even if your organization offers competitive wages. Between social media, SMS marketing, and traditional job postings, your marketing efforts won’t count for much if you’re constantly replacing new hires. So, how can you recruit skilled workers and earn their loyalty?

In today’s incredibly tight blue-collar labor market, your organization needs to find new ways to plug leaks in your talent pipeline. If you don’t make an intentional effort to cultivate loyalty and reduce turnover, you risk wasting valuable time, money, and resources. Let’s take a step back and start with one simple question: How are you treating your blue-collar workers?


How Blue-Collar Respect Impacts Recruitment

What happens if you’re not treating employees with respect? In today’s tight unemployment market, you’ll only end up replacing them. That means you’ll have to spend time, money, and resources on recruiting, retraining, and time to production—only to repeat the process over and over again. The cost of losing just one blue-collar employee earning $14 hourly is $4,569—and that can add up quickly if you’re constantly replacing new hires. That’s bad for everyone.

In Industry Today’s 2019 “Voice of the Blue-Collar Worker” survey, more than 18,000 blue-collar workers indicated that their loyalty could be bought for a surprisingly low price: a worker-friendly, worker-focused company culture. Believe it or not, respondents named a “good company culture” as the number 1 reason why they would stay in a job.

When you prioritize respect in your workplace culture, you’ll become a magnet for skilled, qualified candidates. Plus, you’ll reap the benefits. Your employees will be more motivated, more productive, and more loyal to your company. Sounds like a win-win, right?

So, what’s the next step? It’s time to start reinvesting. To reduce turnover and stop wasting resources, your organization needs to start prioritizing employee loyalty and strengthening your company culture.


Start Treating Blue-Collar Workers With White-Collar Respect

While white-collar employees work at a more strategic level, your blue-collar employees are working at the grassroots level. In other words, your blue-collar employees are putting your plans into action. They’re growing your business, connecting with customers, and putting a face to your brand. When your blue-collar workers are happy, your customers are happy.

At the end of the day, people are the backbone of your business. And your company needs loyal, successful, motivated people—no matter what color their collar is. 

So, how can you start showing your blue-collar workers how much you appreciate them? Start treating them with white-collar respect. To do that, you’ll need to transform your workplace culture.

The power of workplace culture is vastly underestimated in organizations of all sizes and industries. But culture goes far beyond workplace policies and rules—it shapes what your company stands for. Unfortunately, most organizations fall short of creating a worker-friendly culture for blue-collar employees. There’s a growing divide between white-collar workers and blue-collar workers, and the “us vs. them” mentality only contributes to damaged trust and loyalty.

Stop treating your employees as numbers. To give blue-collar workers the respect they deserve, you’ll need to put effort into building a worker-friendly culture that makes your employees feel valued, appreciated, and part of the time.



How to Build a Company Culture That Prioritizes Respect

Skilled labor requires dedication, passion, and motivation—and your company culture should reflect that. From employee loyalty to increased productivity, you already know that the benefits of building a worker-focused company culture are endless. But how can you show blue-collar workers that you genuinely respect them?


1. Value Blue-Collar Feedback

Start engaging with blue-collar workers, asking for feedback, and listening to what they have to say. In Industry Today’s survey, when blue-collar workers were asked how their employer could better connect with them, most respondents said “ask us for suggestions,” followed by “visit or talk to us where we work.”

Depending on your industry, this might mean visiting the factory or the warehouse floor more often—or spending some time in the field with your employees. Set aside some time to talk to your workers, see how they work, and get to know them as people. Ask your blue-collar workforce if they have any suggestions—and listen to what they have to say.

You’re listening to what they have to say—but how do you show employees that you value their suggestions? It’s simple: you need to treat those suggestions as actionable insights to show your workers that they matter. 

When employees know that their feedback is valued, they feel respected. What’s more, great ideas don’t see the color of the collar. Your blue-collar workers might be the ones who deliver suggestions to save your company money or time—or even boost your revenue. At the end of the day, your blue-collar workers know your company best.


2. Understand Their Challenges

Have you ever avoided calling off so you wouldn’t miss a rent payment? When was the last time you couldn’t afford groceries? For some blue-collar workers, missing a shift means missing rent, and unpredictable hours make it hard to feed the family.

In most organizations, empathy rarely makes an appearance in workplace policies or programs intended to retain workers. Common challenges that are easy for higher-income workers to overcome, like paying rent or buying groceries, can create a crisis for workers earning wages that don’t meet the cost of living.

Some workplace programs that can help create a more worker-friendly culture include:

  • Reasonable and fair attendance policies
  • Earned paid time off (PTO) policies
  • Shift flexibility programs
  • Transportation subsidies


3. Reward and Recognize Your Workers

Do your white-collar employees have a reward and recognition program? What about your blue-collar workers? Whatever the definition is for your company, your success depends on your blue-collar workforce. Their labor keeps the lights on and the cash flowing. Companies know this, and that’s why more and more organizations are rewarding blue-collar workers for their efforts.

Depending on the nature of the work, this recognition might be personalized to individual workers or awarded to teams/departments. Your goal is to acknowledge the efforts of your workers. In turn, you’ll boost motivation, improve productivity, and even encourage higher-quality work. On top of that, employee recognition programs reduce turnover rates.

Blue-collar workers prefer tangible rewards, especially monetary incentives. Of course, you can also create intangible incentives of recognition, such as vacation trips or a session with corporate executives to make them feel valued.


4. Offer Upskilling and Apprenticeship Programs

In Industry Today’s survey, 18 percent of blue-collar workers stated that they stayed with their longest employer to learn new skills. Training and upskilling programs have wide-ranging benefits for both employees and organizations—not only can it give your business a competitive advantage but it’s also a great way to build employee loyalty.

As automation comes into play, more and more blue-collar workers will need retraining and upskilling to handle, install, and operate new machinery. The types of skills that blue-collar workers need are rapidly evolving, and you need qualified workers to keep your organization running smoothly.

In addition, be sure to conduct regular apprenticeship programs to keep workers up to date about industry updates and innovation. By providing skill certifications and training programs, you’ll help strengthen their skills and make them feel like a valued part of a growing company.


5. Follow the Golden Rule

Are you treating your blue-collar workers with the same respect as your white-collar workers? If the answer is ‘no,’ what’s stopping you? To successfully build a company culture that prioritizes respect, you need to embrace the Golden Rule. That means treating blue-collar workers with the same dignity as white-collar workers.

How does the Golden Rule impact your bottom line? Being transparent with blue-collar workers can speak volumes about your respect for them. Like all workers, blue-collar workers want to be in the loop about the latest developments in the organization’s strategies and policies. 

Even day-to-day communication plays an important role in employee loyalty. For example, if a construction project is taking longer than expected, let employees know that overtime may be needed to meet deadlines. This way, they can make any adjustments needed to pick up overtime shifts.



Take Your Marketing Strategy to the Next Level

Not every company has the money to offer blue-collar workers competitive wages, but it’s still possible to drive new talent with a worker-focused company culture. Once you start treating blue-collar workers with the respect they deserve, you’ll start reducing turnover, upgrading your recruitment process, and filling new positions with loyal workers.

Ready to start connecting with skilled, qualified talent? Schedule a discovery call with our team to start developing a calculated long-term recruitment and marketing strategy.

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