Blue-collar employees are critical to any labour-intensive business. They have an impact on society as a whole with their efforts. It’s strange how little leaders have to say about making their work better. There is obviously a high level of turnover and skill gap. Here we look at ways to improve performance and engagement of these workers.

According to the Conference Board, several industries should expect difficulties with filling blue-collar positions. The increased need for blue-collar labour results from demographic shifts and economic trends.

The graduates are trying to apply for white-collar jobs while the baby boomers (people who are 45 and up) are maturing out of the workforce.

In this article, we will take a look at 7 subtle ways to increase the motivation and engagement of blue-collar workers.

7 Ways to Improve Performance and Engagement

1. Provide formalized training

Unfortunately, many organizations underestimate the value of having a formal training process. Investment in training is often minimal for the sake of increased profits. Yet, studies have found that investing in training programs generates 218 per cent more income per employee.

Training helps new hires understand their jobs and roles. For example, a maintenance worker will have a difficult time resolving an issue if he does not know how to perform site inspections. Not understanding their responsibilities leads to a confused and frustrated blue-collar workforce.

Key takeaway: Do not minimize the impact of training and onboarding for your new recruits. This allows new staff to ask questions, express their doubts and master their roles.

2. Offer a Competitive Salary

As for most jobs, the salary of blue-collar workers shows how much employers think their time and effort are worth. Your compensation and benefits package directly affect employee retention, and hence, your turnover. Even replacing an $8 per hour worker can cost around $3,500.

Past studies highlighted that the cost of replacing a typical hourly worker is $2,000 to $7,000 and it seems those numbers will stay this high – or get higher – in the years ahead.

A study by PayScale found that 25 per cent of workers mentioned higher pay as the primary reason they look for jobs elsewhere. In other words, this means that your workers are less likely to leave if they feel their salary is right.

Key takeaway: Offering competitive packages for your blue-collar workforce reduces your turnover rate. This equates to less money wasted while looking for replacements.

3. Non-Monetary Benefits and Perks

Let’s face it; not all projects are able to cater for super competitive compensation and benefits packages. Moreover, many blue-collar industries face delayed payments, such as in the construction industry. To compensate for these, you can also provide non-monetary benefits.

Most non-monetary benefits are simple to put in place, track and maintain. Be creative and keep in mind that even little perks like free coffee and free parking can help boost morale. Additionally, offering non-monetary perks does not overly stress operating expenses for your project.

Key takeaway: When increasing the compensation package of your workforce is not an option, opt for extra perks instead.

4. Enhance Work Safety

Many blue-collar roles feature dangerous and harsh working environments. For example, workers on oil platforms or on skyscrapers face life-threatening dangers. Still, most blue-collar workers are conscious of the hazards they may face.

Yet, they expect their employers to provide optimal safety conditions for them to perform their duties. Invest in professional-grade safety equipment to show that you care. Additionally, ensure your workforce attends regular safety training and workshops.

Key takeaway: Your workforce should be equipped and trained to deal with dangerous conditions. This also reduces the risk of legal battles and bad PR caused by employee injury on site.

5. Recognize Employee Achievements

In general, blue-collar employees routinely make big efforts to earn their paycheck. This often takes its toll on their emotional and physical health. Expressing your appreciation for their time and effort impacts their engagement.

Consider implementing an employee recognition program to acknowledge their hard work. Make a statement by formalizing the rewards and the recognition process. For example, reward your workers for achieving specific milestones or objectives.

Key takeaway: 65 per cent of workers feel they are not recognized for the efforts they put in. Show your appreciation and reward your workforce accordingly to increase engagement.

6. Regular Upskilling Workshops

Technology and work processes evolve constantly. Thus, the skills and know-how required to perform a job are always changing. Not upskilling your workforce may result in poor performance and employee frustration.

Think of your most loyal maintenance mechanic, who has been with you for a decade. While his engagement is unquestionable, he may not have the skillset to inspect a machine using the latest technology like condition monitoring vibration meter. Regularly upskilling your workforce is a must to keep up with the ever-changing work landscape.

Key takeaway: Your workforce needs to be upskilled to keep up with the latest trends and perform to their full potential. At the same, this shows you care about their long-term career prospects.

7. Include Employees in Decision-Making

Blue-collar workers usually work in the field with a hands-on approach. Including blue-collar employees in your decision-making process can be a smart move. In general, they have valuable insights that the management team does not.

Moreover, it provides some additional benefits as well. Employees that feel their viewpoints are valued, stay with the company for longer. This also enhances their responsibility and commitment to a project.

Key takeaway: Blue-collar workers are your front-liners and can offer fresh and critical perspectives. Including them in decision-making increases their engagement.

Off you go

Blue-collar workers are the building blocks of most industries. Many forecasts and studies warn about an upcoming shortage in blue-collar manpower. It’s essential you work to improve performance and engagement for this sector.

Research by Deloitte points out that there could be as many as 2.4 million unfilled manufacturing jobs between 2018 and 2028. Motivating, engaging, and retaining blue-collar workers is essential for a sustainable business model.

Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy-to-use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.