An entire sector of the global workforce exists en masse, yet few understand how it works. Blue-collar workers are the backbone of industrialization. We believe that every group of employees deserve a certain focus on their needs. When looking into the blue-collar industry, there are many topics not yet discovered. Let’s dig deeper into these topics on our blog.
What is a Blue-Collar Worker
The blue-collar industry consists of people performing manual labor. A blue-collar worker may be an employee in a manufacturing or processing facility or warehouse. Physical work such as farming, landscaping, construction, and waste removal are also part of this industry. Although often associated with unskilled laborers, the blue-collar industry includes, e.g. certified electricians, and plumbers are blue-collar workers.
Conversely, people that work in an office setting are white-collar workers.
Good-to-know: The Origin of the Blue Collar
You likely have a white shirt in your closet that you tirelessly work to keep crisp and bright. Imagine wearing that shirt a 100-years ago while welding the frame of the Empire State Building. Or while weaving cotton in a hot facility. Sweat would drench and stain your shirt collar.
Historically, daily laundering was not an option for the working class. For this reason, manual laborers preferred darker colors to mask their soiled work clothes. The popularity of denim with miners in the late 19th century established blue as the go-to color for uniforms, overalls, and collar color for manual workers.
The Current Situation
As a trainer, manager, or human resources professional in the blue-collar industry, you are familiar with your specific sector or company. However, understanding the bigger picture of the entire industry can increase your profitability and make you more competitive to new hires.
In 2019, the United States saw huge job growth. The nation saw unemployment rates drop from 4.0% down to 3.5%. Before the onset of COVID-19, the US was experiencing the lowest jobless rate since 1969. Furthermore, average hourly earnings rose by 3.1% from a year ago.
Blue-collar workers desire more pay increases to offset the physically demanding work. In addition to offering higher wages, employees are requesting better benefits and career advancement opportunities.
You should anticipate continued hiring competition in 2020. The analysis shows that the working-age population is slowly growing, and of that age bracket, even fewer are pursuing blue-collar work. Since the job pool will remain small, employers may experience difficulty recruiting and retaining current employees.
Logistics, followed by sales and customer service, jobs are high demand. An average of 30 viable candidates apply for blue-collar jobs in India. Nevertheless, the industry is still male-dominated. In applications with that specify sex, ¼ of applicants are female.
The Challenges today
- High Attrition Rate in High-Density Warehouse Areas
As blue-collar workers search for the best overall work environment and benefits package, employers are paying for the price of turnover and competition. In regions with many logistics jobs or warehouses, blue-collar workers are prone to change employers for small increases in hourly pay.
However, employees are willing to work for lower pay if their performance receives high ratings. Turnover is especially taxing if your floor managers also perform HR functions.
- Atypical Shifts Do Not Fit Into the Life of Employees
Blue-collar industries traditionally operate three shifts a day 24/7. Afternoon and overnight shifts tend to be less desirable for parents. In addition to that, you can find many studies that discovered a correlation between shift work and mental diseases.
- The Training Process
Many managers are not equipped to perform HR functions while simultaneously teaching the advancements of technology. There is often a lack of time for proper training as trainers are usually also working on-site and do not have enough time to educate the team. Employers need to invest in blue-collar training to efficiently onboard and engage blue-collar workers.
- Dwindling Workforce
Much of the current blue-collar workforce consists of Baby Boomers that will continue to retire through 2030, creating employment gaps. Consequently, the younger generation entering the workforce are obtaining college degrees and thus not pursuing blue-collar labor.
Additionally, the blue-collar industry is experiencing worker shortages resulting from a lack of participation.
- Increase in Demand
The rapid growth of e-commerce in the past ten years has created a boom for blue-collar jobs in logistics, transportation, and warehouses. An additional 452,000 jobs were needed in 2018-2019 compared to 180,300 in 2013.
The High Demand for Blue-Collar Workers
The role of blue-collar workers will continue to rise in the future. Outsourcing of factory jobs to China is on the decline. U.S.-based manufacturers are bringing production home. The American consumer, along with energy prices and Chinese wage increases, are driving the change in behavior.
After remaining flat most of 2018, manufacturing jobs saw a spike in payroll gains into 2020. The demand for oil drilling equipment accounts for a portion of the growth. Likewise, transportation and warehousing saw a correlating increase of 2.7% year over year.
The continual expansion of e-commerce, especially amidst COVID-19, will drive the need for more warehouse workers and truck drivers.
The new Option: The Blue-Collar Executive
Roughly only 35% of hourly workers find satisfaction with advancement opportunities. For this reason, as competition increases to retain quality employees, it is imperative to develop plans to promote within.
Providing career advancement into blue-collar executive roles offers you key benefits:
- Employees receive recognition for work accomplishments (Only 46% of hourly employees feel they receive enough credit.)
- Training for career advancement stimulates employee engagement
- Promoting within ensures the new manager has hand’s on experience with your company’s product or service
- Credibility and respect of coworkers are quickly established as a result of working their way up the ladder.
Evolving Technology in the Blue-Collar Industry
Over 70% of blue-collar executives feel technology is the most significant factor impacting the future. Given the right tools, technologies, and skills, procedural workers can add value to the bottom line. Blue-collar workers will work hand-in-hand with technology, not compete against it.
The current generation entering the blue-collar workforce is tech-savvy. They grew up with computers and smartphones. For this reason, utilize their combination of soft and hard skills. If you want to meet the increasing demand for new workers, it will be essential to make use of technology in the learning and development of new and existing employees.
Leverage technology to gain efficiencies and increase your hiring potential. If you don’t, the next generation of blue-collar workers will experience dissatisfaction with outdated methods.
The current challenge of a dwindling blue-collar workforce will not disappear overnight. Therefore, it is time to work smarter towards the worker’s needs: Attract new employees by posting jobs online. Incorporate technology via training to stimulate tech-savvy workers. Acknowledge, reward, and promote valuable members of the team.