When it comes to employee motivation and engagement, most companies focus their efforts primarily on appeasing the white-collared members of their workforce. Sadly, most organizations tend to overlook the fact that their blue-collared employees are equally important as they form the driving force of the company. These employees share the same need for appreciation and acknowledgement from their employers as their white-collar counterparts. Organizations need to design specific rewards and recognition for blue-collared employees.
A Harvard Business Review analysis concluded that people working blue-collar jobs report lower levels of overall happiness in every region around the world.
What is meant by Blue-Collared Employees?
The workforce of an organization is comprised of different types of professionals specializing in various tasks and niches. However, the entire workforce can broadly be classified into two main categories namely white-collared and blue-collared employees. White-collar employees generally comprise of those members of the workforce who work in professional, supervisory, managerial and administrative roles within an organization.
On the other hand, members of the workforce, who work in manual positions and use their hands to perform various tasks are classified as blue-collar employees. These employees are named so, as most of them are required to wear uniforms and coveralls along with protective gear. They generally include skilled workers employed in manufacturing, mining, construction and other such industries, tradespeople and even field officers and workers.
What are the challenges of rewarding and recognizing blue-collared employees?
One of the biggest hindrances in the way of rewarding and recognizing blue-collar employees is the traditional perception of them being inferior to white-collared employees. In fact, until quite recently, the members of the top management within organizations were of the opinion that white-collar workers were in greater need of motivation and engagement by virtue of their more responsible positions and higher education levels.
They felt that the blue-collar employees did not have any such needs, especially since a majority of them are tied to union pay and benefits.
However, the various employee surveys have made it clear that employees of both these categories have a similar craving for being rewarded and recognized for their hard work and efforts made towards organizational growth.
The good news is that a majority of business organizations today are understanding the need to acknowledge and appreciate the performance and contribution of their blue-collared employees.
However, since their employee motivation needs tend to differ considerably from the more sophisticated members of the workforce, companies need to do some thinking in order to create the best rewards and recognition programs for them.
The four main types of rewards that can be considered by organizations to overcome this dilemma effectively are discussed below:
1. Tangible Rewards
Providing physically tangible rewards to blue-collar employees can go a long way in keeping them motivated and enhancing their engagement levels. Physical things such as gift baskets, company-branded gear, engraved tools and even embroidered vests for field staff can prove to be the most relevant and satisfactory rewards.
In fact, handwritten notes of appreciation and gift cards are also highly preferred along with trophies and medallions as they help in sparking conversation and participation.
2. Monetary Awards
One traditional and highly successful method of acknowledging blue-collar employees is by offering them performance bonuses and a raise in salary. These monetary rewards are known to boost employee motivation levels significantly besides making the employees feel appropriately recognized for their hard work.
More recently, other forms of monetary awards including paid lunches, floating holidays, gift cards for their favourite store or restaurant and company store vouchers have also gained much popularity.
3. Experience Awards
Providing an opportunity of once in a lifetime experience to blue-collar workers is also proving to be an effective way of rewarding them. Rewards like an invitation to company-sponsored events or enjoying a meal with the CEO or Chairman are often well appreciated especially by the employees operating at floor levels in factories.
Other similar awards that are generally well-received include fully or partly paid vacations, a short sabbatical from work and special training and skill development that can help enhance the career growth of workers within this category.
4. Verbal Recognition
Even though most companies and managers no longer acknowledge it as a reward, a few words of praise still hold much value in terms of employee recognition. The very fact that their employers have chosen to single out the employees in a positive way makes them feel valued and appreciated.
It assures them of the fact that their efforts and contribution towards organizational growth have not gone unnoticed. Facilitating a culture of peer-to-peer recognition among blue-collar workers can actually prove more beneficial than words of praise offered by line managers and executives.
Organizations need to work proactively towards understanding job satisfaction and motivational needs of its blue-collared employees and fulfil the same by designing suitable rewards and recognition for blue-collared employees.
The one-size-fits-all policy might not work as their needs are different from those of their white-collared counterparts.
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