Talk engagement and all you imagine is a host of activities and plans to keep people in the office motivated and happy. Do you ever visualise a factory, an assembly line or a back-end facility management team when you hear the word ‘engagement’? Most likely not, unless you’re an HR professional posted at a plant or managing large sales forces or the ground force of an organisation in the hospitality or manufacturing sectors. Yes, employee engagement is necessary for the blue-collared workforce, as much as it is essential to keep the white-collared workers happy, productive and always in action.
More so, because they’re the ones who work hard – literally, as their jobs are more labour-intensive, they’re exposed to more workplace hazards and at times have to work in a potentially harmful to health kind of work environment as well. Their jobs are more demanding – both physically and in terms of time spent on the job. That said, while no job is easy, the point in case is that organisations cannot afford to ignore their foundational fleet when it comes to engagement, as the business success, quite significantly, depends on their performance.
Here are five tips to keep the blue-collared employees well engaged and motivated.
1. Wages simply aren’t enough. Make them feel valued
In comparison to employees at all other levels in an organisation, blue-collared employees are paid much lower salaries. Whatever they earn may just be enough for them to make ends meet, or at times may be not, depending on their personal demographics. Although salary is a critical element to engagement, when it comes to the blue-collared employees, organisations need to think beyond that and plan engagement keeping their challenges in mind.
The first rule is to make them feel valued. Be it ensuring safety along with efficiency on the shop-floor, or rewarding them well for extra efforts, each of these aspects makes a big difference to whether or not the workers feel valued.
Having the right policies in place along with effective mechanisms to resolve queries pertaining to leaves, salary and so on, help the workers focus better on their jobs. In addition, providing them comfortable break-out areas, fresh food and refreshments just ensures their day at work is well balanced.
2. Do not differentiate. Give them the same pedestal
While there are various discussions, open houses, townhalls and one-on-one meetings where executives get to share ideas and concerns, the blue-collared employees also deserve a patient hearing. Apart from the shop-floor manager, plant HR team or the team leader sharing frequent conversations and one-on-one meetings with the workforce, technology has now made available platforms that provide employees ease of access to information. These platforms also allow people at all levels to reach out to seniors, skip-level colleagues and even the management to voice concerns or thoughts.
Also, organisations should have the same policies in place for the blue-collared workforce as for the white-collared employees. For instance, Mahindra & Mahindra has zero differentiation between the blue-collar and white-collar workforce in terms of policies. They also have a cascading communication process called ‘Reach out’, which ensures that even those at the lowest level in the organisation know exactly how they will contribute to its growth and success.
3. Appreciation goes a long way. Acknowledge and award
Every effort the workers put in, even in their day-to-day jobs, should be recognised by the immediate team leaders or managers. Something as simple as saying ‘good job’ after the small everyday achievements, is sometimes enough to keep employees satisfied and the excitement alive.
Positive reinforcement of efforts that make the day-to-day job more efficient ensures employees keep producing better results with the same vigour. It is also equally important and beneficial to award the extraordinary achievers. A little merit of performance, a token of appreciation in the form of points or badges or reimbursable benefits, go a long way in making the workers feel appreciated and valued.
4. Mixing blue with white. Encourage participation in events
This again connects with making them feel valued by bringing them on the same pedestal as their white-collared colleagues. Most organisations differentiate the events or programmes they plan for the corporate employees and for the ground forces, which is not completely unjustified as well, however, it is important that people at the grassroot level also get opportunities to connect with and experience what the general population does.
Moreover, making them part of certain organisation-wide events will not just make them feel more valued but will help them see themselves as an integral part of the system. It is all about the overall culture of the organisation and how it treats its people, irrespective of their level.
5. Don’t let them burn-out. Focus on wellness – mental, physical and financial
Stress and fatigue are ever-prevalent, be it in the office, in the field or on the floor. In fact, people on the floor, that is, the blue-collared workers have to put in more physical labour. They are also prone to more wear and tear on the job than their corporate colleagues. That said, ensuring workplace safety is just the basic. Organisations need to focus on spreading awareness and providing opportunities for the overall wellness of the workers, as well. Yoga or meditation drives are common, yet not enough. There’s a lot more organisations can do to ensure holistic wellness – which can include safeguarding them financially against any health issues, through insurance plans and so on.
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