Engaged employees are a company’s greatest asset, yet according to recent research from Gallup, only 15% of employees worldwide are engaged in their work. In the United States, just 33% of employed residents are engaged at work. Even more alarming, HR professionals in the United States face another problem: Engaging their aging blue-collar workforce.
These people are the nuts and bolts of their organizations. The truck drives, plumbers, construction workers, and retail sales representatives that are on the front lines of the business. They’re the salt of the earth, with their main objective in life being to earn a living wage for their families.
They are often associated with being disinterested with their work, just trying to make it to the end of the shift or the next lunch break. But this assumption is far from the truth, as disengaged employees offer the greatest opportunity for businesses to improve their bottom lines.
Before we get into how a business goes about increasing employee engagement, it is necessary to dispel some myths about the blue-collar worker. There are talks among the business world that automation will begin to replace a large number of blue-collar jobs from manufacturing to cashiers. Yet according to some statistics from the United States Department of Labor, demand for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers is expected to increase 6% between 2016 and 2026. Ironworkers have an expected growth of 13%, and plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters are expected to grow by a whopping 16% in the next ten years!
So as futurists ring the alarm bells that automation will begin to take the jobs of lower-skilled labor, the opposite effect is actually happening as there is a growing demand for blue-collar labor in the United States. This article from Forbes highlights this trend as retiring Baby Boomers give up their positions and high school seniors are choosing to seek four-year degrees from universities. The article concludes on an excellent note stating:
“Companies should prepare for more recruitment and retention difficulties in the next decade as there are few entrants and many exits out of the blue-collar and low-pay services workforce, the Board report’s executive summary states.”
Employee Engagement Strategies
So now let’s begin to think about how we actually get blue-collar employees engaged with their work. These are some strategies that our team has come up with to make employees feel valued and drive engagement in their work. Remember though, employee engagement is an ongoing process that requires management to think about how their team needs to improve, but when applied the gain is worth the investment that is put into the employees. Here are five strategies that will help build more engaged employees:
- Provide your employees with the right tools: This first tip is simple but often overlooked. Making sure employees have all the necessary tools they need to succeed in their work is important for employee engagement. On our topic of blue-collar workers, this could be ensuring that employees have access to equipment that would make their jobs more efficient and less stressful.
- Focus on your employees’ development: Continuous improvement programs can help blue-collar workers improve and become more valuable towards the business. This can be paying for professional training to open up new avenues in employees’ careers. Another excellent tip is having an active discussion with employees to see what skills they want to develop.
- Define your engagement goals with your employees: Transparency is important for blue-collar employees, so clearly defining the engagement goals of the company is an excellent way to ensure employees work towards those goals. Goals should be realistic and discussed with employees to ensure a clear line of dialogue. This creates an environment where employees have goals to work towards as a team and build cohesion.
- Listen to your employees: Everyone likes to be heard, and it’s important for management to take employee feedback into consideration when making decisions. Blue-collar employees work to earn for their families, so it’s important to understand how each employee views their work and what they expect to get out of their career. Oftentimes the best way to improve employee engagement is to just directly ask employees what keeps them motivated.
- Recognize your employees: This tip can range from recognitions during company meetings for well-performing employees, to simple informal recognition of employees during the workday. The little gestures go a long way and it shows interest in the performance of the team. Other forms of recognition could be gift cards for birthdays, personalized notes for individual workers, or just having a conversation with an employee about their excellent performance.
Employees are a business’s greatest asset and improving employee engagement should be a continued effort on managements part. Engaged employees are willing to go the extra mile in their work with passion and a strong connection to their job. Turning employees into assets requires investments on managements part and a well thought out engagement strategy is necessary for this success. For there is nothing more rewarding than having the entire organization geared towards the same goals.
Looking to improve your employee engagement? SolveHR offers specialized strategic human resource strategies that are guaranteed to increase employee engagement and reduce employee turnover to maximize return on investment. Find out more information here and let SolveHR handle all of your human resources needs so you can focus on what’s important—growing your business!