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A Brief Guide On How To Engage Blue-Collar Workers

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Definition Of Blue-Collar Workers With Examples

The term "blue-collar" refers to a type of service where jobs are often manually labored, waged, or salaried. In most cases, blue-collar workers do not require any formal education or skills.

A lot of these jobs are building or maintaining something physically.

It involves the following-


However, this job role has evolved. It is now normal to find workers in this position who are formally educated and highly skilled in performing a specific task.

We can find many of them in aeronautics, filmmaking, and electronics. They might not need a four-year college diploma, but most of them demand skilled employees with special training.

Origin Of The Term Blue-Collar Workers

In 1924, The Times newspaper in Alden, Iowa, used the term "blue-collar workers" to describe trades jobs for the first time. The etymologist Barry Popik suggested that the newspaper said-

If we may call professions and office positions white-collar jobs, we may call the trades blue-collar jobs.

The term became popular in the 1930s, and it first appeared in the New York Times in 1945.

Following World War II, the popularity of both blue and white-collar jobs grew in sync.

At that time, most blue-collar workers weren't supposed to wear any particular uniform or shirt color. As they were involved in physical labor in various climates, they preferred to wear darker colors, which didn't show dirt easily. They mostly wore boiler suits, chambray shirts, and jeans, all in the blue color.

Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about blue-collar jobs in the blog below. We assure you'll get much value out of it.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Being A Blue-Collar Worker

Many people are unaware of the advantages of working in a blue-collar workplace. Some of them are-

  • They can take time off anytime they wish and live a better life.
  • These jobs involve a physically active lifestyle that promotes overall wellness.
  • Their work will not be limited to a single location or team. You will be up and moving all the time.
  • They can expect your life to be relatively stress-free.
  • They can get low-cost job training. They can go to training or technical colleges that are often fully funded by the government.

However, there are also some disadvantages of being a blue-collar worker. They are-

  • When it comes to making decisions, there is a lack of power and authority. The work routine will be repetitious.
  • Their work might lead to physical exhaustion while dealing with various working conditions.
  • They are expected to do several things that put their lives in danger.
    Whether we like it or not, many people have a negative attitude toward them. So they will have to deal with social prejudice and an unwanted stigma.

The Blue-Collar Stigma

Unfortunately, most of us still view those jobs as dirty, brutal jobs and not credible career options. Often, it is considered inferior to office jobs.

In fact, many films depict blue-collar workers as ignorant men. They would work long hours so that their children might go to school and learn skills other than manual labor.

The American culture also doesn’t favor it. American comedy has increasingly become a platform for insulting blue-collar career values to provide humor for the white-collar class. Sean McGarvey suggested it in a Huffington Post article.

He stated-

American comedy is now being used to denigrate the worth of blue-collar jobs. It makes fun of their values and mocks the lifestyle of their families.

It supports the notion that white-collar jobs are superior.

Again the belief that these jobs don't pay well is wrong. Do not mistake today's blue-collar jobs for positions that are simple to get and keep. Some of them earn more money each year than their white-collar counterparts.


Many people even believe that robots and technology will eventually replace them. However, the reality is different.

Artificial intelligence and automation have resulted in the creation of more work opportunities. But we still need blue-collar workers. It is to ensure that robots are appropriately designed, produced, maintained, and operated.

Related podcast: How AI is shaping HR and Employee Experience?

Because of the above stigmas, today's employment market fails to supply them. Companies are facing a more significant challenge hiring them than white-collar workers.

Here comes the scenario of the blue-collar drought.

The Blue-Collar Drought


As per a 2018 report by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, there could be 2.4 million unfilled manufacturing jobs between 2018 and 2028. According to the analysis, the labor shortfall would have a $2.5 trillion negative economic impact in the United States.

Many people believe that this insufficiency is the result of the stigmas or myths mentioned above.

Consider the reality of today's job market. We have a massive skills gap. Even with record unemployment, millions of skilled jobs are unfilled because no one is trained or willing to do them. Meanwhile, unemployment among college graduates is at an all-time high. The majority of those graduates with jobs are not even working in their field of study. Plus, they owe a trillion dollars in student loans. A trillion! And still, we push a four-year college degree as the best way for the most people to find a successful career? -Mike Rowe

Other Factors Leading To The Drought

Another factor is the growing number of students with college degrees. It is due to parents' and students' beliefs that attending college will lead to a better life. Everyone is sending their child along the same path. When they graduate, there are thousands of them competing for a few (professional) positions.

In fact, nations like the United States promote getting college degrees rather than skills training.

Another obstacle to entering the trades is the misconception that the work is mindless and dull.

Today's youth desire to be intellectually engaged by their work, as well as creative and innovative. It could only happen in a modern office with a Mac on the desk and a mug of fine coffee ready, right? That's the way things are.

Read our blog on: Keys to Attain Intellectual Wellness at the Workplace

Furthermore, most employers want blue-collar workers to have several years of experience. But, they are unwilling to invest in training programs that teach the required skills.

Related blog: 5 Reasons To Promote Employee Training And Development

Even though these jobs pay well, they are insufficient to attract young adults. As a result, it compels the companies to pay higher rates to secure them or hire people from outside the country. Or they move their operations overseas, where these employees are easily available.

Organizations that employ them must improve their HR practices. It would assist in lessening the ever-increasing employee turnover. It would also help make their jobs more attractive to new job seekers.

Mason Bishop, principal at WorkED Consulting, no longer considers the phrase 'Blue-collar workers' acceptable. He believes that these days, "gray-collar worker" or "technical careerist" is more acceptable.

How To Revive And Engage The Blue-Collar Workers?

First, organizations should view them as an asset to be managed rather than an expense to be controlled.

Employees in these jobs should be respected. They will work harder, better, and become more loyal.

An effective retention strategy is to create programs to train unskilled and low-skilled workers.

Employers should reach out to high school students, teachers, counselors, and parents to overcome misunderstandings and preconceptions about such traditional industries.

While they constantly receive a social message that their work is unimportant or undesirable, leaders must counter that view with a robust engagement program.

5 Best Tips To Engage Your Blue-Collar Workers

1. Do you know what's missing in their workplace? Recognition!

Rewards and recognition foster employee pride. Employees who are proud of their job are more motivated and engaged.

Their motivation needs to differ significantly from those of their white-collar counterparts. Thus, companies must create the perfect rewards and recognition programs for these employees.

Related resource: Employee Motivation- A Comprehensive Guide

Provide them monetary rewards like bonuses, salary hikes, any other tangible rewards.

In a survey done by Incentive Concepts, employees were asked what form of rewards they liked. 62 percent of respondents preferred tangible gifts over recognition, praise, and growth opportunities.

Floor employees factories like rewards like invitations to company events. Or it can be a meal with the chairman. Providing such experiential rewards can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them.

Verbal praise and peer-to-peer recognition are also vital in the process.

Also read: Top 9 Non-monetary Incentives To Motivate And Retain Your Employees

2. Promote learning and development.

Recognize them by allowing them to progress to decision-making positions.
Many companies are investing in the higher education of their top performers. They are also promoting them to supervisory positions. It establishes a sense of trust among employees. In the long run, it encourages them to invest their loyalty in the organization.

Step into One is a program by HUL to motivate and train high-potential shop-floor employees and staff. It trains them for the next level in Officer Cadre.

3. Don't underestimate the effects of their work on their health.

Loneliness, boredom, life dissatisfaction, work unhappiness, or depression affect many blue-collar workers. It could be a result of their job conditions, financial issues, or lifestyle choices. They also had high rates of cigarette use and obesity.

Encouraging your employees to participate in wellness activities can prove to be helpful.

Beyond regular medical check-ups, employers must focus on implementing health and well-being activities.

Such activities can be very simple and easy. Sending a message that says, "Remember to eat your fruits and vegetables," for example, can serve as a quick health reminder.

Getting blue-collar workers to take part in wellness programs might be difficult. The wellness program must be flexible enough to fit within their job schedule. It is also essential for someone in the company to communicate with employees. They can gather wellness queries or concerns and then apply that knowledge.

Related resource: A Complete Guide To Corporate Wellness Program

You must include both internal and extrinsic advantages in your health programs. They would love some paid time off for participating in various fitness activities. They adore gift cards, too!

Doing so will result in a healthier workforce, which will reduce absenteeism.

4. Listen to them.

Another way to engage them is to listen to them. As a leader or HR manager, you must have a thorough awareness of each employee and how they approach their work.
Some people may be willing to learn while others may not.

To know what they're seeking, you need to start with a conversation. Ask your employees about what would spark their engagement.

Many companies are now using pulse surveys to check on employee morale, which has proven to be incredibly effective.

5. Treat them the right way.

PetroChoice's vice president of human resources, Marilena Acevedo, mentioned something noteworthy about this. She said that it's crucial to recognize that blue-collar workers have a different perspective on their job than office workers.

A career has a distinct significance for them. 'Career' means 'professional' to them. They may not aspire to be in management positions, but they do want to be professionals at all times.

Sometimes people think drivers are unsophisticated, but they're not. They know their work, the market. They have integrity and loyalty. They're looking for us to treat them right and help them take care of their families. We tell them what we expect, and in return, they know what they can expect from us. - Acevedo added.

Future Of Blue-Collar Workers

Automation poses a threat to these workers as most of their work involves manual labor and relatively unskilled individuals.

But as per research, these jobs aren't going obsolete. In reality, the market is rapidly growing.

As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics-


All of them are higher-than-average growth rates.

The pandemic has highlighted the need for a variety of these jobs that will survive the rise of technology.

Here are a few trends employers should look out for in the coming years-

  1. To improve the productivity of your staff, you must tech-enabled them. Machine learning and computer technology skills are also in demand.
  2. Improve your blue-collar workers' digital literacy too.
  3. Help them to be creative, innovative, and to play with data and analytics. Look forward to their analytical insights and judgments.
  4. Come together to improve on the other most significant performance skills. It might be teamwork, collaboration, and social skills.
  5. They believe the future of these jobs will involve humans and robots collaborating. Assisting them in learning robotics will improve their abilities.


The year 2022 has brought a revival in these jobs, and it's ramping up the pace. Many companies are working to improve their skills and work structure. That is why it is high time to offer a renewed engagement experience for them.

Vantage Circle is aware of these organizational challenges. Visit our Rewards and Recognition platform to learn more about tailored experiences. We have vouchers, rewards points, and other benefits that can help you get started with engaging your blue-collar workers.

This article is written by Susmita Sarma, a podcast host and content creator at Vantage Circle. She was involved with media relations before shifting her interest in research and creative writing. Apart from being a classical music buff, she keeps a keen interest in anchoring and cooking. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com

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