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Blue-Collar jobs matter: a reflection on employer branding

Delete stock photos on your website. Employer branding is no more as we knew it before.

 

By Sergio Morales, Brand Strategist at Comuniza

 

Historically, large companies have defined how we live. They designed our everyday products, often changed trends, and established 9–5 routines. Cubicles and phones were ringing. Focusing on the customer was the norm. But it’s no surprise that last two decades startups revolutionized the paradigm by bringing ping-pong tables, unlimited holidays, flexibility and work-from-home. They wanted to compete by focusing on (its) people, on employees. In the beginning, their salaries weren’t even close to those of corporations, but they still needed to attract talent (world-class, if possible). That was the turning point for jobs to shift from being just a way to earn money to being a dream. The dream of working at Google, Netflix, Apple and the rest of San Francisco.


No one on planet Earth could deny that nowadays, we are in the midst of redefining how and where we work. Even corporations are evolving their employer proposals. Startups initiated the change the pandemic boosted: caring is rapidly becoming the norm in today’s job market. A recent study conducted by Semrush revealed that remote work search queries grew exponentially, leaping 300% between July 2021 and 2022. People are increasingly prioritizing factors such as flexibility, balance, convenience and increased productivity when considering their employment options – no longer only settling for salary alone.

Unfortunately, I have said nothing new at this point. But that’s how most employer branding is thought today, navel-gazing and neglecting an essential group of workers: the blue-collar ones. An alternate solution is needed for those who cannot benefit from the same advantages. As we pave the way for a better future, it is no good if only office workers benefit. Factory employees must also remain at the forefront of our efforts because they are still needed. Let’s discover new strategies to ensure their working health and productivity.


Becoming a top employer for blue-collar workers is even more challenging. When it comes to white-collar, we are competing worldwide for talent. Difficult but doable. When it comes to blue-collar, we are competing against the future:


  • Fewer people want those physically-taxing jobs

  • The workforce is becoming older

  • Younger generations don’t have the needed skills and choose to work in newer sectors, such as the tech industry

  • Retention in lower-level jobs is complex, often wage-led

Companies can address the challenge of bringing in and maintaining skilled blue-collar labour by reevaluating how these employees are approached. Taking measures to foster a sense of engagement with work and team camaraderie is essential for creating an environment where blue-collar workers thrive. To do it, as startups did once, we need to consider the nature of the workplace.

Taking measures to foster a sense of engagement with work and team camaraderie is essential for creating an environment where blue-collar workers thrive.

In this sector, some things are different. Because of the particularities of the jobs, we cannot provide perks such as working remotely. Instead, we are forced to go the extra mile to improve the environment and the workstation: bringing warm spaces to relax during pauses in a typically cold atmosphere will make the difference. Maximizing security measures will be appreciated. Designing the room consciously will enhance productivity; there’s no need for a factory should always be grey and dull. We can introduce colours or plants to symbolize life, have modern and user-friendly UX in machines or even impulse gamification in chain production. Moreover, we can tap into unconventional solutions to foster employee relationships as Steve Jobs once did, placing the bathrooms at Pixar headquarters strategically in the middle of all floors, thus encouraging interactions and building a sense of community between hundreds of coworkers through necessary pitstops.


But action is not enough. A different approach is also needed in the way we conceive these jobs. The manufacturer’s employer proposition should highlight critical things such as job security: the sense workers need to feel when they see themselves as easily replaceable and dispensable. How to do that?

Allow your employees to stay on top of their game and take control of their futures. You can promote career growth within your organization by assigning current staff members new tasks that develop transferable skills and helping them fill work gaps left by temporary absences or resignations. Learning something new boosts confidence and provides a strong sense of job security - giving workers a pathway for higher wages, advancements in rank, etc., even in a context threatened by cost-effective automation.


Redefine the employer proposition, no matter what sector you are in. Innovation is possible in all of them. Take into account the company’s needs, but even more so the needs of its employees. In one sentence: they make the company. The cycle of businesses perceiving their employees as dispensable and invaluable should end. Believe it or not, factories need humans, as they produce for humans.


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