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August 11, 2021 | Human Resources | Posted by Ascentis Thought Leadership

4 Ways Blue Collar Employers Can Improve Employee Relations

It’s a well-known fact within skilled labor industries that retaining quality employees is a never-ending challenge. Recent studies show that the turnover rate in blue collar industries such as manufacturing, warehouses, transport, and construction stands at a striking 20%. That level of churn can hurt an organization in a number of ways. Hiring managers and human resources staff are constantly kept busy replacing departing workers. Establishing a consistent workplace culture is difficult without a consistent workforce. Employee morale takes a hit as existing workers see others constantly leaving their roles.

Reducing those turnover levels requires an active approach and a willingness by employers to build up stronger employee relations. Here are just a few ways your organization can establish a more functional relationship with the workers who keep your business moving.

1) Establish Two-way Communication

Workers in every industry want to know that they have a voice, and that their workplace concerns and questions are being heard by someone who can do something about them. In years past, too many labor-driven workplaces subscribed to something of an “us and them” mindset that put frontline workers in a separate silo from human resources and other administrative roles. In today’s technological landscape, it is easier than ever for employers to make that desire for clearer communication a reality. Considering that a 2020 survey by Industry Today found that 74% of blue collar workers say “being treated with respect or as a valued employee, not just a number” is a key part of work culture, it’s clear that communication needs to be at the forefront.

Using tech tools like mobile apps and employee dashboards, your HR team can establish multiple avenues for workers to keep in direct contact with the people responsible for vital concerns like shift scheduling, safety issues, and timely payroll processing. Important announcements can be sent out to individual employees, specific groups, or the entire organization using push notifications. Messaging apps and employee forums allow instant feedback from workers, alerting management and administrators to issues that might otherwise go unnoticed. Employee self-service tools allow workers to take more control of their own time-tracking, shift scheduling, and benefits enrollment.

To put it simply, the easier your company makes it for employees to have their voices heard, the more your workforce will feel like a valued part of your organization’s decision-making process.

2) More Employee Recognition

They say a job well-done is its own reward, but who are they kidding? Everyone likes to have their best efforts recognized by their peers. For blue collar workers, who are too often allowed to feel as though their roles are interchangeable or insignificant, a sincere and consistent commitment to employee recognition can mean a whole lot.

What form your employee rewards and recognition program should take depends largely on the specifics of your organization and your workforce. For some employers, that means cash bonuses for workers or teams who hit specific production targets. For others, it might be a rotating Employee of the Month award that comes with small rewards like gift cards or a free lunch. In some cases even a gesture as simple as a citation in the company newsletter or a poster in the employee break room can go a long way toward letting your workers know that their achievements are being seen and appreciated.

3) Invest in Safety

Workplace safety is a constant concern in skilled labor industries. Although workplace injuries have been declining steadily for the past decade due to advancements in safety technology, blue collar industries like manufacturing, transport, and construction still rank among the most injury-prone fields of employment in the United States. Employees in those industries need to know that their employers are doing everything in their power to keep them safe and healthy at work.

This is another area where communication is key. Investing in safety measures and tech upgrades like smart time clocks with touch-free operations is important, but so is providing your workforce with the training and support to use those tools properly. Again, this communication needs to be two-way. Give employees the opportunity to submit feedback and raise concerns about safety, and respond to their concerns with implementable safety solutions and learning management programs.

4) Provide advancement and upskilling opportunities

Nothing de-motivates a worker quite like the sense that they’re stuck in an unrewarding role. Unlike white collar jobs that are often built around a concept of “climbing the corporate ladder,” many blue collar roles don’t offer an obvious path for advancement within the organization. That can have a major impact on employee morale and contribute greatly to high turnover rates.

Employers can mitigate that kind of burnout by providing their workforce with more opportunities for reskilling and upskilling on the job. Reskilling involves giving workers new training, experience, and certifications that will allow them to move more easily between roles within your operation. Upskilling focuses on providing training that allows them to advance within their current role — training a line worker to operate more advanced equipment that comes with a higher hourly wage, for instance. In either case, your workers feel more motivated, engaged, and appreciated at work, which leads to improved retention and productivity all around.

The bottom line is that employers owe it to themselves and to their workers to create a workplace culture where all employees feel heard, valued, and appreciated. In blue collar fields with physically and mentally challenging tasks and high rates of turnover, that truth is even more evident. Find out how workforce management hardware and software solutions from Ascentis can help your organization build a stronger relationship with the workers who keep your business strong.

With more than 35 years of experience in providing Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, Ascentis thought leaders have become a respected source for insights, tips, and innovations in the Human Capital Management (HCM) space.