Category All, Best Practices Best Ways to Recognize Blue Collar Workers Virtually Frequent recognition is the cornerstone of a healthy working relationship. Regardless if they’re deskless or office-bound, all employees need to feel recognized for their efforts, or they’ll disconnect from the workspace and eventually seek employment somewhere else. December 22, 2022 By Ivo Jurcic While most companies aren’t strangers to physical, in-person recognition, the realm of virtual recognition and rewards (R&R) has expanded in every industry, including the ones that rely heavily on blue-collar workers. If you’re looking for insight into how to deliver seamless virtual recognition of blue-collar employees, this article is for you. But first, let’s briefly explain why the reasons behind the rising demand for blue-collar and trade workers, and then discuss the role of virtual recognition for this segment of the workforce. The Rising Importance of Blue-collar Workers The term blue-collar worker refers to workers that are largely engaged in manual work, are skilled with their hands, and can operate in physically demanding work environments. These types of workers are opposite to white-collar workers who are office-based and don’t pursue manual labor to complete the bulk of their work. As more of the workforce migrated to white-collar professions, along with the loss of manufacturing jobs in the West, there has been a staggering rise in the demand for blue-collar workers across many industries. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, by 2025, U.S. companies will have two million empty job vacancies in manufacturing positions. In other words, manufacturing companies will have to compete heavily in order to secure talented hands for their operations. Additionally, the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte published a skills gap study to arrive at a similar conclusion: there may be an estimated 2.4 million unfilled manufacturing positions in the U.S. between 2018 and 2028, with the potential economic fallout of $2.5 trillion. Businesses that rely on blue-collar employees don’t have enough hands to take on more projects and facilitate growth. There are two main reasons driving the severe drop in supply in the blue-collar talent market: First of all, generations of older blue-collar workers are retiring. Blue-collar roles were traditionally filled by males who are either nearing the end of their careers or unable to complete heavy manual labor due to their age. The Multigenerational Teams in Manufacturing report found that 5% of the existing workforce is already beyond retirement age, and an additional 20% will reach retirement age within the next 10 years. The problems of finding skilled hands will intensify without a proper hiring strategy. Second, young potential hires perceive blue-collar work as intensive and low-paid, with not many advancements and learning opportunities, and low recognition at the workspace. This is present largely because of cultural misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding blue-collar positions. In fact, blue-collar workers can earn formidable salaries, and have plenty of learning opportunities as older workers move to knowledge-transfer positions. Hiring companies will have to tackle this cultural challenge of low recognition in order to attract fresh talent and make positions appealing to young workers. Make no mistake, the negative cultural perception can be reversed, which brings us to the following. Why do Blue-Collar Workers Need Virtual Recognition and Rewards We can all agree that employees need to get recognition from their managers and colleagues whenever they work hard to complete their tasks. When people are recognized, they feel like they have a purpose and a sense of belonging. These feelings keep them productive and engaged in the long run. This is true for every type of work, especially blue-collar. While traditional forms of recognition, such as compliments from the manager or monetary bonuses, are present in the blue-collar work environment, they are not sufficient to provide a long-term employment incentive, especially not in some of the most competing labor markets of all time. Incentive Research Foundation conducted a study to discover what kinds of rewards would employees prefer as recognition for their day-to-day contributions at work. That study found that 62% of employees prefer tangible rewards, but 38% of workers prefer other elements of non-monetary recognition in order to make a complete R&R experience. Therefore, the right reward experience is a combination of monetary and non-monetary rewards that match the reward preferences of an employee. Of course, tangible rewards are not merely monetary bonuses, but rewards such as gifts or merchandise. So why is virtual recognition central to the R&R experience of blue-collar workers? For enterprises with large blue-collar workforces, it is a logistical nightmare to manage entire R&R processes without the use of virtual recognition. For starters, virtual recognition ensures consistent delivery, meaning that every hard-working employee receives praise for their efforts; management gains a data-backed perspective on the state of employee appreciation at the company. Furthermore, virtual recognition opens up blue-collar workspaces to new possibilities for celebrating and recognizing their work, which goes beyond any traditional form of recognition, be it the usual monetary bonuses or their superiors, giving them kudos. By utilizing virtual recognition, organizations can introduce new technology that makes a direct impact on the perceived low-recognition culture surrounding manual or blue-collar work environments. How to Recognize Blue-collar Workers Virtually After explaining the cultural and talent market challenges relevant to blue-collar workers, and reasons why virtual recognition is critical for addressing them, let’s have a look at four different ways enterprises can virtually recognize their blue-collar workers. Enable Reward Points as Virtual Monetary Rewards In environments characterized by manual labor, monetary rewards for blue-collar workers are typically performance-based bonuses, used to additionally reward employees for their work. For instance, if a construction team completes their project on time, they will be rewarded a bonus in addition to their salary. Monetary rewards play an immense role in showing recognition to employees and motivating them to strive for their best effort. However, there are limits to traditional monetary bonuses. It’s imperative to understand that all employees are individuals with different reward preferences and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. By enabling virtual monetary rewards, employers are giving their workforce more flexibility on their rewards and are improving their reward-receiving experience. The study from the Incentive Concepts identified the most preferred gift reward categories: Food/beverage items Appeal/clothing items Watches or clocks Small electronic items No one type of merchandise A group of 1000 blue-collar workers can prefer any gift out of these reward categories. When employers use reward points as a monetary virtual reward, they allow their employees to choose a reward that suits their preferences best and exchange their reward points for it. A flexible R&R solution enables employees to spend their reward points at any large online retailer, so they can choose from a rich selection of gifts. This way, workers get the most value out of their reward points, irrespective of their geographical location. They’ll simply be able to log in, find the best online retailer and exchange their points. In addition, reward points give employees the ability to stack points, so they can exchange them when it’s most convenient and save for up a more expensive item that matches their preference. Imagine an employee who wants an expensive watch. They can plan ahead and combine the reward points from several performance bonuses and get the item at the best online price. Solutions with an expanded rewards catalog enable additional personalization options for employees and make the reward experience feel more meaningful. Introduce Virtual Peer-to-Peer Recognition Practices to your Blue-collar Workers Peer-to-peer recognition is an integral part of a healthy, appreciation-centered company culture. Companies with frequent peer-to-peer recognition report a 14% increase in productivity, according to Gartner. Blue-collar workers spend most of their time with their colleagues and naturally develop working relationships. When a respected colleague complements your work, it feels fantastic and creates a sense of team spirit; individual work becomes meaningful and contributes to a larger picture. Most positive work environments already have frequent and informal peer-to-peer recognition but lack analytical insight into their recognition culture. However, ignoring the virtual component of peer-to-peer recognition is a missed opportunity to bring appreciation practices to a new level. Let’s observe the impact of virtual peer-to-peer recognition, first from the perspective of the workforce and then the HR. There’s something special about reading good, affirming things about your personal contribution to the project and hits differently than hearing well done in person. Written recognition feels like receiving a letter versus being told you’ve done great. It feels meaningful. It gives employees a chance to express their gratitude and write to each other instead of simply giving kudos at work. For instance, employees make a genuine effort and think about what they’re going to write and how they’re going to compliment their colleagues in service of heartfelt recognition. In return, reading honest, positive things about one’s performance is a natural confidence booster and does wonder for cooperation. You’d be surprised how amazing co-workers can be when expressing gratitude. Informal, present recognitions happen literally every day at the workspace, but having a platform built specifically for recognition puts this amazing culture in perspective. Keep in mind that it’s one thing to hear “thank you” but completely another to read 3-4-5 to sentences about how you made a difference for somebody today. This experience is unique to virtual recognition. Ana Binovska, Professional Services Team Lead at Semos Cloud From an HR perspective, virtual recognition opens up a world of culture analytics. Nobody would argue that frequent recognition is a crucial part of company culture. But without a data-backed perspective on how often employees recognize each other and how they communicate appreciation, HR can’t get a crystal clear perspective. Pushing culture initiatives becomes an uphill battle and managers are stuck with no tangible data to measure. Instead, virtual recognition paves the way for culture analytics that inform which values are trending in departments, how many recognitions employees send to each other and how peer-to-peer recognitions impact the cultural bottom line. Introducing virtual peer-to-peer recognition is a win-win for employees and HR. Put Manual and Blue Collar Workers in the Spotlight with Emblematic Rewards Emblematic rewards are virtual certificates used as an acknowledgment of an individual’s contribution. When people think about emblematic rewards, usually they think of trophies, plaques, certificates, and other items. source: ispot.tv With the arrival of virtual recognition, organizations should explore new ways of putting top performers in the spotlight. An engagement study published by Psychometrics questioned what prompts employees to be more engaged at work. 58% of them answered that being recognized by leaders would do the trick. Feeling recognized for your achievements is a fundamental human need. The realm of virtual employee recognition removes any visibility barriers that employees, even blue-collar workers, might have. For instance, if a construction company operating across multiple dispersed areas wanted to recognize a single deskless employee, they can give them an emblematic reward and share it on the company’s recognition platform’s social feed. Other employees logged into the platform can see their achievements regardless if they’re working from a completely different region. Virtual emblematic rewards are easy to share, create and repost, which gives employees the possibility of sending their rewards to friends or showcasing their achievements on professional networks like LinkedIn. Every experienced manager or PR professional knows celebrating Moments that Matter is essential. Printable memory book created in JobPts With a virtual reward, leaders could send their employees a signed memory book with best wishes from their colleagues, celebrate their most important moments meaningfully, and deepen their relationship with employees. Don’t forget that 53% of employees experience company culture most strongly through recognition and celebration. Putting employees in the spotlight and praising them publicly is one of the best ways to recognize blue-collar workers in virtual space. Recognize Dynamic Teams to Foster a Positive Culture Companies with large blue-collar workers often depend on dynamic teams to complete projects. According to Deloitte, 63% of current work being performed falls outside of the job description and 81% of employees claim work is increasingly performed across functional boundaries. Dynamic teams are groups of employees coming from different departments to finish a specific project. By nature, dynamic teams are cross-functional, meaning they depend on individuals with specific skill sets to be successful. After completing a project or a mission, dynamic teams disband. Therefore, dynamic teams are fluid and skill-based. Imagine a staple blue-collar dynamic team; a group of contractors specialized in different skills, such as bricklaying, painting, window work, plumbing, and electrical repairs. Every team member has a designated role to play based on their skills, and after the project is completed, the dynamic team is dispersed. Unlike a traditional approach for forming teams, dynamic teams often have no formally assigned leader or line manager. Remember, being recognized by a manager at work can be extremely important for a number of reasons. For one, it can boost an employee’s confidence and motivation, which can lead to improved performance and job satisfaction. Recognition can also serve as a form of positive reinforcement that encourages employees to continue putting in their best effort. In the absence of a designated leader, positive working relationships become instrumental for the success of the team. According to research by McKinsey, interpersonal relationships are the primary driver of satisfaction at work. Recognition plays a tremendous role in keeping employees productive and engaged. From an employee’s perspective, dynamic team members have to recognize each other to create a stronger bond, regardless of how long the team is going to last. On the other hand, HR has to be able to recognize dynamic teams just like any other solid team or department to maintain cultural momentum. In the context of employee recognition technology, this means giving dedicated professionals the tools and analytical capabilities to monitor the cultural performance of dynamic teams. If you want to understand the brass tacks of team culture, you need to aspire for a data-backed perspective, otherwise, you’re just doing guesswork. My favorite thing about cutting-edge recognition and reward platforms is that they give HR the tools to actively monitor the state of company culture in any segment of the workforce and help make data-backed decisions on what works best. Ivana Boshkovska, Product Owner of Semos Cloud How to Set Up Virtual Rewards for Your Blue-Collar Workers Virtual reward distribution for blue-collar workers is not possible without a robust recognition and reward platform that is fine-tuned for mobile use. R&R platforms enable managers to send monetary and non-monetary rewards to employees and express their gratitude. Both of these reward types are instrumental in creating a strong culture in which blue-collar workers feel happy to contribute, despite possible heavy manual labor. When people feel like they’re a part of something, they have a sense of purpose and fulfillment from a job well done. More importantly, they feel inclined to stay in the organization. Additionally, they empower employees to recognize each other and valorize positive attitudes and behaviors demonstrated at work. There have been several studies that suggest R&R platforms can increase job satisfaction and productivity among manual workers. For example, SHRM found that companies with effective R&R programs enjoy a 22% productivity increase. An academic paper published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that employees who receive recognition for their hard work are more likely to engage in organizational citizenship behavior, which is the epitome of strong cultural engagement. Setting up the platform and establishing the recognition process involves making key decisions about how the program will be administered and how employees will be recognized for their contributions. It is important to be thorough and considerate in this process to ensure that the program is effective and meets the needs of both the organization and its blue-collar employees. Here’s an example of a standard implementation timeline from Semos Cloud: As for our numbers, Semos Cloud has successfully implemented its signature R&R platform JobPts to SUN Communities, a publicly traded real estate investment trust with 4000 team members operating across 350 locations throughout the US and Ontario. The R&R platform went live in only 90 days and allowed managers to introduce customized reward redemption options alongside automated anniversary messages and special occasion celebrations. Peer-to-peer recognition was also introduced into the recognition practice. By implementing JobPts as their R&R platform, SUN Communities was able to save $76000 on employee rewards, increase its Glassdoor ratings from 2.9 to 4.3, and most importantly, achieve a staggering 175% increase in employee engagement. You can read the report here. Conclusion The importance of blue-collar and manual workers can’t be understated in this day and age. Without their expertise, entire operations would shut down overnight. As more senior blue-collar workers are nearing retirement age, organizations have to step up and deliver an exceptional virtual recognition experience, or they risk losing their workers to the competition. In this blog post, you’ve read about 4 best virtual recognition practices for manual workers: Awarding employees with reward points Introducing virtual peer-to-peer recognition to the workspace Putting employees in the spotlight with emblematic rewards Recognizing dynamic teams and including them in R&R processes The notion that deskless workers should be excluded from the virtual recognition process flies in the face of reality. Instead, companies should introduce new recognition programs and discover new ways to create a fantastic company culture.