Blue-collar workers are distinctly different from their white-collar counterparts: they perform a different type of work in a different type of environment. It should come as no surprise, then, that they’re also motivated by different perks and rewards. When it comes to benefits for blue-collar workers, things like ping pong tables and cushy desk chairs just aren’t going to cut it...but keep reading to find out what will.
1. Cold, Hard Cash
Ask any blue-collar worker what they want most from their job, and they’re going to tell you money. Specifically, competitive pay. That means paying them a living wage, not the bare minimum required by your state. Realize that the market pay for a particular job is always in a state of flux, so what you offer for the job will change over time. If you never make those types of adjustments to your base pay, your competitor probably is...and they’re getting better workers in exchange for it.
Regardless of what you pay, you could also run payroll more frequently. Blue-collar workers often live on tight budgets and a weekly paycheck could help make ends meet more easily.
Not as a replacement for pay, but in addition to it, you can also provide things that your workers would otherwise have to pay for such as sodas and premium coffee in the break room, catered lunches, or a payroll allowance to cover cell phone bills.
2. Outstanding Insurance Benefits
Employees don’t just want affordable insurance, they want affordable insurance with great coverage. An “affordable” health insurance package doesn’t do much good if the plan itself doesn’t cover the services and medication they need. If your company is large enough to negotiate for lower premiums, leverage your size and advocate on your employees’ behalf to get them the best coverage you can. While small- and medium-sized businesses don’t always have this luxury, you can (and should) work closely with your provider to determine the best way to educate employees on the full extent of the benefits they do have.
Beyond what your insurance provider offers, you can also affect internal company policies (such as paid family and medical leave) in ways that benefit your company employees.
3. Advancement & Education
Training and educational opportunities really only matter to blue-collar workers if they have a desire to advance, so the first step is to make sure you have an internal advancement system in place. Make it crystal clear and publicly known what it takes to advance at your company, and about how long it should take to hit those key milestones. For employees who want to advance, clarity on the path to getting there is essential.
After that, create a culture that places immense value on the formal performance review process. Not only should you have performance reviews once or twice a year, management should prepare heavily for each one, and tie performance to promotions and pay increases. This demonstrates that advancement is not arbitrary, and can be achieved by anyone in the organization.
Lastly, offer to pay for other educational perks—like obtaining certifications, attending conferences, and completing degrees—that benefit both the employee and employer. Also tie these benefits to performance so that they are fairly and appropriately distributed in the company.
4. Miscellaneous Perks
For some people, the perpetual option to pick up overtime whenever they want or need the extra cash would be seen as a benefit. For others, they hate the idea of being forced to work overtime against their will.
So, if your company does need employees to work overtime, make it optional. The ones who want it will be happy to get the pay bumps, while the others will return to their normal workweek fully recharged and empty of resentment towards you.
Some companies dictate how compensation for a safety bonus can be spent. For example, an HVAC and plumbing company may offer to reimburse employees for any tool they’d like to purchase up to $500. Other companies might not specify where the funds can be spent and let the employee decide how to use their reward. Either way, a safety bonus reinforces your dedication to safety in the workplace and provides financial incentive to uphold those standards.
Some companies are able to offer lower insurance premiums to employees who participate in health-based initiates like walking challenges and tobacco cessation programs. Some companies are able to offer access to a company gym on-site, which eliminates the need to purchase a commercial gym membership and makes it easier to fit in a workout on the way to or from work.
If you can’t offer a company gym onsite, set up an agreement with a local gym, such as the YMCA. You may even be able to arrange for a sliding payment system based on how frequently the employee utilizes the gym, rather than buying flat memberships for all interested employees.
When it comes to selecting benefits for blue-collar workers, these ideas should be enough to get the ball rolling. But, at the end of the day, your workers and your organization are unique and there is no one size fits all solution. Instead of making assumptions, go straight to the source and ask your employees directly. They’ll relish the opportunity to tell you what they want, and they’ll respect you for giving them the chance to do so. And that, in and of itself, is a huge benefit to any blue-collar worker.