How to engage frontline employees?

The yearning for meaningful work is the same across white- and blue-collar employees. It is important for HR to build performance management systems to make frontline employees feel valued.

Workforce management is synonymous with performance management. It is a relatively contemporary concept but is vital to any burgeoning or established organization. Metrics such as performance appraisals, skill charting, employee life-cycle, and milestones are all part of an effective performance management system. The implementation of such tools facilitates an organization to ensure higher levels of engagement among the workers, which as a result will assist to ensure higher organizational performance. 

A strong PMS in an organization offers the essential information to check, control, assess, and provide feedback functions to the business managers. Additionally, this PMS can also turn out to be a driver for motivating employees, ensuring management action, an improvement on a regular basis, and also the accomplishment of planned goals. 

India is the second most populated nation in the world and the workforce is currently working across different sectors with increasing demand for blue-collar workers. Blue-collar workers are defined as skilled or unskilled manual workers in various set-ups. The role of blue-collar employees increases manifold as they are the main drivers of production and quality. This brings the concept of managing the PMS of blue-collar employees. There are very few organizations that use PMS as a tool to improve a company’s performance.

According to a survey of 23,000 employees conducted by Harris Interactive, only 37% of employees understood what their employer was trying to achieve and why. This is more of an issue with the blue-collared workforce, as they are distant from the ivory towers in which most strategies are discussed. An effective performance management system puts daily and big picture goals in front of employees regularly, and ensures that they derive meaning and value in their work. An Atlassian report suggests that across all jobs, less than 60 % of the time is actually spent productively. This has an even graver effect on the blue-collar workforce whose work directly affects the bottom line of any business. While it is easier to hire candidates in these categories, it is harder to retain them because most HR folks just don’t know how to make them feel valued.  

Another issue to pay heed to is meaningful work and employee appreciation. Studies reveal that the yearning for meaningful work is the same across white- and blue-collar employees; however, the repetitive and often ‘less dignified’ nature of blue-collar jobs makes it difficult for blue-collar employees to perceive meaningful work, which might result in less motivation and job satisfaction and higher turnover for blue-collar employees as compared to white-collar professionals. This, and other problems around blue-collar bias, dignity, prudence, engagement, and higher productivity are all addressed by a workforce management system.

So why invest in a performance management system for your blue-collar workforce?

  • It helps fight blue-collar bias and enables higher morale by linking their achievements with organizational goals.
  • Incentivizing and aligning employee appreciation through a PMS leads to discretionary efforts by the blue-collar employees to upskill, perform well and seek professional growth within the organization.
  • An effective PMS helps in team collaboration and aligns everyone on the same page. This further helps employees to seek peer-to-peer support whenever needed. 
  • A fair and transparent system promotes increased communication within the organization, ensuring that the ball is never dropped.  
  • A robust performance management system correlates to higher engagement and healthy competition among the blue-collar employees, who are then motivated to maximize their output. 
  • Organizations, with the help of the skill mapping score, can better plan the training and skilling of their employees. By identifying skill-gap and investing in capacity building, organizations can become more efficient and productive. 

These measures will lead to a motivated blue-collar workforce that invests in their own professional development and thereby, the organization’s as well. A motivated workforce is your strongest asset; they advocate for your company, perform their duties to the best of their abilities and go beyond their mandate, thus strengthening the bottom line of the company. 

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