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Promoting Sustainable Performance in Blue-Collar Management

Promoting  Sustainable  Performance  in Blue-Collar Management

 

Dr.Umut KÖKSAL

 

According to my experiences both as a manager and a management consultant, Blue-collar management is another world, it has nothing to do with the other dimension-white-collar employee management.

It has different spirit,different point of view and different style of leadership and contingency management. While performance is a general  and common concept-formula, that has three components such as motivation,competency and job organization, the usage and the bridges that form this formula is a little bit different in blue-collar management.

 There are some myths and realities for blue-collar employee communication and management. Especially in terms of An operator-A team leader relationship, An operator- A shift supervisor relationship etc…….

1.Technical training is enough for sustainable for blue-collar employee performance: This is a myth and most of the time it is discussable. Machine operators use machines, that is true, but performance as briefly formulated above is not only related with job requirements such as skills, but also related with blue-collar employee motivation. So modular programmes that concentrate on communication, problem-solving, emotional stability  etc. act as important drivers for blue-collar employee's development in an integrated manner. Another myth related with this item is that soft-Skill Trainings are only for white-collar employees: I don't think so. Most of the HR Departments of production companies or the HR Departments that deal with blue-collar employees usually forget the importance of behavioral training programmes on blue-collar employee performance.

2.Understanding performance blocks of blue-collar employees is not primary,secondary. Flexibility is not easy to provide when talking about workers at factories: Another myth, this problem is only about setting priorities well and getting help from your HR Department as a production management team/supervision at the right time, at the right place. Performance is  only achieved by the help synergic effect produced by production,planning and human resources organizational units. Performance blocks that act as the obstacles for sustainable team and employee-level performance have to be controlled,minimized and supported with blue-collar employee development plans. These plans have to be planned with the interaction of production management and human resources management department.

3. Perception of flexibility by blue-collar employees when compared to white-collar employees are not different, same(1): They are all unique, but white-collar employees have more tendency to work long hours in terms of flexibility while blue-collar employees usually tend to value stability over flexibility.  

 

4. Motivation of blue-collar employee is only related with wage factor: Work itself, opportunities for advancement, good feelings about the organization,clarity of mission,effective supervision, good relationship with co-workers,workplace safety,job safety etc… Many variables act as sub-dimensions of blue-collar employee motivation.

5. Stress management is a secondary  dimension when understanding blue-collar employee performance: Just the opposite. Besides managing performance, production managers such as supervisor,team or group leader level, have to give importance on the individual stress management of operators or other titled blue-collar employees. Production lines that have high level of stress are directly related with operator ‘high level of stress. While high level is stress is not good, no stress is not good also. Shift leader/supervisor needs to find innovative ways to control stress and encourage it's employees effort for individual stress management.

As mentioned by Thomas(2), non-supervisory blue-collar employees usually tend to have or perceive the career as in the white-collar employees. We can assume that they have tendency/approach to attach/link themselves which are not linked to any pattern representing progression or upward mobility. But they have great amount of work experiences and moreover communication experiences over time.

So it is logical to point out that only technical development areas are not enough for sustainable blue-collar employee performace at the individual level and at the shift level. The obligatory,core technical trainings,development areas must be supported with competency level development programmes for blue-collar employees.

The programmes designed for blue-collar employees should not be one-time programmes. They need to have continuity in it. The programmes should have follow-ups and the transfer of these trainings should be measured and evaluated.

Moreover, beyond their classic job description, blue-collar employees have three main responsibilites for promoting sustainable blue-collar employee performance:

·         Managing conflict and showing assertive managerial skills

·         Understanding and internalizing individual based performance blocks of blue-collar employees

·         Managing contingencies and preventing ‘'ping-pong syndrome-a communication illness that causes performance-based problems,errors'' and stress

 For sustainable production or service performance that will be the result of blue-collar employee teams that are supervised by highly effective team leaders,shift supervisors, factory managers etc., you need to foster highly effective blue-collar employees. In order to do this, as a supervisor-whether directly working with blue-collar employees or indirecty working with blue-collar employees such as HR, Finance etc., the dimensions given below are becoming crucial:

·         Skills planning for blue-collar employee teams

·         Skills development strategies for blue-collar employee teams

·         Skills retention strategies for blue-collar employee teams

·         Skills assessment strategies for blue-collar employee teams

·         Skills audit strategies for blue-collar employee teams

·         Role enchancement, Role enlargement,Rotation

·         Supervisor Support

·         Peer Support

·         Mentoring Strategies for blue-collar employee teams

 

The success is where  motivation,competency and job organization is integrated in a successfull manner.

 

References

(1)      https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/0417/pages/how-hr-can-promote-flexibility-in-blue-collar-jobs.aspx

(2)      Thomas, R. J. (1989). Blue-collar careers: Meaning and choice in a world of constraints. In M. B. Arthur, D. T. Hall, & B. S. Lawrence (Eds.), Handbook of career theory (pp. 354–379). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

 

 

 

 

 

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