The second wave of covid-19 has no doubt been a personal tragedy. An equally long-lasting impact of this situation could be felt by India’s job market, especially for blue-collar workers. As the economy emerges from restrictions, businesses will resume activity and there is likely to be heightened demand for this segment of the workforce. Businesses need to already prepare for this and consider ways to hire, manage and retain their blue-collar employees. The best way to be prepared is to consider the challenges and emerging trends.
Challenges in Blue Collar Management
Managing Attendance and Work Schedules
While larger companies typically invest in internet-based HR management systems to track the attendance and performance of white-collar executives, most do not have a sound and consistent process for their blue-collar workers. A majority of Indian companies are still following archaic, paper-based methods of managing attendance. These disintegrated systems are prone to errors and tampering. Data mismatch in shift schedules can lead to problems of no-shows during shift timings, wrong attendance tracking and inaccurate payment to workers. Moreover, manipulating these processes gets easier when the scale of operations is massive.
Between managing schedules and communicating with workers, supervisors waste precious time that could have been used in onboarding, training, skill development, and appraisals. Standard employee management systems do not have the tools to streamline this process of managing distributed workers who may have extremely varied skillsets. Language is another barrier here, as these systems fail to provide multilingual support.
High Risk of Improper Background Checks
A jaw-dropping 50% of all job seekers say they provide inaccurate details in their applications, according to a report published by The Economic Times. This highlights the need for thorough background verifications. This is crucial, as the actions of employees with malicious intent or criminal history can have severe legal implications and/or damage to the reputation of the company.
With blue-collar workers, there is a whole new set of challenges:
• They are spread across districts and villages across India. There is no central data repository to check the candidate’s criminal record, financial status, employment history, education status, and family background.
• There are hundreds of languages and different dialects being spoken. This makes background checks a herculean task.
• The connectivity may be poor in some towns and villages, making the task of verification more time-consuming and inaccurate.
These challenges force companies to compromise on their hiring procedures, exposing them to risks like theft, fraud, and labour strike.
Emerging Trends in Blue Collar Management
Database of Blue Collar Workers
In a welcome move, the Ministry to Labour & Employment, Government of India, launched the National Database of Unorganised Workers (NDUW). This program envisages to create a database of workers belonging to India’s informal segment. The pool is large – the Economic Survey released in 2019 revealed that almost 93% of India’s total workforce belonged to the informal segment. Seeded with Aadhar, this initiative proposes to help workers share information about their skills, making it easier for businesses to find suitable employees for their vacancies. Companies will need to align their processes for blue collar workers to benefit from this.
Rising Role of Women in the Informal Segment
Studies have shown that women are far more loyal to organisations, better team players, more dedicated to the tasks at hand and less prone to crime than their male counterparts. This is provided they find organisations that respect them and jobs that align with other areas of their life. Organisations that recognise the benefits of high dedication and retention rates are hiring more women. Take, for instance, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV), which announced plans to employ women to comprise 20% of their factory workers by 2022.
Growing Adoption of Technology
Companies are seeking agile technology solutions for the efficient management of blue-collar workers. This trend is being driven by the rapid adoption of smartphones and net connectivity among this segment. By September 2019, India already had the world’s second-largest population of internet MAUs (monthly active users), behind only China. By January 2020, India surpassed the US as the second-largest smartphone market in the world.
The lockdown accelerated the internet push in towns and rural areas across the country. People in these regions are using phones to connect to YouTube, Facebook, and WhatsApp. So, blue collar workers are already using their phones to communicate, learn, and find information in their personal lives. Companies recognise this growing trend as an opportunity to connect with and manage their distributed workforce.
Allowing them to connect with the company on a device that they are already so familiar with significantly reduces the training overhead. All that is needed is a robust platform that can be customised to the company’s unique needs but comes with an easy to understand and simple to use interface.
With little training overhead, technology-led solutions are making it viable for companies to achieve standardisation across verticals and geographical barriers. With consistency in procedures and real-time data available at the fingertips, these systems can streamline tasks, improve quality, reduce cost, and generate greater value for businesses.