Blue Collar Employees – Data shows what they (really) want from their managers

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Data from Blue-Collar Employees shows how to be a better manager

Blue-collar employees  – what type of managers do they want?

For many of you reading this, the answer won’t come as a surprise.

In fact, you’re probably already doing it, without realizing just HOW right on track you are.

And this is a sign of a problem I often find in my day-to-day as I speak to blue-collar Managers.

Too many of their colleagues don’t seem to be that interested in the person behind the machine.

Or working the assembly line.

They’ll send an email and sit behind closed doors.

They restrict their face-to-face interactions to give orders. This is what you need to do on the shop floor today. Make it happen!

However, they are less inclined to do the one thing that matters according to our employee mood data.

This is what our daily data shows that blue-collar employees really want:

Blue-collar employees want a manager that cares – Conversations is key

A few years ago I was interviewing a Factory Director.

The company had recently taken over a local factory that had gone out of business.

Their daily employee morale score was climbing.


blue collar employee engagement


So I asked about the secret sauce behind the rise in employee morale.

The Factory Director got a somewhat puzzled look on his face.

“I’m not doing anything special“, he said after a pause.

“I think people are just getting used to me”, he added.

“I always greet people in the morning, and when the afternoon shift arrives at the plant. I like shaking people’s hands, hearing how they are, that type of thing. For me that’s normal, I’ve always done that throughout the years”.

For his new employees, that was less of the normal though:

“Some would give me this… skeptic look“, the Factory Manager said with a sympathetic smile.

“These are guys who’d been working in the factory for a long time. After a week or two of me walking around and talking with the employees down on the shop floor, this guy walked up to me. He said:

You know, I’ve been working here for 20 years, and I don’t think the previous owner said hello to me one single time“.


Notice how the manager didn’t think he was doing ‘anything special’?

Other managers need training to ‘get it’:

Shop Floor Training

At another company, a training program for blue-collar employees got a new topic included.

They introduced it after an external consultant ran sessions with the blue-collar employees.

He discovered something that drove people absolutely nuts:

They redesigned the shop floor training to encourage managers to say good morning.

To who?

Well, to their team members as they all got into the same elevator up to the first floor.

Can you imagine the silence in that lift?

And can you imagine how this daily morning routine sets the negative vibe for the day?

Why wouldn’t you say hi to your blue-collar employees (who are part of your team!) in the lift you might ask?

Why would you, others would ask :)


Blue-collar employees: The impact of good leaders

We see the impact when shift managers start changing their behaviour.

Our daily employee morale data quickly changes when they start being authentic. When they start creating a culture of trust.

We also see the impact of a new shift manager taking over a team.

“One coworker decided to change his role in our company“, says Joan Manel Torres. As a manager at food manufacturer Dallant, he closely watched the outcome. ”The day we announced it we could see the impact as our levels fell that day.”

This means the company can also give feedback on how things went on the first day as a new manager.

I.e. If the baseline for your blue-collar employees is 60% green and 40% red, what % did you get on your first day?

How was the trend during your first week? (In this case, employees press green OR red to answer “How was your day“, on a daily basis.)

This way, management can quickly see if the new shift manager needs a hand.

Perhaps another manager or HR can help to adjust to the company and its blue-collar employees.

Shop floor employees shift workers

Data to show differences between shifts

To inspire managers to change their behaviour, you need to get them to reflect first.

Many times it helps to visualize the difference in employee morale between shifts.

But what’s behind the data?

Night shifts tend to show lower employee morale. Let’s say you scheduled blue-collar employees on a monthly rotating shift.

If the same team goes with the same team leader, will the night shift still be so red (low employee morale)?

Or is the negative mood heavy influenced by a shift manager?

Someone who knows how to handle machines and processes, but not people?

Or as the Belgian site manager at BASF puts it:

“…it gives us a reason to go out on the floor. It’s not about pointing the finger; it’s about having a discussion. I go out and say Hey, I heard from my line manager that the machine broke down twice last week”.

“And I simply ask: how do you see improvement possible?”

Manager and employee conversations

What happens on shifts when no managers are around?

It’s also not uncommon to find that shifts without any managers are the happiest one, like at Unilever:

“We typically see a very high blue-collar mood during the weekend shifts. Possibly because there is no line manager”, says the HR Officer.

Others find that their employee morale differs between weekdays.

Sometimes there’s a Monday effect, sometimes there’s not.


Blue collar employees data

Conversations are key to improvement

When the employee morale KPI is linked to low productivity, you can put a number on each percentage. This is an easy way to show how your end-of-year results can improve with great leaders. Leaders who are prepared to listen.

It’s all about the conversations at work.

It’s about taking the time with your people, taking an interest in hiring “the whole person“. Listening without judging.

One of our Factory Managers estimated that 80% of the improvements they carried out last year came directly from flor shoop employees. Nice!

Would that have happened without a healthy culture of communication? Of asking questions and listening?

Some conversation tips for your tier managers here.

So congrats if you’re a manager who regularly talks with your blue-collar employees, at all levels.

Because that’s one thing our data shows. Blue-collar employees want managers who care, and knows how to show they care (that, and a salary raise hehe).

Who would want to work for a tough-as-nails manager using fear tactics and the old whip trick?

I know I wouldn’t.

Our data show that managers who promote a culture of conversation, get higher mood scores. Consistently.

And hey, productivity follows :)


Would you like to measure how your blue-collar employees feel at work and react to changes? 


Smiley feedback terminal Celpax



Rebecca Lundin, CelpaxHej! I’m Rebecca, co-owner at Celpax. We use simple tech tools to measure and create great working environments. And build a better society while at it! Let’s talk tips to motivate your blue collar employees on Twitter.

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