Being Collar-conscious: Is your culture only for the white-collared?

To succeed a company requires a culture that is not collar-colour conscious

Updated: Apr 2, 2018 12:43:25 PM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

Culture, whether in a family or a company, determines the behaviour and actions of its members. It is beyond the rules and policies mandated for your employees. Culture determines what the company believes in and is willing to take a stand for. As a leader – they say – if you do not develop your corporate culture, it will develop itself. In that case, you are taking a risk if it happens by accident.

Developing a culture also requires your employees to follow it. They must believe in it and put it into action. This can be made possible when the culture is put into practice from top to down. Where is the bottom threshold of your culture? Do you promote your culture only until the lower level of white-collared employees?

White-collar vs. Blue-collar
Corporate leaders often ignore the blue-collared employees. While white-collar jobs are performed at a more strategic level, blue-collared jobs are performed at the grass-root level. To be precise, they do the job of putting your plans into action. They may not have fancy education certificates, yet they know your product in and out. Sadly, the company’s beliefs and culture do not reach them. They continue to perform their mundane jobs without any goal to look forward to.

Remember, your organisation needs honest efforts from white-collared as well as blue-collared, employees to be successful. The performance of only one section will not drive you to success. Hence, it is important to not become colour-conscious and treat them equally.

Culture for all
“Corporate culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that is completely within the control of the leader.”

Your vision and mission serve as a roadmap for the entire company. If the employees believe in it too, they work whole-heartedly towards achieving it. However, the blue-collared workers are left out when your company’s values and goals are developed. Giving them a purpose and making them feel involved will motivate them to perform better, thereby, improving productivity.

Involving the bottom-line does not mean forcing them to accept the values. They must be able to relate to the culture you are trying to develop. Let your mission statement address this concern. It should make them feel aligned to the bigger picture – your vision.

Some aspects of a corporate culture need not be written. They are integral to the nature of your business. In such cases, all you need is to emphasise these values. For example: As a hospital, it goes without saying, that caring is your core value. For a housekeeper in the hospital, caring would be through cleaning the premises thoroughly. Similarly, for any food company, ensuring top quality product is vital. For a worker in a food factory, best quality would be ensured by being attentive and practicing hygiene.

Embracing diversity
Accept the differences in people and use this assortment for your benefit. Diversity exists in the form of socio-economic classes and background in case of white-collared and blue-collared employees. Instead of drawing a border and isolating the bottom-line, analyse how they can contribute towards organisational growth. They may not be able to align themselves with the corporate-ish and strategic culture you want to develop. They understand basics. What matters to them is what will motivate them.

Example: The funds you donate for the development of rural areas or for the education of poor as a part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). This shows your concern towards the class they belong to, which is obviously a feel-good factor. They would not only sing the praises of the company, but they would also love and be proud to be a part of it.

How to develop a holistic culture?
Take a moment to check if your corporate culture is only for the white-collared. If yes, it is time to change. Create a culture which everyone can relate to. Tony Hsieh, CEO, says – If you get the culture right, most of the other stuff will just take care of itself like, great customer service, building a long-term brand or empowering passionate employees. To drive your organisation towards excellence, realise that:
- All employees are equal
As an organisation, all your employees together form a team. Let not the uniform or level make you differentiate. Treat everyone equally. Encourage the workers to participate in the culture development process. Allow them to raise their concerns and opinions. Let them be heard. When they know their presence and work are valued, their performance will improve.

- Anyone can get winning ideas
Creativity does not see the colour of collar. Example: You constantly take efforts to boost creativity for your managers and executives. They come up with out-of-the-world product ideas and cost-saving mechanisms on paper. But, ever realised that those working in the factory know your product and processes very well? They are the ones who bring your concept to life. If given an opportunity, they can suggest small practical changes in the process that can save millions in the long run.

- Happiness results in productivity
Create a workplace that makes your employees happy. Why? It enhances their mood, and good mood improves productivity. A happy work environment would make them look forward to coming to work the next day. It gives them the reason to stay and complete their tasks. Various welfare programs for workers and their families, engagement activities, safe working conditions, and good food are some tried and tested ways to make them happy.

- Motivation is the key
Performing the same mechanical jobs daily can be demoralising. Give them challenges and goals to be achieved. Another most important motivating factor for wage-workers is money. They have an entire family that depends on their wage. Ensure that they get paid as per industry standards. Also, provide them other benefits like health insurance. Knowing that they and their families are cared for can get you their loyalty.

Every company is facing cut-throat competition out there. Product differentiation can help you win the game. But, that would require a culture that is not collar-colour conscious. Remove the sieve above the bottom-level that stops your culture to penetrate deep within the organisation to its roots. Let the culture seep through.

The author is director, Never Grow Up ®

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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