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It's Not Just Blue and White in the World of Collared Workers

Observe the nature of your job, and that of your employees.

What collar colors are present in your company? Or more importantly - why does it matter?

Spanning the Spectrum of Collar Colours

Before understanding what this labor division means, we first have to understand the different types of collar workers and what the different collar colours mean.

We’re all familiar with the whites and the blues.

On a surface-level, we associate white collars as higher income, higher prestige “professionals” who perform intellectual labor in office settings.

Blue collars tend to receive the short end of the stick, having historically been viewed as those involved in manual labour, paid less and whose skills may not require formal education.

But with these traditional distinctions, the lines are easily blurred. And here’s where the other collar colors of the work spectrum loop in.

Of Greys, Greens and Golds

Green collar: Workers involved in sustainability, energy efficiency and conservation within environmental sectors.

E.g. environmental engineer, landscape architect

Gold collar: Knowledge workers highly-skilled in their field. Usually highly valuable and essential to the company.

E.g. lawyers, engineers, accountants, programmers

Red collar: Government workers. Typically confined within China.

Grey collar: Hybrid between white and blue collars. Their work may involve a mixture of both intellectual and manual labour.

E.g. police officers, technicians

Pink collar: Workers in care-oriented fields, or fields typically stereotyped with women.

E.g. Nurses, secretaries, flight attendants

New collar: Coined in late 2016 by IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, new collar workers work in the modern technology industry, but may not require formal education. Instead, many derive their skills from vocational training or are self-taught.

E.g. cloud computing specialists, application developers

The Zuckerberg T-shirt Phenomena

Of course, this is all just fun trivia.

Blue overalls of a darker color helped dirt stand out less. But what originally stemmed from mere work uniform for convenience’s sake became an indication of socio-economic class.

Especially since work uniforms are becoming less and less relevant. For instance? The Zuckerberg T-shirt Phenomena (as I like to put it).

Matthew Hutson from The New Yorker put it even better - The Power of the Hoodie-Wearing CEO.

And there is a certain power behind non-conformity when it comes to dress codes. Jobs’ black turtleneck and grey sneakers. Zuckerberg’s signature grey T-shirt. Being clad in casual attire in otherwise semi-formal settings at work indicates many things.

“I work in a tech startup.”

“I’m going against the norm, because I can afford to.”

Or in the case of Jobs and Zuckerberg: “I’m limiting my decision making for more significant things.”

Does it all matter?

In the end, collar colors signify stereotypes and nothing more.

A blue collar of the traditional sense may earn more than a low-level white collar. Gold collar workers can be involved in fields traditionally associated with blue collars. They all intersect.

What does matter is dissolving the stigma between types of collar workers.

A Deloitte survey showed that less than 3 in 10 parents would encourage their children to pursue a career in manufacturing, despite the same survey showing that 8 in 10 Americans see the industry as vital to maintaining living standards.

Clearly, the blue collar discrimination is a problem. And here’s where terms like Gold Collar workers and New Collar workers can help to improve the perception of “blue collar industries”.

While HR worldwide wring their hands on how to hire talents for the jobs no one wants, it can also be beneficial to know that these “blue collar” industries are poised for automation and rapid innovation, helping lead in to positions requiring higher and higher skill sets no matter the nature.

But start are you engaging and motivating your “blue collars”, if at all?

Not sure how?

Not all SMEs have the luxury of an entire HR team strategically dedicated to talent acquisition and inner employee dynamics.

Consider outsourcing your HR functions (among many other things) to save cost and improve your workplace efficiency. Starting with this form, which helps us get to know you and your needs better!

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