Training and educating blue-collar workers - replace dead ends with effective methods!

In any job, learning and developing beyond the obligatory new skills is important. Employees are also increasingly looking for employers who offer training opportunities, which can give companies a competitive advantage in the labor market. Access to physical workers is typically more challenging, their schedules are less flexible, and motivating them can be more difficult, so it is worth having a specific strategy to train and develop blue-collar workers. There are plenty of challenges in this area, so we've put together what to look out for and what good practices are working.

Basics for planning: environment, preferences, motivation

The working environment for people in physical work (factories, warehouses, outdoor areas, construction sites, etc.) is very different from the office, let alone the home office, comfort, and possibilities of white-collar workers. Work that is physically demanding and sometimes even downright dangerous, especially when it involves operating machinery, can only be carried out under strict safety conditions. (Safety training should therefore never be seen as a tick-box exercise. Any new information should be communicated to workers as soon as possible.)

The learning methods and preferences of blue-collar workers typically require a more hands-on approach. Even in our everyday lives, we can see that a multi-page description of how to use a machine, for example, will never be as effective as a practical presentation/education with pictures and videos. Visual learning in blue-collar jobs can be not only more popular but also much more effective.

Of course, let's not forget that learning new skills also requires motivation. So it's good for blue-collar colleagues to know what gives them the necessary impetus to learn and develop. Many training courses provide new professional qualifications (with certificates, and certified qualifications) that can be a long-term benefit for employees. In manual jobs, acquiring a new skill or qualification can open up new career opportunities, promotions, and pay raises - and these are not the last but not least valuable benefits as a motivator.

Top 3 challenges in training deskless colleagues

1. Time management

It is difficult to study while working. This is true for all jobs, but for manual workers, several factors make it even more difficult. One of the most important is time. The benefits of home offices and flexible working hours for physical workers are, by definition, not really on the agenda. Fixed working hours, shift patterns, and inflexible working hours make it difficult to participate in training. 

2. Accessibility

Accessibility now clearly means online accessibility. For blue-collar workers, the mentioned working conditions, varied external locations, and "working offline" make this much more difficult. Sitting in front of a computer in an office, it is easier to complete a 10-minute test, to fit a quick e-learning chapter into working time - in blue-collar jobs this is often not an option. And not only during working hours but not necessarily beyond. If a blue-collar worker doesn't have a computer with internet access at home, he or she can't practically participate in online training.

3. Motivation

The need for training and the long-term benefits are often difficult to see when a worker is moving from construction site to construction site, working shifts in a warehouse, or having a fixed work schedule in a factory. So neither his schedule nor his working conditions are flexible. Blue-collar workers are also physically demanding, so it is no wonder that they are less motivated to learn on the job. Communicating the benefits of training and career development is therefore often the first step that employers need to take to help physical workers become more motivated to learn. This can cover a wide range of aspects from increasing efficiency to the possibility of a pay rise to unlocking individual talent.

Effective strategies for training and developing deskless workers

Training methods - both offline and online

As it is difficult to organize physical staff in one place at one time due to work constraints, face-to-face, classroom-based training needs to be complemented by some form of learning that is less dependent on time and place. Online learning is also much more convenient and feasible for physical workers. Mentoring programs and individual or small group practical sessions are also very effective. The key is not to think in terms of just one form. There are many different ways to learn and teach, take advantage of the opportunities!

Flexible training - opportunities during and outside working hours

It is much harder to carve out hours out of working time to train blue-collar workers. Physical distances and constraints make the working day much tighter. This is why it is important to allow them to access training materials outside working hours. This way, they can watch a short video tutorial, review a chapter, take a test, or practice on the way to/ from work or at their leisure. Microlearning, or the small-dose learning method, is extremely effective. Make your training flexible so that nothing gets in the way of learning!

E-learning function

Relevant content - actionable knowledge, practical benefits

If an employer organizes training courses whose practical benefits can only be determined in a very abstract way, employee motivation is almost certain to plummet. When planning a training and development strategy, the bigger picture, the practical objective, must always be kept in mind. It is also easier to promote training and applicable methods that are useful for physical workers, increase efficiency, and simplify tasks. Always make sure that you are preparing to provide blue-collar workers with knowledge and training that is relevant to their daily work!

Individual learning - personalized, at your own pace

The greatest success in this field is perhaps the greatest that can be achieved when a worker starts to learn or practice on his or her own. It is, therefore, worth designing programs specifically to encourage self-learning. (Gamification, for example, is a great old "secret" for motivation and can be used effectively to encourage individual learning.) Allow employees to learn independently at any time and from anywhere outside working hours, and encourage and even reward these efforts (e.g. prizes, badges, certificates).

Measurable results - answering questions at individual and team level

Corporate training and education aim to increase efficiency, retain and develop the workforce, or successfully introduce new products and services. Therefore, they only make sense if they lead to an improvement in one of these areas, and for this, we need to know the classic before and after data. We can think of obvious things such as how many fewer accidents have occurred since the new health and safety training and tests, how much more efficient workers have become after learning a new method, etc. The point is to measure the results of training because you can learn a lot of useful information at both individual and company levels. They will also help you to improve your methods or refine the content of the training if necessary.

E-learning / Onboarding Analytics

Training blue-collar workers is a very important task, as it not only increases efficiency in the company but also promotes retention and engagement through individual career development.
With the Blue Colibri app, you can create an e-learning platform for your deskless employees that they can easily access from their mobile devices at any time. The interface is designed to be user-friendly so that even those who are less experienced in the digital arena can use it without any problems. The training and e-learning materials can be varied and colored in a variety of formats to make them more engaging and easier for employees to process (e.g. videos, infographics, tests, quizzes). The Blue Colibri app also allows you to track progress: detailed analytics are available to help you plan even better and deliver even more successful training to your blue-collar employees!