Gray Collar Workers Could Be the Key to Your Hiring Challenges


Now and in the years to come, gray is the color that will help companies cope with filling open positions left vacant recently. Meet the gray collar workers.

Gray collar workers are the workforce subset lying at the intersection of technology and service roles, whose jobs combine both manual and technical skills. These so-called “middle-skilled” workers make up the majority of the labor market and were key to keeping the economy running throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. But despite being so important and numerous, gray collar workers tend to be overlooked by companies searching for specific employees to fill vacancies. Although gray collar workers are highly specialized and typically hold a good command of modern technologies, they’re underappreciated mostly due to the false perception that they’re not educated enough, hence easily replaceable. But if you’re looking to add people to your team, it may be time to put aside these preconceived notions and tap into this valuable and talented pool.

Many gray collar workers have an associate degree or special certification, but not a 4-year degree. This complicates their job search. A smart move on the part of a companies in need of new employees is to reconsider their degree requirements. In the U.S., only one in three workers holds a degree equivalent to or higher than a bachelor’s degree. Yet, an increasing number of companies require it for positions that years ago did not require it. This degree inflation may be holding gray collar workers back and exacerbated the hiring challenges companies have been facing. As an employer, consider objectively assessing whether a certain diploma is really necessary to perform a specific job: by imposing this requirement, you may be trading off on specific skills and work experience. Gray collar workers often do have all the skills and job experience needed for the job, even without having the diploma. So be strategic and open-minded: provide good opportunities and recognition for these workers who can be the solution for filling critical positions within your company.

Another important step to take for benefiting from the great resource this key workforce represents is investing in training and reskilling programs. Many gray collar workers are perfectly able and willing to learn the skills they need to undertake a more specialized role—you just have to provide them with genuine support and effective tools (e.g., training workshops, mentoring programs, etc.). Furthermore, by being in charge of their training and education, you have the advantage of directly imparting good habits to the new employees and molding them according to the company values. Plus, training programs improve workers’ loyalty and ensure that their skills are up-to-date.

Gray collar workers are the valuable employees you’re looking for. They are out there, or perhaps already in your organization, and with the right recognition, guidance, and education, they can undertake many of the roles you may need to fill.

Nexxt is a recruitment media company that uses today’s most effective marketing tactics to reach the full spectrum of talent – from active to passive, and everything in between. Learn more about hiring with Nexxt.

This article was written by Alex Cherici
Alex Cherici is a PhD candidate in Chinese Linguistics at Indiana University. She’s currently writing her dissertation and teaching undergraduate courses. Before resuming her academic studies, she has worked as a language teacher and school manager for eight years.

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