How overlooked ‘gray-collar’ workers can solve your hiring woes

The mixed forces of the pandemic, the Nice Resignation, and widespread hiring challenges have pressured a long-overdue reset in how we discuss in regards to the workforce. Workers have grow to be essential stakeholders as organizations battle to fill staffing shortages, retain burned out staff, and cater to new expectations round distant work. However office conversations nonetheless fall brief by splitting the inhabitants into two classes—white-collar and blue-collar—whereas overlooking so-called “gray-collar” workers altogether. 

Grey-collar workers are a vital subset of the workforce that exist on the intersection of know-how and repair roles. They use each bodily and technical expertise of their jobs and sometimes fall into the important employee class, together with a large number of healthcare professionals, lecturers, firefighters, authorities workers, and law enforcement officials. These people have saved the financial system working and put their well being on the road all through the pandemic, but their wants are being overlooked inside present conversations about the way forward for work. 

In the meantime, organizations throughout healthcare, education, and law enforcement face notably pressing staffing shortages. With a view to ease hiring challenges and future-proof the workforce, organizations should acknowledge the distinctive wants of gray-collar workers and make adjustments to deal with them. Listed below are a number of essential locations to start out.


Give Grey-Collar Jobs The Respect They Deserve

An essential step in hiring and retaining gray-collar workers is to worth and rebrand these vital positions. These workers helped get us by way of the pandemic and needs to be regarded with the respect and recognition they deserve. Their roles are extremely specialised and require a command of recent applied sciences, but have been underpaid and underappreciated even all through the pandemic. The issue lies within the false notion that people in these jobs are simply replaceable. That’s not the case.

Organizations should rethink job descriptions, pay, and advantages to each acknowledge present gray-collar workers and encourage younger workers to grow to be all in favour of these roles. Organizations that depend on these positions have been sluggish to undertake versatile office processes like distant or partial hybrid work choices for coaching and conferences, which would supply gray-collar workers with extra company even when engaged on the frontlines. Attracting these sought-after people would require rethinking applicable and related advantages like flexibility, autonomy, and elevated compensation wherever potential. 

Rethink Diploma Necessities for These Roles

Just one-third of the adult workforce has a bachelor’s diploma. But many organizations are requiring four-year levels for positions that years in the past didn’t require them. This so-called “diploma inflation” has contributed to the expertise scarcity and hiring challenges going through quite a few industries. The truth is, researchers estimate that 6.2 million jobs are at the moment susceptible to diploma inflation, making a expertise scarcity that would attain 8.5 million folks and $8.5 trillion in unrealized annual revenues by 2030.

Industries using gray-collar workers have a novel likelihood to each ease hiring challenges and create alternatives for a wider set of people by rethinking diploma necessities. Grey-collar workers are expert professionals, lots of whom have accomplished two or extra years of faculty to acquire an affiliate’s diploma or specialised certification. Their roles additionally usually require vital quantities of on-the-job coaching. By investing in coaching and onboarding fairly than in recruiting efforts, organizations can entice proficient, high-potential candidates that won’t have a four-year diploma for any variety of causes irrelevant to their potential at work. Not solely will this broaden the out there pool of candidates, it can assist to deal with long-standing inequities and biases throughout the hiring course of.

Spend money on Reskilling to Develop the Expertise Pool 

One other option to broaden the gray-collar expertise pool and put together present staff for altering job calls for is to spend money on reskilling applications. The pandemic and shift to distant work have accelerated the digitization of many roles, together with gray-collar positions like healthcare, training, and authorities service. In the meantime, 94% of business leaders say they count on staff to select up new expertise on the job, a pointy uptick from 65% in 2018. However organizations should assist their workers and information them by way of reskilling. It’s unreasonable to count on staff—and even potential staff—to reskill on their very own time and greenback. 

Apprenticeships have gotten a preferred means for employers to create their very own workforce by providing coaching and certification applications. Corporations like Apple, Google, Costco, and IBM have eliminated diploma necessities and developed applications that enable people to develop job expertise by way of certification and apprenticeship applications. These applications present coaching on a variety of expertise which might be simpler to show and study in hands-on eventualities fairly than in a school classroom.


By the tip of 2020, IBM could have skilled greater than 1,000 apprentices and employed nearly all of them. Crucially, its common apprenticeship wage is round 50% larger than the typical native revenue the place these people are working. 

It’s Time to Handle the Grey-Collar Blind Spot

Expertise methods and future-of-work conversations that proceed to bisect the workforce into solely two classes are lacking the mark. A solution to the present hiring panorama can solely come when organizations tackle the gray-collar blind spot. These workers are a helpful supply of expertise hidden in plain sight, and the pandemic has positioned a long-overdue highlight on them. Organizations have a lot to realize by giving gray-collar workers the respect they deserve, rethinking who’s certified to fill these positions, and making investments to additional develop this workforce. 

Cecile Alper-Leroux, a 20+-year HR tech veteran, is UKG (Final Kronos Group) group vp of analysis and innovation. She writes and speaks extensively on the altering nature of labor, folks, and know-how within the office.