Though many of us wish that we could do our jobs pretty much anywhere other than at our office desk, about a quarter of the population has already achieved this reality. The work environment of manual laborers can change from day to day, and the challenges they face are unlike anything we have to deal with in our cozy little cubicles. Though their population is dwindling, these laborers remain a crucial component of America’s work force, and represent a meaningful opportunity for services and product development tailored to their specific needs. In order to help brands, marketers, and employers that interact with laborers understand how they can better address this target audience, we decided to investigate their daily tasks and necessary resources, identifying any pain points or challenges that can be remedied.
To uncover opportunities where relevant companies can improve the working lives of manual laborers, we launched an Exploratory Research Group* of men and women across the nation who work in a variety of skilled trades, including construction, manufacturing, lawn and grounds care, and plumbing. Our qualitative research was then guided by the following objectives:
- Understand day-to-day tasks that manual laborers participate in
- Uncover pain points or challenges they frequently encounter
- Explore what factors most impact manual labor job opportunities and security
- Identify tools, tech, and other resources most commonly used on-site
|Male, Phillipsburg, NJ, Lawn and grounds care|
For the most part, manual laborers love their jobs. They get to create and contribute to meaningful projects, and look forward to the satisfaction of their clients. They usually learn by doing, since on-the-job training is the most common form of development, along with observing the technique of coworkers. This is fine with respondents, since most prefer visual and hands-on training over books and manuals, but many expressed a desire for better access to professional development and even business management. Organizations specializing in such workshops should make their services more widely known, since there’s not a lot of chitchat or networking while on the job.
|Male, Ellettsville, IN, Construction|
Beyond learning from each other, manual laborers believe that their crew is the most important part of the job. Though workers say the use of guides and blueprints are essential to getting the job done, most feel that their most valuable resource is their crew. Respondents echoed the need for people who are reliable, efficient, and experienced.
But even with all the tools and the perfect crew, there are plenty of pain points that arise throughout the day. In the table below are some of the most mentioned offenses.
Technology could solve a lot of the pain points manual laborers deal with. Respondents expressed a repeated desire for apps to help keep track of the many moving parts on a job site: log sheets, inventory, tracking orders of materials, sending price estimates, and accurate weather predictions. App developers should take note of the obstacles and delays that come with manual labor and offer simple-to-use solutions.
Those who receive healthcare through their union or organization are pretty happy with it, but others work at companies that are too small to offer it, or get coverage through their spouse. Still more think that workman’s comp is the same thing. Healthcare companies should communicate the different levels of coverage better, and consider tailoring plans to smaller organizations.
Manual laborers face a number of challenges that may not occur to the average office worker. Taking the time to learn more about the environmental, economic, and regulatory factors that impact their working lives could help companies create products and solutions that would gain significant traction with this audience. Check out the full report below to learn more about:
- The role of technology on a typical job site
- What forms of professional development and training workers desire most
- Specific pain points that arise from logistics, materials, and weather
- How laborers prioritize resources necessary to getting the job done
- The factors that make a job attractive and the impact of market cycles
* An Exploratory Research Group is an online qualitative discussion where respondents interact with each other while answering open-ended questions and follow-ups posted by a trained moderator.