Blue-collar workers are integral in our everyday lives, doing the simplest of tasks that no one really gives a second thought to; from the courier delivering your packages to the temperature checker manning the traffic in a mall. Their repetitive, simple roles will make one assume that it is just as easy to recruit for these roles. Well, it is not at all.
This lesson, I learned the hard way when 8 years ago, I was building the best last-mile delivery service for one of the biggest fashion e-commerce retailers in CIS – Lamoda. I had the seemingly easy task of hiring more than 1000 delivery drivers and distinguishing the great ones was not a mean feat at all.
One of the biggest mistakes we made along the way was hiring blue-collar workers using an executive mentality and job boards catered for the white-collar market. I learned about empathy along the way, what my best workers care about, how they navigate hiring processes, and what the speed of employment, their next paycheck meant to them and their families. Looking back, none of the emphases we put on their resumes, interviews, and other hoops they jumped, drew a correlation to their quality of work at all. The lengthy process above was a formality to be hired and what we really needed was for the workers to turn up, be able to drive and be reliable.
Question begets: If no one cares, and the outcome is not affected, why do we keep hiring blue-collar workers in the same lengthy cumbersome process we have followed for decades?
In hindsight, this question has been tucked away in the corner of my subconscious throughout the next years when I was pursuing my career in technology, which brought me to various parts of the world. From less developed cities to the world’s busiest cosmopolitan, this nagging problem at the back of my mind will resurface itself as I see the same problem exist in all parts of the world, all stages of development.
It is fascinating that no one is doing anything about this despite major advancement in technology over the last decade and in my humble opinion, the major reason I think it’s not been looked at is because of the general lack of empathy from employers and people that create technology, you have to be in the shoes of both sides before you can:
1) acknowledge that the problem exists
2) articulate the exact pain points and
3) come up with simple solutions that can be adaptable on both sides of the coin.
So when I reached the point in my career last year to take the entrepreneurial plunge that most startup junkies do, it is a no-brainer that I would begin my founder path by creating the best platform for blue-collar workers to find a meaningful role.
This was the motivation behind Workclass – the job platform for blue-collar workers.
What started 8 years ago as a nagging problem I face at work, is now the leading blue-collar platform in Singapore (our beachhead market). How did we get here within a year when the problem has existed for more than a decade?
The short answer is that: speed matters. For a blue-collar worker, the hurdle of writing up a resume, submitting it on a complex platform with registration frictions and then subsequent communications through email for interview coordination; already take precious weeks from their pay-check to pay-check urgency. At Workclass, we take away all the above by using simple communication tools like telegram for job applications and translating the conversation into a resume for the employers.
It matters to the employee that cannot afford a day’s gap between paychecks and it matters to employers that need the labor today. By building a business that focussed on speed, we take away everything else in a job portal that doesn’t contribute to optimizing the time to find and hire and guess what, it works.
We are by no means done, being the fastest place a blue-collar worker can find a job is our first step. As I speak daily to the workers that use our platform and understand their problems, the nagging question on my subconscious has now evolved into what keeps me awake at night.
Nikita Okulov is CEO and co-founder of Workclass – social hiring platform for frontline workers in Singapore. Before Workclass, Nikita has built 2 successful marketplaces in different geographies – Lamoda Marketplace (Global Fashion Group) in Kazakhstan and Job Today in the UK. During this time Nikita managed more than 1,500 couriers, warehouse workers, and call-center operators in Russia and Kazakhstan and delivered more than thousands of workers to employers in the UK.