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How to retain Domestic & Blue Collared workers?

Retain Domestic Helpers

Over the past few years, I have worked closely with job seekers from the bottom of the economic pyramid. Apart from helping them find jobs, we also interact with them during on-demand training by service providers. Most customers, including homeowners as well as corporates . We work with for hiring as well as training have the same complaint: “They don’t stick to their jobs… . They leave the job without any reason…. They are incapable of understanding the implications of their jobs”

So, it has been important for me to understand why there is such high churn in the segment. As well as what impacts their accepting, or leaving, a job. Is it really that they cannot understand the implications of their actions . Is there something else which motivates their actions when it comes to jobs?

Post many surveys and conversations with the job seekers of the said category. It all made sense to me when I applied Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to the problem. Look closely and you will find that the hierarchy of needs for this category is the same as for people like you and me. If we apply the same model to the domestic workers and similar workers from the bottom of the pyramid . we will be able to make sense of how to retain them better.

To set the context, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs divides our needs into the following ascending order:
  1. Physiological Needs: Needs related to basic issues of survival such as food, water, air
  2. Security Needs: Needs related to stable physical and emotional environment issues including safe work environment, and fair work & salary practices
  3. Belongingness Needs: Needs that relate to social acceptance issues such as friendship or cooperation on the job
  4. Esteem Needs: Needs which relate to a positive self-image, respect as well as recognition issues
  5. Self-Actualization Needs: Needs related to achievement

An important point to remember

An important point to remember here is that Progress to the next level of needs is often disrupted by a failure to meet lower level needs.

If we look at the domestic workers or the blue collared staff in offices, their first priority obviously is survival. So, even if only the physiological needs are fulfilled in their jobs, they take up that work, even if it does not offer them basic minimum wages or leaves. Take a domestic worker for example

Once the physiological need is met, the segment is constantly on a lookout for fulfilling their security needs such as adequate wages and stable income and security needs such as benefits and a safe work environment. They will usually make job decisions based on compensation, safety, or stability concerns. Job Seekers calling into our call centre for onboarding often ask for government jobs, contracts and PF . When looking for a job, without really understanding how a contract, PF or government job will help, if at all. They usually fail to respond as to what advantages they see in these. Our understanding is that things give them a “perception” of stability and safety. So, just paying fairly and allowing for leaves as per a contract, and somehow giving them a feeling of job security (better if in written), will help in retention to a large extent.

At the next level, the worker will want his “belongingness” (or social) needs to be met. If these are not met at work (as in the case of domestic workers or delivery staff since they often work in silos).  They will want to fulfill these needs in their own circles at homes and within extended families. That is why they will take leave for any happy or sad occasion. In the family, go to their village for days/weeks for a marriage of a relative and so on. Without thinking about the impact it may have on their jobs. So, if we can somehow help our workers feel a belonging towards the organisation or homes where they work. we can retain them better.

The need for respect or reputation continues to be important for this category since it is never fulfilled in the kind of jobs they do. Think about Maids, Drivers, Peons, Housekeepers, Delivery Staff, labour etc. How many of us even allow our Helpers to sit at the same level as us, or to appreciate them for their work? The esteem need is so largely unmet, that any incidence which even gives them a perception of not being given due respect, will make them leave their job without much thought.

Since the belongingness and esteem needs are largely unmet, these workers rarely move towards self-actualisation.

Basis the above understanding, here are some suggestions on what can help fulfil the needs of our helpers to retain them better.
  1. Physiological Needs: Lunch break, rest break, good wages
  2. Security Needs: Benefits, pension, bonus, safe work environment, fair work practices, job security, fair leave policy
  3. Belongingness Needs: Encouraging a sense of community through opportunities for community building like celebrations, get-togethers etc.
  4. Esteem Needs: basic respect, appropriate, aspirational job titles, nice workspaces with basic amnesties for the workers, appreciation and recognition
  5. Self-Actualization: Workplace autonomy (without you being a “helicopter employer”), challenging work and subject matter expert status on the job, in whatever they do

These are just some suggestions. My request is for all of you to add to this list if possible, for our collective benefit. After all, we all stand to gain if our workforce is happy.

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