HR Management & Compliance, Recruiting

What You Can Learn from the Blue-Collar Gig Economy

The U.S. unemployment rate is at its lowest in years, and there’s a growing demand for blue-collar workers, with many workers turning to gig opportunities—a sector that is booming right now. Rather than freelance work and creative services—like white-collar gig work—blue-collar gig work focuses on labor, manufacturing, warehouse, and delivery jobs and is often collar
As a plumber, a construction worker, or an electrician, you’re likely working on a project-to-project basis, as blue-collar work generally ebbs and flows, which has made HR for this industry difficult.
But with the influx of available jobs, jobseekers are turning to on-demand staffing platforms to find work where and when they need to, and these platforms are altering the interactions between HR and the blue-collar workforce by transforming how we locate, hire, train, and engage with workers.
So, traditional HR can learn quite a lot here.

The ‘Experience Necessary’ Hiring Model Isn’t a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

Many young workers today struggle with finding the requisite experience for entry-level jobs, and the growing number of unpaid internships often presents a financial barrier for many entering the workforce who need experience but can’t always find (or, in some cases, afford) it. In this way, the standard hiring practice of résumé reviews, phone screenings, and on-site interviews can often be exclusionary, though it’s been the standard for as long as we can remember.
However, this isn’t always the case in blue-collar industries, as for many of these positions, on-the-job training and mentorship are standard practice for all levels. A recent data report from Wonolo examined data from 300,000 users in 2018 and found that workers excel on the job when given the chance—with or without prior experience—and that their performance isn’t dependent on previous work.
Though there are jobs that do require prior experience and training, blue-collar, entry-level jobs are mostly designed for those looking for and wanting work.

Temp to Hire: A Viable Talent Pipeline

Following the traditional hiring process of résumé reviews, phone screenings, and interviews can be a gamble because you don’t see how the candidate actually works and discover too late that he or she isn’t the right fit. Estimates from Bersin by Deloitte find that the average cost per hire is almost $4,000, and SHRM says that 50% of hourly workers leave new jobs within the first 4 months, painting a rough reality for HR leaders.
Temporary hiring can be a gateway to finding workers you like and trust; staffing platforms in the gig economy give HR leaders an opportunity to bring on workers who truly want to be there and are willing to work that day. On-demand staffing platforms provide a pool of vetted talent, and many of these platforms have two-way rating systems for users and businesses to ensure you’re interacting with quality talent that also holds you to the same standard.
After a worker puts in a day’s, a week’s, or several weeks’ worth of time with your company, you can then offer him or her a full-time position knowing how he or she operates and remaining confident it’s the right fit.

Creating an Equal Playing Field

As we continue to address the gender wage gap and discrimination in the workplace, we can learn a lot from on-demand platforms that adopt a “click and accept” approach, which are built to rule out bias in the hiring process and are doing more than just delivering a job on demand. Although recent AAUW research shows that women are earning 80% of what men make across the economy, on-demand platforms can improve that number.
Our data also show that these platforms can help with gender equality in the hiring process. Even though some industries have historically been dominated by men, such as warehousing and fulfillment, these jobs can now be selected by anyone who can perform them, regardless of gender. In this way, gig platforms have the potential to prevent gender bias screening and virtually eliminate the gender pay gap.
Furthermore, these on-demand staffing platforms have the ability to prevent discrimination based on factors such as race, sexual orientation, and age during the hiring process. Many states have active laws that prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in public and private workplaces, but there is still no federal protection against this type of discrimination.
In addition, a June 2018 report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that age-related discrimination claims have been on the rise, with 55% of claims in 2017 being those alleging discriminatory discharge, otherwise known as getting fired for being old. Therefore, by focusing solely on supply and demand (i.e., the jobs and workers available), on-demand staffing platforms can help businesses focus on their bottom line while providing an equal opportunity for workers who may be screened out or discriminated against.
The workplace is a constantly changing environment, and HR leaders must always be looking for better ways to attract and retain talent. Right now, 36% of U.S. workers are part of the gig economy in some capacity, and we don’t expect that number to slow down anytime soon. We can learn a lot from on-demand staffing platforms, and we cannot ignore the gig economy’s influence on the workforce.


  • When it comes to hiring, relying on résumé reviews and interviewing can only go so far. While you may not necessarily be able to overlook prior job experience when hiring for traditional white-collar jobs, you can still engage with prospectives to discuss what truly qualifies them for a role. Taking a chance is always risky, but often, all it takes is a foot in the door for applicants to succeed, and as an HR leader, it’s important to ask yourself how you can open that door.
  • The hiring process can be long and pricey, but on-demand staffing platforms can be a great way for businesses to locate top, vetted talent that performs well and enables companies to improve their pipeline of prospective workers.
  • The gender wage gap and discrimination in the workplace are pervasive problems in today’s workforce, but gig economy platforms are helping to eradicate these practices by eliminating bias in the hiring process. HR leaders must be at the forefront of these discussions to effect change, and implementing blind hiring practices and advocating for equal pay are easy ways to make workplaces inclusive and dynamic.