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What does the Gold Collar Worker Want out of Employment?

By Leah O’Flynn, Sales & Marketing Recruiter High Tech


Leah O'Flynn, Tech Recruiter

Leah O’Flynn, Tech Recruiter

Professor Robert Kelley of Carnegie Mellon University coined the phrase “the gold-collar worker” back in 1985 describing a new era of workers whose value is brainpower. “Gold” referred to the hefty salaries and profits that their minds and skills garnered.


Back in 1985, these gold collar workers were the young and college educated, who made up over 40% of the U.S. workforce at the time. Today, with increased outsourcing of manufacturing, the American workforce has increasingly become more service and value-added oriented.  The gold collar workers may now represent 70% of the workforce.


“They are a new breed of workers, and they demand a new kind of management. Intelligent, independent, and innovative, these employees are incredibly valuable. They are lawyers and computer programmers, stock analysts and community planners, editors and engineers…” (Per Wikipedia quote from Robert Kelly)


This a new breed of highly skilled multidisciplinary employee is clearly what drives intellectual capital companies, they bring the innovation, change the game, build companies to the IPO stage, and are the life-blood of the American economy. We hear over and over about the tech talent war, as these highly intelligent, educated and innovative people move around between successful companies. But what does it take to secure the loyalty of gold collar talent?


“Bottom line, for so-called “gold collar” workers, employers need to convince them of the value of spending their time / efforts on the employer. It’s not just a job, it’s a step in their career,” says Chris Merritt, Director of Solution Marketing at Lumension Security. “So the employment offer has to make sense and be compelling on many levels, which includes work/life balance, personal motivation, and strategic career movement.”


Recruiting and retaining gold collars means offering competitive financial compensation, but nonfinancial workplace rewards and benefits such as a casual and informal work environment, flexible work schedules and even part- or full-time telecommuting are highly valued. Gold collars value the activity-based era; changing work process (from waterfall to agile); mobile, remote work; “We” spaces, not “me” spaces; and support for collaboration. They enjoy faster pace, distributed teams as well as multiple space times for multiple work modes.


Redfish Technology primarily works with aggressively growing companies that are agile and hungry and they can attract those agile and hungry gold collar workers by offering them what they want. Whether that means crafting a job offer to meet the candidate’s personal motivations such as a custom title, additional responsibilities, reimbursed continuing education, or other career ladder opportunities. And while it sometimes comes down to salary in the end, there’s usually a whole combination of factors that motivate top candidates beyond the dollars.


“It is one thing to recruit talent, but to keep that talent loyal and dedicated means offering evolving opportunities, challenges, and recognition,” relates Meredith Dean, Tech Recruiter at Redfish. “With the speed that technologies are changing these days, the development talent I work with wants to grow with rising stars and be part of pioneering of the latest and greatest technologies.”


The portability of their skills and the widespread demand for them often allow gold collars to be opportunistic. If not properly motivated they will move on. “Gold collar workers want a transformational leader who has charisma, who represents an ideal they can assimilate and adopt, and who provides the stimulation and individualized consideration they need to become more than they were,” writes Michael E Wonacott in an Eric Digest.


Gold collar workers need to constantly update their skills to stay current with emerging technology; this is a core value to them. Learning must be a continuous process, one that is afforded by companies on the job or through extracurricular opportunities.


In the war for talent, tech companies especially are struggling with finding ways to create a loyal gold collar crew. Think outside of the box, that is what these folks do. Communicate and recognize, these are important intrinsic values of the gold collars. Provide learning opportunities and challenges with personal meaning and reward to motivate them. And remember that work/life balance is not only good for your employees, it is fundamental for having sharp, loyal employees.



Chime in!

What else is important to the gold collar worker?


See also:

Do You Really Want to Work There? Get Your Questions Answered When Interviewing for a Job




About the Author, Leah O’Flynn, Sales & Marketing Recruiter High Tech


Leah is an executive IT recruiter. Born in Dublin, raised in New Jersey, her gypsy ways have taken her on many a random journey. Leah has two degrees; one in Journalism and Media Studies, the other in History. Her love of working with people has made her a natural at recruiting.


About Redfish Technology:


Founded in Silicon Valley in 1996, Redfish Technology is an award-winning talent acquisition firm specializing in high tech sectors. Partnering with growth mode companies, small and large, Redfish staffs executive functions and builds out the teams below. The company provides services nationwide and has offices in Silicon Valley, the East Coast, and Sun Valley.


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