The Invisible Workforce: Why Service Workers Deserve Respect (and a smile)
Part of what I do as a global business consultant is work with companies to improve their culture and promote a better sense of inclusiveness and equality. Usually this extends to gender and diversity, but I also make it a point to bring up an oft-ignored worker segment: service workers.
It’s an unfortunate reality that service workers are the nearly-invisible force that keeps companies running. This is prevalent especially in that tech mecca, Silicon Valley, where the exceptional perks and protections offered employees—shuttle transportation, food services, security, well-maintained offices and grounds—are made possible by a segment of workers who earn fractions of what employees earn. And because service workers are often employed by contracted companies and not the business themselves, they don’t get to take advantage of these same perks, or more basic benefits like health insurance or paid time off.
Just like I do with my clients, I encourage you to find ways to make this important workforce feel like a part of your company and culture, even if they aren’t actually employees. After all, these people are there every day, keeping your business running by doing important—yet often thankless—jobs.
Here are some simple ways you can shift from a culture of apathy to one of appreciation.
Meet & greet. You likely see some of the same people every day. So learn their names, and give them a smile and hello.
Strike up a conversation. I referred to services workers as “invisible” for a reason—too often, people tend to ignore them and pretend they aren’t there. These are people, not a piece of furniture! Ask about their family or interests. Swap parenting stories. Talk about last night’s game.
Send acknowledgement to the right people. Everyone appreciates a little personal praise. If someone is doing a great job or helped you out, find a way to let their supervisor or managing company know.
Invite them to company events. Service people are often excluded from company events. Make them feel included in your culture by inviting them to work events like happy hours and Christmas parties. Even asking them to attend the monthly Pizza Friday event can go far.
Perform small gestures of appreciation. Next time you bring in donuts or homemade cookies for your team, consider bringing something for the service team. A small gesture can really brighten someone’s day.