Recycling Workforce Issues

As seen in Waste Advantage, November 2021 Issue

The fight for talent is real. Today’s waste and recycling companies can help their hiring efforts by putting consistent, conscious effort into making their site a place where people want to work.

Business and economic news today is consistent in its coverage of a historic labor shortage. In industries of all types, there are more jobs than there are people available and willing to do the work. Today’s job seekers have many choices—from job type, location and shift to benefit packages, wages and hiring bonuses.

Ready access to wage data further exacerbates hiring issues for employers. Years of data mining and machine learning have generated easy access to wage data for any specific job posting. In today’s social media and digital world, candidates use that information to know what wage they should expect and feel empowered to demand the wage they believe they deserve.

This collection of hiring challenges is particularly strong in entry-level and general labor jobs like those offered in the waste and recycling industry. To compete, waste and recycling companies must set themselves apart as places that job seekers choose where to work. Four ways you can become an employer people want to work for is to have a strong employer brand, exceed candidates’ expectations, monitor online reviews, and involve your employees in the process.

Nurture an Attractive Employer Brand

Every company has an employer brand, whether they nurture it or not. Like other characteristics of a brand, an employer brand is the perception a job seeker or employee has about what it is like to work for you. It is the reputation a company has among its existing and prospective workforce and summarizes why someone would choose to work for your organization.

Do not dismiss the concept of an employer brand based on how you would look at the vacancy you have to fill. Look at your job opportunity through the eyes and experience of your candidates. Remember, the strength of your employer brand differentiates your company to job seekers and influences the full employee experience, including recruiting, hiring, onboarding, retention, advancement and long-term engagement.

While there are volumes written about employer brands, there are five basic components to creating and nurturing one that will set your company apart as an employer of choice:

1. Seek to understand what is important to employees. Resist the temptation to think you know what your workforce wants and likes about your company. Ask them! Consider focus group research or an online survey. Get the employees’ point of view on what it is really like to work for your organization, what gives them a sense of fulfillment in their work and why they are working for you over other options.

2. Study your research results. Compare what your employees say and think about you with what your company believes and offers, then take a hard look at the gaps. They are opportunities for change.

3. What are you communicating? Examine your employees’ perceptions versus what you and your team communicate about your company internally and externally. Focus on value drivers. For example, if your research uncovers a desire for a predictable schedule and upward mobility, do you talk about those opportunities in your job posts, on your website and in the interview process?

4. Be prepared to make meaningful course corrections. Nobody is advocating that a company should be “held hostage” by the wishes of its workforce. Changes should be meaningful but can be gradual. Simply acknowledging and validating your employees’ views can go a long way.

5. Communicate and reinforce your vision. Consistently communicate your employer brand internally and externally across every touchpoint. You may want to formalize the employer brand for your internal staff and set expectations for how their words and actions support (or diminish) it at along an employee’s lifecycle.

When you attract a candidate and get them to the application and interview stage, you want to keep them engaged from their first day on the job and beyond. Smart employers know that today’s job seekers have expectations that go far beyond a summary of the job title, duties and pay. Brilliant employers who go beyond those expectations will stand out from others who are fishing in the same talent pool:

• Today’s candidates expect employers to use social media to share who they are, what they believe in and how they support the community. They will check out social channels long before they decide to begin the application process.

• Job seekers expect employers to make the hiring process easy, with resources like online applications, live chat and mobile-friendly forms.

• It is a 24/7/365 world. Candidates expect immediate access to employers and hiring teams whenever and wherever they want it.

• Candidates expect a response to their application or job questions within hours, or they will move on. “Ghosting” an applicant not only fails to meet expectations, but it also creates the perception that your company is untrustworthy or simply does not care about its people. You are being rated as an employer every day.

Pay Attention to Reviews

Online employee and candidate reviews first appeared in 1999 as a natural evolution of the internet. Brands like Yelp, Amazon, and TripAdvisor popularized user reviews and thousands of other businesses followed suit. According to a 2019 report by GlobalWebIndex, nearly half of Internet users submit online reviews each month.

Rather than trusting the promises of an employer, today’s job seekers rely on authentic user reviews on sites like Glassdoor,, Facebook and Google My Business as they decide whether to apply for and join a company. And they study this review data long before they initiate a response to a recruitment ad. There are several steps employers should take to manage user reviews and support their hiring efforts:

1. Enable reviews. Give people a forum to share their experiences. Make sure you are set up for reviews on sites like Glassdoor and Google My Business. You can also allow comments to be posted on your website.

2. Monitor diligently. Assign responsibility for looking at review sites daily or weekly to stay on top of what your users are saying. Just as candidates expect a prompt reply to job applications, reviewers expect attention to their posts.

3. Respond. All reviews should get a response, ideally within 24 hours, even if the reviewer only provides a one-star rating. Reply to both good and bad reviews, and resist sounding defensive. Aim to give each review a personalized response.

4. Pay attention. Watch for themes or common issues shared in reviews. Try to identify root causes of problems, then consider how to correct them. On the flip side, share positive reviews with leadership and the team. Everyone appreciates positive feedback.

5. Do not game the system. You may be wondering how to get more employee reviews. The easiest way is to ask for them. Make it easy. It is generally not ok to pay for reviews or to offer a reward for posting. In fact, many sites prohibit this tactic. Reviews should be authentic and spontaneous. Leaders may ask how to get rid of negative reviews. You generally cannot remove a review you do not like. The best course of action is to outweigh poor reviews with good ones.

Put Every Employee on The Recruiting Team

A company’s strongest advocates are its current employees—staff members who have made the choice to work for you. They understand the value of working for you and experience first-hand what it is like to be on your waste and recycling team. Here are a couple of suggestions:

1. Address challenges and foster understanding. When your staff members and employees understand, walk and talk your well-crafted employer brand, they become adjunct members of your recruiting team. Be sure they have consistent, regular communication about your company and employer brand, combined with resources and ongoing reminders about who your company is, what you stand for and where you are going.

2. Referral program. Your current employees can be the best source of new talent. A referral program can incentivize the behavior you seek. Whether you offer a financial bonus, points system or public praise in a meeting or newsletter, your current employees are more likely to refer their friends and family members to your company if there is a little something in it for them as well.

Give Your Operation a Recruiting Edge

The fight for talent is real. Our industry is not right for everyone, but today’s waste and recycling companies can help their hiring efforts by putting consistent, conscious effort into making their site a place where people want to work.

It starts with building a strong employer brand. From there, ensure you exceed job seekers’ expectations by delivering a positive, responsive experience. Put online reviews to work for you. They can be a tremendous resource to both job seekers and hiring managers. And finally, bring the entire staff onto your recruiting and marketing team by encouraging them to bring others into the company.

These recommendations take effort, focus, and time but when you bring them together, they will give your operation a recruiting edge in even the most difficult of hiring environments.

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