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We continuously strive to empower our employees to deliver world-class and safe service to our customers and the communities in which we work. With the belief that environmental excellence and compliance are hallmarks of sustainability and WM’s core values, compliance with applicable regulatory standards and internal policies and procedures is part of our training philosophy. In addition to job-role training, all employees learn about WM’s Recycle Right program and the organization’s commitments and values, including inclusion and diversity.
During the pandemic, 30% of WM’s workforce converted to work-from-home status, and our Learning & Development team flexed to deliver training across lines of business in a virtual environment. The team also created learning resources to educate employees on COVID-19, including symptoms, preventive measures to limit the spread of the virus, and WM safety protocols and workplace measures. To communicate with employees and continue to deliver training throughout the stages of office closures and reopenings, we formed a Workforce Evolution Taskforce. This team of leaders developed an enterprise plan involving an online portal and the WM Now for sharing workplace updates. The taskforce oversaw the launch of new custom training on topics such as leading in a virtual environment, collaboration technology and wellness.
The pandemic was just one element of our unique 2020. WM also completed the acquisition of Advanced Disposal Services, the largest acquisition in the history of our company. We are welcoming our 5,000 new employees with onboarding training that was deployed throughout 2020 and into 2021.
2020 Training by the Numbers
average hours of training per employee
average spent on training per employee
total hours of training for full-time employees
of new and current employees trained on Code of Conduct
of employees offered training
of WM operational divisions receive training annually
of environmental professionals received safety training annually
Safety is a major focus of training for all employees. Employees learn safety best practices through new-hire and ongoing training, including daily huddles and weekly training at all sites. To build upon lessons learned in training, we conduct structured observations of frontline employees that cover all aspects of our collection and post-collection operations, including driving, loading, unloading, lifting and lowering and arriving prepared for work. At disposal operations, significant accidents are subject to root-cause briefings, with standard rules updated to eliminate recurrence. We track monthly safety performance by market, service function and even equipment type.
Regular training helps ensure understanding of our operating policies and procedures as well as specialized topics including fire prevention, emergency response, asbestos, personal protective equipment, hazard communication, and slips, trips and falls. We schedule and communicate these topics through our Safety Awareness Training Calendar. WM also has an Environmental, Health and Safety learning library, to which 259 courses were added or updated in 2020. The WM Safety Services team leads regular performance reviews for our fleet operations, focusing on leading indicators and any areas needing attention. A Monthly Safety Call webcast offers a suite of key metrics, opportunities for discussion of industry issues and conversations with special guests, including senior leadership. Performance reviews and routine reports drive accountability and recognition.
Collections and Fleet Operations Training
Robust training is especially important for drivers who operate our collection trucks. Training typically takes place on-site and at our training centers in Fort Myers, Florida, and Glendale, Arizona. These facilities were shut down due to COVID-19, requiring us to adapt quickly to change the way we train new drivers. After the shutdown, we repurposed in-classroom training to a virtual format, using game show-style activities to encourage participant engagement. The results of this learning method were positive in terms of participant performance and motivation to learn. To safely provide hands-on training on how to operate equipment, Designated Driver Trainers worked with drivers at their respective sites while following all COVID-19 safety protocols.
As we continue to expand our capacity to train new hires, we are able to see reduction not only in accidents and injuries, but also in driver and fleet technician turnover. Employees in our Collections and Fleet operations are provided with opportunities to train on the following:
- Collection Operations Onboarding. Training designed to familiarize collection operations managers new to their roles with the required programs and processes necessary for them to be successful. This onboarding program is designed in a two-phased approach. Phase one training is delivered via web-based training and live on-the-job training activities completed at their sites. Phase two is delivered in-person (or in a virtual classroom environment) over a two-week period.
- Collection Driver Onboarding Program. Newly hired drivers complete a a 90-day, three-level, on-the-job training (OJT) program that applies everything the employee has learned about how to safely operate and maneuver our trucks. The OJT program includes a variety of observations, conducted by the driver’s direct manager and a designated site trainer, that range from demonstrating their familiarization of servicing procedures of our trucks to applying the principles of WM’s SAFETY Defensive Driving System, an advanced training program that teaches the critical skills of safe driving.
- Fleet Manager Onboarding Program. An intensive, nine-week program with an assigned mentor designed for new fleet leaders to learn the skills, processes, and programs necessary to be successful in their first six to nine months of employment.
- Fleet Technician Onboarding Program. New technicians initially learn on the job in their maintenance shops. They learn our fleet processes, COMPASS asset management system and hazardous energy control procedures. After mastering these topics, technicians attend a weeklong virtual training about shop safety practices, vehicle components, and WM’s preventative maintenance system. The training program continues with the technician’s manager conducting observations on our preventive maintenance inspection program.
- Hazardous Energy Control Program. Designed to familiarize employees across the entire organization with the different types of hazardous energy and the processes used to control that energy, including lockout and tagout of hazardous energy sources. Three courses are offered to train the different levels of required employee awareness. Authorized employees must complete a set of demo-backs for all procedures requiring the application of lockout and tagout.
- Driver, Technician and Route Manager Safety Training. A series of written guides and animated videos supporting critical aspects of pre- and post-trip inspections, air brakes, tire and wheel inspection and maintenance that can be used either in the classroom or for individual training. In addition, weekly safety meetings include a review of safety-related topics.
- Technician Technical Training. Dozens of manufacturer-created technician training programs consisting of hundreds of individual courses that reside in the Talent Central Learning Portal to support technicians in the maintenance and repair of the wide variety of equipment used at WM.
Onsite Facility Training
Workers in our facilities receive extensive training that covers full compliance with safety standards and policies. In addition to onboarding programs, we require ongoing training related to injury and illness prevention, hazardous energy control and seasonal risks. The Injury and Illness Prevention program uses a data-based approach that examines equipment, processes, policies and other potential causes of injury and illness; evaluates possible interventions; and assesses the success of these interventions on prevention.
All subcontractors undergo safety orientation that includes modules on basic safety, landfill safety, landfill gas, electrical safety and renewable energy. Currently, 309 WM landfills and 87 renewable energy facilities participate in this training, with 1166 contractor companies and 6409 contractor employees registered. We also offer contractors a toll-free helpline they can use to share questions or concerns.
Knowing that the foundation for a great safety culture is a stable workforce, we are working to convert as many non-sorter positions in MRFs as possible from temporary to permanent hires. While temporary workers may be trained to use high-risk equipment, they are not placed in high-risk roles, such as operators of loaders, forklifts or balers. Our goal is for 90% of employees at all MRFs to be WM employees by the end of 2022. Employees in our post collection operations are provided the following training opportunities:
- Disposal Operations Management Trainee Program. This 18-month training program provides participants with a comprehensive understanding of the technical and leadership aspects of successfully operating a landfill.
- Environmental Protection Learning Series. The environmental protection training series consists of monthly web-based modules focused on the environment. Topics include customer-generated waste, managing asbestos and air regulations.
- Environmental Compliance Awareness Program. This training is delivered monthly to hourly employees, featuring different topics relating to the environment. Topics include stormwater, oil spill prevention, recognizing and reporting environmental issues and more.
- Landfill Gas Technician Training. This training combines classroom and hands-on demonstration activities at a closed landfill site in Cincinnati, specifically engineered for landfill gas systems.
- Low Voltage Electrical Safety. This training teaches employees safety procedures for working around electricity, including checking voltage, resetting breakers and more.
- Heavy Equipment Operator Training Series. This blended learning training program covers key heavy equipment at our landfills, including articulated dump trucks, wheel loaders, compactors, dozers, excavators and motor graders.
- MRF Maintenance and Operations Programs. The training is designed for our recycling employees who manage and maintain our recycling operations. The training includes a certification on specific equipment used at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF).
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Program. Covers all protective equipment including clothing, shields and barriers for eyes, face, head and extremities.
- Saturated Ash Safety Training Program. This training is delivered both in person and through a series of video segments to employees working in coal ash remediation projects.
Sales and customer service professionals undergo dynamic onboarding programs that last from four to 25 weeks, depending on the role. These programs combine coaching and group instruction to help new hires successfully transition into jobs and build careers at WM. Training balances technical and systems instruction with role-playing around customer satisfaction and world-class service. With the launch of our Customer Service Digitalization program, we developed and delivered new training to ensure our teams understand how WM supports customers across digital channels.
Our Sales WM Way training is focused on metrics and begins with individual development plans (IDP) customized for every sales employee. The plans are tailored to each individual’s growth needs and identifies areas of strengths and skill gaps. IDPs facilitate the kinds of interactive and positive coaching sessions that are the backbone of the Sales WM Way platform. Every sales representative is paired with a peer mentor to help them acclimate to their roles. There are weekly role-play sessions, and each month the teams compete using video technology to help them hone their skills.
While training programs typically have in-person components, they were delivered virtually in 2020 due to the pandemic. We are proud of our high-performing sales and customer service employees, many of whom have been with the company for more than 10 years. We view their tenure as validation of the opportunities offered to learn and grow within our organization. Our approach to sales has paid off: For the past five years, WM has annually been named one of Selling Power’s “50 Best Companies to Sell For.”
Enterprise Field & Corporate Training
We work hard to build understanding of field operations among employees in the corporate office. Driver ride-alongs and visits to recycling facilities, landfills and other WM assets are common, ranging from new hire orientation to refresher experiences for our most senior management. Employees have access to both instructor-led and self-study courses from our online library and in-person training at corporate offices on our scope of services, sales process, pipeline management, negotiation, time management and more.
Ongoing training is tailored based on the employee’s future growth plan. The sales department has found that this intense training effort pays off in retention when other Fortune 250 companies target our sales employees for recruitment. We tie our internal development program to broader engagement with the academic community, taking on projects such as volunteering time to build sales curriculum at Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe, Arizona, offering ASU business students real-world leadership development programs and mentorships, and participating in sales forums at National Collegiate Sales Competitions.
Managers in the field as well as corporate staff can sometimes struggle to find time to hone their skills and work toward new opportunities in the company. We offer consistent training for our leaders and managers that supports the skills and behaviors we expect, as well as accelerated learning programs designed for high-potential employees moving to front-line, mid-level and executive leadership roles. A new Business and Professional Training eLibrary, part of our internal WM University, was launched in early 2018. In 2020, a new Leadership Training eLibrary was added to support leadership development programs, with 33 new leadership learning assets and 52 new business-related courses. As part of our emphasis on individual growth and continuous improvement, employees can access these modules whenever they want and as often as they want. Particular focuses are business analysis, project management, communication skills, software skills, sales, leadership development and customer service.
We continually look for ways to provide fresh, profession-specific training. For example, to address workforce shortages in technical fields, our Technician Apprentice Program (TAP) matches talented technicians with long-term careers that can include web-based and augmented reality applications. The TAP program offers part-time apprenticeship opportunities to students enrolled in approved technical training schools. As the program grows across North America, we believe that apprentices will seek long-term careers with WM in essential technical positions.
For more data about training at WM, see the Workforce section of our ESG Data Center.
|Course: Safety Training — Driver and Technician Huddles (Daily)||Audience: All drivers and technicians||Total Trained: 15,112 Drivers
|Course: Weekly Required Safety Training (focus on OSHA required topics)||Audience: All operation frontline employees||Total Trained: ~30,000|
|Course: 2019–2020 Code of Conduct Training||Audience: All WM employees||Total Trained: 35,739|
|Course: Break Time Is Your Time for Hourly Employees||Audience: WM hourly employees in U.S.||Total Trained: 30,460|
|Course: Managing the Hourly Employee Meal Break Policy||Audience: Managers of hourly employees in U.S.||Total Trained: 3,258|
|Course: Security Awareness Training 2019||Audience: All personnel who use company and computer network||Total Trained: 17,490|
||Audience: WM Employees with EEOC: A-Executive/ Senior Level Officials B-First/Mid-Level Officials||
|Course: Professional Training||Audience: All employees||Total Trained: 37,342|