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Training and Development

WM offers expansive learning and development solutions to meet the needs of our people, as well as proactively recognizing good work and supporting opportunities for growth and improvement.

Our talent management program is designed to reach employees at all levels and is an important way we maximize engagement and retention. Hiring, selecting, and developing future leaders, as well as evaluating employees in alignment with our values, is standard across the enterprise.

WM’s workforce of nearly 50,000 includes a wide range of roles that require an even wider variety of skill sets, so our training programs are equally varied.

Training types fall into a few broad categories:

  • Compliance training—Required of all employees, such as training on WM’s Code of Conduct and Cybersecurity.
  • Professional development—A self-service platform that enables WM team members to develop and upskill their professional and business skills.
  • Frontline Leadership Program—New to WM; a 26-week immersive learning experience designed for our frontline leaders.
  • Tailored new hire training—Including collection and fleet operations, post-collection operations, customer experience and sales.
  • Safety training—Conducted upon hire and on an ongoing basis, especially geared toward drivers, fleet technicians, heavy equipment operators and sorters.
  • Environmental excellence and compliance training—Required of employees in specific roles.

We measure the effectiveness of training in a variety of ways, depending on the goals and type of training. For example, we might conduct end-of-course evaluations to understand participants’ reactions to a course, assessments to measure the knowledge they have gained or observations to see how they apply new skills on the job.

In addition to training, we manage performance through one-on-one regular check-ins, coaching and feedback, goal-setting and annual performance reviews. Annual evaluations set accountability expectations for employees with the understanding that progress is monitored throughout the year. Talent reviews and succession planning are designed to recognize and reward high-performing and hard-working employees.

How We Help Employees Learn

Our objective is to create a continuous learning culture that drives performance and supports a superior customer experience. With a vast and decentralized workforce, we take a “learner-centric” approach that allows employees to learn in the ways that are most effective and convenient for them. Our training is designed and delivered in several modalities, including in-person at one of our two training facilities, virtual instructor-led training, online training, self-study and video modules. All required training is produced in English, Spanish and French. In 2021, the learning design and development teams created 191 new learning solutions for our team members including 150 new web-based training courses, 17 videos and 24 digital reference guides/playbooks/job aids.

During 2020, WM introduced its core commitments and values to the organization. In 2021, as part of a new hire’s onboarding experience, WM created and launched “The WM Experience,” comprised of seven self-paced, interactive onboarding learning journeys that acclimate new hires to WM and our commitments and values. Starting our newest team members by onboarding them into our culture helps them fit in and truly understand our values—why they are important and how we achieve them.

WM’s learning management system platform contains approximately 3,600 learning modules available to all employees. The content covers all aspects of the company’s operations, along with key topics that support career advancement. This learning library is always growing. WM also partners with two third-party content providers who offer additional courses that are continually updated.

We also recognize the value of learning that occurs beyond WM. In 2021, we announced a new education benefit, Your Tomorrow. Your Tomorrow was created in partnership with Guild Education to pay 100% of benefits-eligible employees’ and dependents’ tuition for 135+ business, technology, science and mathematics bachelor’s degrees and master’s programs. WM is the first company to extend this type of benefit to family members—a clear example of our commitment to putting People First. The program is currently available to U.S.-based team members, and we are reviewing solutions for employees in Canada and India.

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.

Safety Training

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. 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 starts on-site to gain foundational knowledge and experience. Specialized training continues at our training centers in Fort Myers, Florida, and Glendale, Arizona. In 2020, these facilities were shut down due to COVID-19 and then re-opened in April 2021. We continue to deliver classroom training requirements virtually but have drivers attend the training center for their hands-on practical driving skills training. The technician training center re-opened in early 2022. An enhancement WM made to our driver on-the-job training (OJT) is the creation of the designated driver trainer role. Designated driver trainers work one-on-one with drivers at their respective sites focusing on driving skills and other safety processes. As we continue to expand our capacity to train new hires, we can 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 90-day, three-phased training program. Drivers start at their sites for a five-day orientation, followed by a two-week training process with experienced driver trainers. The third phase, on-the-job training, applies everything the driver 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 with 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.

On-site 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 1,166 contractor companies and 6,409 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 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.

Customer-Focused Training

Sales and customer service professionals undergo dynamic onboarding programs that last from three to six 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 (IDPs) customized for every sales employee. The plans are tailored to everyone’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.

In 2020, we began to deliver the sales and customer service training virtually and have continued to do so to the present day. 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.

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 frontline, 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.

Training Highlights
Course Audience Total Trained
Course: Safety Training — Driver and Technician Huddles (Daily) Audience: All drivers and technicians Total Trained: 22,000 Drivers
3,100 Technicians
Course: Weekly Required Safety Training (focus on OSHA required topics) Audience: All operation frontline employees Total Trained: 30,000
Course: Code of Conduct Training Audience: All WM employees Total Trained: 100% of employees
Course: Managing the Hourly Employee Meal Break Policy Audience: Managers of hourly employees in U.S. Total Trained: 2,900
Course: Security Awareness Training Audience: All personnel who use company and computer network Total Trained: 16,000
  1. 1. Preventing Discrimination & Harassment (U.S. Employees – Required for Maine, Delaware, New York City and State)
  2. 2. Preventing Discrimination & Harassment (California Employees)
  3. 3. Preventing Discrimination & Harassment – Manager Refresher (All U.S., except California and Connecticut Managers and all Canada)
  4. 4. Preventing Discrimination & Harassment – Manager Refresher (California and Connecticut managers)
  5. 5. Preventing Discrimination & Harassment – Refresher (Connecticut Employees Only)
Audience: WM Employees with EEOC: A-Executive/ Senior Level Officials B-First/Mid-Level Officials Total Trained:
  1. 1. 2,138
  2. 2. 498
  3. 3. 1,489
  4. 4. 176
  5. 5. 185
  6. Total – 4,486
Course: Professional Training Audience: All employees with access to our learning management system Total Trained: 2,500