Putting People First Talent Engagement & Retention
Our employees are the lifeblood of the work we do every day. At the heart of our engagement and retention strategy is a steadfast commitment to Waste Management’s values.
Employee turnover continues to be a concern in the environmental services industry, due to high demand in a strong economy for our skilled workers—especially truck drivers, route managers and maintenance technicians. According to the American Trucking Association, the trucking industry was short roughly 60,800 drivers in 2018, up nearly 20% from 2017. If current trends hold, the shortage could swell to over 160,000 by 2028. Increased automation in residential collection equipment and remote-operated heavy equipment may help us address this shortfall, as well as increasing safety and productivity. Remotely controlled equipment can be operated by people with disabilities, potentially increasing the pool of candidates from which we can recruit.
We strive to be a workplace of choice through competitive pay, solid benefits for long-term financial and personal health, and opportunities for growth across our ranks. Being an employer of choice will be critical to our efforts to reverse the voluntary turnover trend, while motivating us to sharpen our focus on our values that help us retain and empower good employees. By promoting from within and offering a wide variety of training opportunities, Waste Management can help employees maximize their effectiveness and grow in their careers.
In 2019, Waste Management set a new goal to provide a living wage for all employees, which was fast-tracked and achieved in 2020. A living wage is defined as the minimum pay received for the basic number of working hours and required to ensure coverage of workers’ and their families’ basic needs. Waste Management will continue to track and review employee pay scales to ensure that we remain on target.
Engagement Through Communication
Compensation and benefits are only one way we engage workers. Creating a sense of teamwork and shared purpose is also vital. Communication among company leaders and employees at all levels fosters honesty, accountability and respect, all of which are critical to retention. Each quarter, senior leaders host a town hall-style meeting that covers a variety of topics, available to all employees via live-streaming technologies. Employees unable to attend can submit questions by email and view a replay on our intranet and the WM Now app, a new employee mobile app launched in 2020, making it accessible to all 44,900 employees for the first time.
Waste Management also has a weekly internal newsletter with stories on employee safety, leader communications, potential job hazards, employee successes and updates on benefits and career opportunities. Responses to common employee questions are often included in the newsletter, which is distributed by email, posted in lunchrooms and available through WM Now—a one-stop shop for all things Waste Management, making critical information available for field employees who may not have access to a desktop computer at work. In 2020, it has included COVID-19 safety updates; episodes of “The Route,” our internal podcast; latest stories from across the company; and access to employee benefits.
Communication is a two-way street, so we solicit feedback from employees on how we can improve. Constant and collaborative engagement is the foundation of our Service Delivery Optimization program, our Mechanic Service Delivery Optimization, our Peer Review safety program, our Sales Delivery Optimization program, and the fair treatment and respect that comes from the adherence to our Code of Conduct.
We stress our commitment to fair treatment of all employees and strive to apply company policies consistently throughout the organization. For our 8,500 union employees—nearly 20% of our workforce—this goal must be handled according to the practices and expectations agreed to within the collective bargaining unit. For non-union employees, we look for ways to reinforce our fair treatment and continuous learning culture.
Building Value Together
Creating Employment Opportunities for All
Innovative Employment Pathways (IEP) Program
Our industry experiences shortages and high turnover rates for a number of critical roles. At the same time, millions of Americans face unemployment or underemployment, leading to issues such as an inability to afford housing. Those who are homeless—as well as members of other underserved groups—confront stigmas in the workplace that prevent them from breaking cycles of poverty, leaving their potential untapped.
Through the Innovative Employment Pathways (IEP) program, Waste Management and our partners are helping to chart a new course to change lives—while creating a new pipeline of talent for our business. IEP is a recruitment program that provides second-chance employment opportunities to overlooked and underserved community populations, including those who have experienced homelessness, displacement, incarceration and significant employment gaps. Together with leading partner organizations specializing in job readiness programs that engage with these populations, we are casting a wider net to reach nontraditional applicants.
IEP builds on the success of programs like Moreno Valley, California’s Homeless-to-Work initiative, a partnership between the city, the Salvation Army and Waste Management. The program identifies people experiencing homelessness and trains them to beautify areas of the city. Waste Management provides tools and safety equipment for workers and has hired 15 program participants for permanent employment.
In much the same way, IEP depends on collaboration with organizations such as Clean Slate DFW and Goodwill. The program begins with core training for all participants and a survey to determine what skills individuals already bring and what additional training they might need. Participants then attend a “welcome day” at a Waste Management facility where they learn more about the program and a typical day on the job. If they choose to enroll in IEP, individuals spend 90 days working as helpers, sorters and laborers at Waste Management material recovery facilities.
During this period, they can learn more about possible career paths as drivers, technicians and customer service representatives. After the 90-day period, IEP participants may have the opportunity to transition from temporary to permanent positions at Waste Management.
The program launched in June 2019 with pilots in the Dallas and Chicago areas. Since then, we’ve seen 50% higher short-term retention of IEP participants compared to nonparticipants. We plan to continue the program rollout at Waste Management sites across North America, with the goal of activation at 80% of our facilities and 1,000 participants obtaining work experience by 2025.
IEP doesn’t just benefit our business—it illustrates Waste Management’s commitment to People First, creating a culture of acceptance that helps people amplify their potential. “Without the job provided by Clean Slate DFW through Waste Management’s IEP Program, I would not be able to live on my own in my own housing,” says Kelly McCulley, a recent hire. “The program provided services such as transportation and housing support that I needed in order to become a permanent employee. I am so thankful for this program and love my job with Waste Management.”