The Right Fit

WHEN IT COMES TO HIRING STRATEGIES that produce a lasting competitive advantage, there are no quick fixes. Hiring ranks among the top issues facing the solid waste industry today, and if you don't pick the right employee, you will spend the rest of the employment relationship trying to make up for the mistake.

Enlightened employers strive to create positive working environments that attract and retain talented employees. Begin your search for talent by examining your firm's reputation in the community. A perception of unethical behavior, unsafe working conditions, poor communications, favoritism, discrimination, abrasive management or poor service will spread quickly. Simply ask yourself, “Is this a place that someone would recommend to a best friend?” If not, use this as an opportunity to improve your company's operations.

Equally as important, focus on finding a candidate with personal and organizational values that mesh with your company's. First, be clear on what type of employees you are seeking. Look to your best performers for benchmarks. Stand-out employees also may be able to recommend potential candidates.

After developing a hiring profile, carefully screen initial applicants to ensure that they meet minimum requirements. Before even handing over an application, emphasize your pre-employment drug testing and employee substance abuse policies. Some candidates may eliminate themselves, saving valuable time and resources.

A basic, but often overlooked, step is requiring the candidate to complete the application and related documents in ink and on site, alone. This gives you an opportunity to assess literacy and question revisions. Also, beware of blank spaces and reluctance to answer questions. Unsatisfactory explanations for omissions are a clear basis for rejection. Be sure to check references and verify credentials, and do not hesitate to schedule a follow-up session to clarify any issues.

It also is important to realistically describe the job to determine both parties' needs and interests. Multiple interviews and facility tours provide opportunities for candid questions. Along the way, listen for indications of a mismatch. Prior jobs and skills alone should not dictate the hiring decision. If a capable candidate has the right attitude toward company values, then he or she likely can be taught the business.

A comprehensive orientation process immediately following selection of a candidate also is recommended. This provides an opportunity to further discuss company values and mutual expectations. During these sessions, managers should stay alert for any signs of a candidate's insensitivity toward the job. Do not hesitate to correct a hiring error.

Successful completion of orientation may be followed by a 90-day assessment period. This is another chance to validate the hiring decision. Frequent evaluations will help determine the probability of retention. Only those who demonstrate an ongoing willingness to contribute should be invited to stay.

It's one thing to attract top candidates, but keeping them is the key to success. The challenge of retaining employees can be overwhelming. A recent study claims that 75 percent of employees are actively or passively looking for jobs right now. Turnover rates are climbing from their current average of 19.3 percent.

Whether an organization is capable of attracting and retaining a talented workforce turns on the quality of the overall employment relationship. Employees must like what they are doing and who they are doing it with. Also, in the waste industry, pride matters. Solid waste collection and disposal is not a pretty business. Yet surveys consistently show that employees in the industry have a highly favorable view of their work. This positive outlook should be trumpeted in employment efforts.

To retain employees, communicating compensation and benefits must also be ongoing. Misunderstandings in this area are one of the primary reasons people quit their jobs. It would be unfortunate to lose a valued employee to a competitor over a mistaken belief that the other offered a better deal.

The quality of your leadership team also will have a direct impact on hiring and turnover. Employees want to feel “in” on things. Give them a voice in matters that affect them and encourage their thoughts and ideas. Provide timely feedback on how they are doing. If you rely on an “open door” policy alone, you will fall well short of the mark. Venture out of the office and be available to interact with people in their work areas.

Recruitment and retention are also enhanced when employees are afforded proper training. Some employers may have concerns that investments in training could be lost if an employee leaves. That risk, however, is nothing compared to having an untrained workforce that stays. Every chance to grow professionally and financially is attractive.

Finally, a face-to-face exit interview allows for a late opportunity to recover a valued employee and avoid an expensive hiring process. At this point, misunderstandings may be found and corrected, and unproductive practices and compliance issues identified.

This is not to say that all turnover is bad. Sometimes people outgrow companies, and companies outgrow people. If one's talent is not a fit, the employee should be moved out of the organization.

In the end, there are no shortcuts to effective hiring. Due diligence early in the employment relationship will increase the likelihood of building strength in human capital. With that strength come improvements in safety, productivity, quality and customer service as well as reduced costs, improved profits and a competitive advantage.
Ken Baylor
Vice President, Employee & Labor Relations
Republic Services