How to Find & Keep Your Best Recycling Center Employees

How to Find & Keep Your Best Recycling Center Employees

In the United States, the number of job openings is growing and the unemployment rate is falling. On the horizon, a battle is raging as employers will be competing to find, hire and keep qualified employees.

According to the U.S Department of Labor, job openings (job creation) are at their highest levels since 2001. As jobs are filled, unemployment rates will continue to fall.

As the economy improves, managers will find it increasingly more difficult to fill openings in their workforce. Consider that in July 2009–the peak of the recession–there were 6.7 unemployed workers for each available job. Today, that number has fallen to just 1.7 unemployed workers for each available job.

Finding and hiring qualified people can be a challenge. To ensure an adequate number of qualified workers, managers must have a strategy to find, recruit, select, train and keep good employees. Managers and supervisors should also be diligently working to retain employees who are dependable, talented and dedicated at the workplace.

The Hiring Process

The hiring process involves a number of steps. The first is to carefully evaluate and determine the number of people that are needed to effectively and efficiently operate the recycling center. New recycling systems and updated equipment may result in a change to the employee base as new sorters, laborers, maintenance workers and mechanics are added or subtracted from a recycling process. Additionally, changes in volume can affect the number of employees necessary to run the plant.

After the number of people is calculated, managers should create clear job descriptions that include the requirements and skills desired for each job. The job description should identify the job title, job tasks, skill and educational requirements, and a summary of the working conditions. The best job descriptions present a clear and straightforward summary of the job.

Once the job descriptions are complete, it’s time to start searching for qualified candidates using a focused recruiting effort. Recruiting can take many forms, including “re-recruiting” former employees, participating in job fairs, and using social media, Web sites, job banks as well as industry networking opportunities. Word of mouth also can be helpful, especially among current employees who may know someone who is available and has the right skill set to successfully fill the position.

During the recruitment phase, managers can also examine the current workforce to identify any internal candidates for new positions. Moving or promoting someone from within the organization can be a viable option. This has the added benefit of shortening the on-boarding process and cross-training roles and responsibilities within the organization.

With a pipeline of qualified candidates from the selection process, the field prospects must be narrowed through interviews and evaluations. During the interview, keep the conversation focused on the job and candidate’s ability to fulfill the responsibilities. Each candidate should be asked the same questions during the employee interviews.

Prior to offering a job, consider running a complete background check to obtain information on a candidate’s work history, possible criminal record, driving record and references. Although this step may seem excessive, background checks are an important step to protect the organization and employees.


Now that the employee has been found, interviewed and hired, it’s time to get to work. Remember, the first day of work at a new recycling plant is an important day for the new employee. Managers should make an effort to make the new employee feel welcome and excited to be joining the team. Remember, this is the organization’s one chance to make a great first impression.

A well-planned, employee orientation program will help the employee get off to a positive start. Every employee orientation program should include a manager or supervisor welcoming the new employee and telling him or her about the organization’s goals.

The employee orientation is also a time to talk about the importance of safety at the recycling center, including the use of Personal Protective Equipment. Job specific tasks, tools, responsibilities and emergency procedures should also be reviewed.


The hiring and on-boarding of new employees is a time-consuming and expensive process. It is also a critical process that, if done properly, can result in the hiring of a talented team of people. But an employee relations program should not stop after the employee’s first day on the job. Instead, supervisors and managers have an on-going responsibility to keep employees motivated, focused and happy.

Providing a great place to work where employees are engaged, satisfied and appreciated will lead to greater employee retention. Keep in mind that supervisors and managers have an enormous impact on an employee’s decision to stay or leave and find another job. And ultimately, keeping a team of good, talented employees is the best pathway toward success and avoiding the expense and energy needed if your employee base is constantly churning.

Will Flower is president of Green Stream Recycling in Long Island, N.Y. The company is focused on advancing recycling throughout Long Island.

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