Unlocking the Keys to Driver Recruitment, Retention

Cheryl McMullen, Freelance writer

May 18, 2015

9 Min Read
Unlocking the Keys to Driver Recruitment, Retention

Randy Goldberg, Republic Services Inc. vice president talent acquisitions, is relatively new to the waste and recycling industry. But already he’s wrestling with the big issue facing all fleet operators—a shortage of skilled drivers.

Goldberg is six months into his tenure at Republic after spending more than a decade prior overseeing talent management for Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corp.

Yet Goldberg says he sees some similarities in past and current experience in terms of a great number of employees and a very diverse group of employers. The hospitality sector operates at a number of price points and offer different ranges of service.

Meanwhile, waste management companies are competing for drivers with long-haul fleets.

“It’s a much bigger group of people we’re competing with and to be honest with you, the long-haul truck companies that are out there, they’re the ones that are really driving a lot of that demand,” he says.

But there are opportunities for waste and recycling companies to hire and keep talent. For example, waste and recycling positions don’t take drivers away from their families for extended periods. And there is more stability in the work flow.

At WasteExpo, Goldberg and Gardner Carrick, vice president of strategic initiatives with National Manufacturing Institute will discuss these issues at a session entitled “Driver and Mechanic Labor Shortage: Tools, Tips, and Techniques for Successful Recruitment & Retention.” It will take place on Monday, June 1 at 1:30 PM.

With approximately 16,000 trucks on the road, Republic operates the eighth largest vocational fleet in the country. Waste360 touched base with Goldberg on the issues of recruitment and retention.

Waste360: It sounds like competition is a challenge. Can you talk about what that competition looks like? Are you competing against all types of industries?

Randy Goldberg: For sure. We’re the small part of that group when we talk about drivers. We’re really looking for people who have experience driving large trucks, who have a CDL, and that can be the long-haul drivers, or that can be other companies that are driving large trucks for delivery purposes more locally.

It’s a much bigger group of people we’re competing with and to be honest with you, the long-haul truck companies that are out there, they’re the ones that are really driving a lot of that demand. They’re driving changes around compensation and all those things because there is so much need. Those are the real big groups that are making everything happen.

Those are the CR Englands of the world. I’m looking at a report right in front of me now and (Utah-based trucking company CR England Inc.) posted 1.6 million unique job posts in the last year. So these kind of posts from longer-haul truck companies are the ones that always come up first. Our group, as waste management companies, we’re really on the very bottom from a demand standpoint.

Waste360: When you start talking about competition and setting yourself apart from other companies, what concepts are important?

Randy Goldberg: What we all need to think about is what is it about our roles, whether it’s drivers or technicians, that would make someone who’s currently [driving long haul] … want to look at our role and say, “Hey, I should consider this type of role,” with Republic Services, or Waste Management, or Progressive or whomever it happens to be.

And that’s something, I would say, in general, that we’re not very good at doing. We’re good at posting what the job is—what they’re going to be doing—but not necessarily highlighting why I would want to do this over (Arizona-based transportation company)  Knight Transportation.

Well, you might want to do this because you might like to be home and see your family every night. You might want to do it because our business typically has a little bit more stability around it in terms of when we’re busy.

Obviously you have to have the components of competitive wages and benefits and all those pieces as well, but if you can highlight some of those advantages, you can most likely make someone think, “Okay, this is something I should at least look into. I should click this link, and I should apply.”

Waste360: What are the qualifications this industry looks for in terms of drivers, for example?

Randy Goldberg: I’ll be honest with you, even with us it probably varies a little bit based on the location. So just to give you an example; in a location like Los Angeles, where we typically get a lot more candidates when we post a job, there’s sort of a natural candidate swell. We can be a little bit more critical on what that person’s past experience is.

We might have locations where we can say we really only want people who have driven automated side loaders—our garbage trucks in residential areas—and have at least two years of experience doing that, and have a very strong safety record, just as an example. Then we might have another area that maybe is much more rural, where there are not nearly as many candidates that have that type of background. Somewhere we might actually pull people who are pretty fresh out of CDL training school, where they’ve just gotten their CDL.

Now, of course, that means we will have to actually put them through quite a bit of training before we put them in a truck and let them drive around. You can see based on the needs and demand of the company it’s going to be a little bit flexible.

There are basic things. You have to have a CDL. You have to have your department of transportation background so we can make sure that that’s all valid. There are bare minimums that no matter where people are applying we’re going to have to have that. But past that, it’s really going to depend on how much supply and demand there is.

Also, is this person going to be a good cultural fit? While you will spend a lot of time in the truck, you’re also going to see people in the neighborhoods. You’re going to see businesses when you’re a commercial driver. So it’s kind of interesting, we’re always looking for that driver who has the ability to be customer focused, but also has the skills to handle these large vehicles.

Waste360: What is the plan for your WasteExpo Session on Driver/Mechanic Recruitment and Retention? How big of an issue is competition and for the industry?

Randy Goldberg: We’ll be sharing some numbers. I think we all are feeling it. But I think seeing it on the screen will probably make some people feel a little bit better and then probably scare them as well.

We’ll look at some very simple statistics like the number of (job) postings. If we go back two years from February and then look at February of this year, the number of postings has increased over 500 percent. So there’s just a lot more demand for drivers.

So it becomes, what are we doing? How are we handling some of the roadblocks to effective recruitment? What are we trying to do? Once we get them hired, what are we trying to do to keep them? There’s typically a lot of turnover around these roles. So obviously if we can affect turnover, and keep people, that makes recruiting a lot easier. So that’s always one of the areas we end up focusing on.

So, we’ll share a few little hints and tips—things to think about like: Where do you go find these types of candidates? What are some good places on the internet to find people? What should that candidate experience look like when you’re starting to go through the process?

Waste360: Then how do solid waste and recycling companies manage creatively recruiting good candidates and how important is it to consider setting themselves apart in terms of reaching the best candidates?

Randy Goldberg:  If you think about yourself as a person who has tried to find a job, I think we are always trying to find companies that make us feel like we’re part of the company—where we provide value and are kind of part of something that’s bigger.

From a recruiting standpoint, you’ve got to find a way to make that happen. I’m not saying that it’s a bunch of smoke and mirrors. It’s got to be real because then you’re going to end up hiring someone who’s not going to be happy and they’re going to leave

If we hire people and we onboard them the right way and they feel good about what they’re doing, and they feel like they’re part of the community, they’re going to tell other people, right? And other people are going to know this is a great company to work for. I’m not just driving a garbage truck, which is pretty important because if your garbage doesn’t get picked up people are going to be upset. If we can make that experience happen, they share that experience, then it’s almost like we don’t have to recruit because people know this is what this company is about and it makes our lives that much easier.

Waste360: Retention in such a competitive market also is an issue. Once you make a hire, how does a company keep a good, qualified employee?

Randy Goldberg:  This could also be a whole other topic of conversation because there are a lot of pieces to it. It all starts with the onboarding and really it starts with the recruiting. So it’s when I went to go for the interview, what did that interview experience feel like? Did I have to go sit outside for 45 minutes until the manager came out and talked to me? Were people friendly? Was I offered a coffee when I came in to apply? And that, the more efficient we make the recruiting experience, and what I mean by that is do I make that candidate come back to interview with four people on four different days—all of these things come back to, have do we care about our employees and how do we care for the candidates.

Then they’re hired and it’s all about how do we onboard them and make them feel comfortable with us? How do we expose them to their teammates? How do we make sure they have all the knowledge they need to be successful with their job? How do we support them as they get started in their new role? All of those pieces—that’s what makes us feel good about what we’re doing and that’s what makes us want to stay.

Waste360: Overall with the session, what are you hoping to accomplish?

Randy Goldberg:  Honestly, we’re just hoping there’s some really good dialogue, which I can’t imagine there won’t be. We’re obviously teeing this up with some of the analytics with what’s going on out there, but what we kind of expect is that people in the audience will stand up and say, “Okay, here’s my circumstance and here’s what I’m having challenges with. Panel, what kind of ideas do you have around solving this problem?” So that can be a lot of different things. 

About the Author(s)

Cheryl McMullen

Freelance writer, Waste360

Cheryl McMullen is a freelance journalist from Akron, Ohio, covering solid waste collection and transfer for Waste360.

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