2023 is already off and running and while many economic indicators have shown some resilience, we’re certainly not out of the woods yet when it comes to the global recession. The waste industry has faced an interesting mix of headwinds and tailwinds in this regard, with an estimated 480,500 people employed in the sector as of the end of 2022, a 3.85% increase year on year.
Quantitatively this is a positive trend that points to an industry that’s growing, but if you dig a little bit deeper – there are several concerns that are widespread about the quality of those jobs and their sustainability in light of other labor options that are developing.
Challenges facing the waste and recycling labor workforce
Three key challenges face the labor workforce in the waste industry, each of which is intertwined with one another – and all of which need to be addressed if the industry is to reach its potential this year.
- Low Wages. Despite inflationary pressure that has lifted wages in most sectors, the waste industry still lags in terms of wage growth, meaning that it’s difficult to attract personnel especially when you consider what other options are out there. Without an adequate level of remuneration, it is very difficult to retain top talent who have many other options to choose from.
- Unstable Job Environment. Another key aspect of the current labor market is that jobs are somewhat insecure and unstable. Waste and remediation projects can be short-term in nature, in some cases, and there is often a significant employee churn as companies flex their labor forces up and down to meet demand. This uncertainty will again harm the loyalty and satisfaction of workers who are not in control of their working hours and job responsibilities.
- Poor Working Conditions. Building on the above, the other key problem faced by the industry is poor working conditions. Working in waste is, by its nature, a challenging proposition, but that does not mean that companies shouldn’t try to make the working conditions as positive as possible. This includes company culture, work-life balance, health and safety, employee wellness, and much more. Workers want to know that their employers care about them and when the working conditions are poor, it throws that into question.
These challenges are serious but solvable if the companies working in the industry think differently about their hiring and general human resource relations – to change the paradigm and create a pleasant working experience across the board.
How should the industry address these challenges?
The proposed solutions for these challenges should not surprise you, but they are key pillars that can make a big difference if the right decisions are made, creating real change for individual companies and for the industry as a whole.
- Increase wages. Whether companies like it or not, they are going to have to pay more for talent in the current labor market. A thorough compensation analysis should be conducted on a quarterly basis. Wages simply must be increased if the waste industry is going to be competitive for new entrants and in order to retain the staff that are already in place. The inflationary pressures we’ve seen in the past few months necessitate a correction and those companies who recognize this will be in a prime position to hire the next generation of talent into their organizations.
- Improve job security. Another way to improve hiring and retention is to guarantee better job security for people who are entering the industry. Companies should be looking for ways to create truly full-time, long-term positions that can adapt and adjust to changing business circumstances without having to churn and then eventually re-hire employees along the way. The more job security can be created, the more candidates you’ll have to choose from when staffing your waste and remediation company.
- Improve working conditions. Lastly, companies should be focused on improving the overall working conditions that employees are faced with on a day-to-day basis. Strategically, it makes a lot of sense to be proactive about this and go above and beyond what is expected to create an environment that fosters productivity, wellness, and enjoyment among the entire workforce. Small touches that show employees that they are cared for go a long way toward keeping them invested in the mission, both physically and emotionally.
These three components can be incredibly powerful if delivered in parallel and the investment required to make these work, while significant, can be transformational when done right.
Where to from here?
The future outlook for the waste labor force lies in the hands of the established companies that hold the keys to the kingdom. Growth must be fed by higher wages, more job security, and better working conditions if the positive trends that we’ve been seeing are to continue.
Companies that take this seriously and build it into their strategic plans for 2023 and beyond will reap the rewards of these proactive moves and will place themselves in the best possible position to attract and retain those key personnel that can move their company forward.
If your company is looking to capitalize on this and need some help with your recruiting, then don’t hesitate to check out what we can offer here at Inflection Poynt. Our team is dedicated to helping our clients leverage technology to streamline the recruiting process and find those superstars who can take your company to the next level. If this is of interest, be sure to get in touch today. We’d love to hear from you!