While the labor shortage remains a common issue for the waste industry, it’s not the only sector of employment under pressure in the business. As executives age out of the space, a smaller workforce has resulted in less qualified candidates available to step up and fill the shoes of their superiors.
Building up and discovering candidates in the talent pool has been a mission of Tyler Frisbie, the managing partner of Global Recruiters of McKinney, Texas. For the past seven years, Frisbie has specialized in placing sales and operational executives in the waste and recycling industry throughout the U.S.
Waste Today talked with Frisbie about the newer generation of executives, how to attract them and the role they have in mitigating the labor shortage downstream.
Waste Today (WT): Can you tell me about your recruiting and placement process?
Tyler Frisbie (TF): We are typically engaged to confidentially replace under-performing executives within the environmental industry. We spend a lot of time up front learning exactly what our clients’ needs are, which expedites the recruiting process and minimizes the back-and-forth. Understanding the company culture, its challenges and its needed growth, both in the short-term and long-term, are some critical pieces we need to know early in the recruitment process.
My propriety database is where I first turn. I have developed and maintained this database one conversation at a time over the last 20 years. If you only rely on external websites like LinkedIn, you can waste a lot of time. The best talent is usually doing a great job where they are and are frequently not on LinkedIn.
WT: Is there any piece companies tend to overlook when building their executive teams?
TF: Start at the top. Some people rush to fill the vice president or general manager position(s), but it’s very important to look at the top first. If you don’t have the right leaders at the top, then you won’t attract the best VP or GM candidates.
Another overlooked area is the executives who are leading labor—executives who would take a closer look at improving the life of a laborer.
WT: What qualifications are employers looking for in executives? Is diversity a priority?
TF: It depends on the role, and the companies vary so much as far as what they need. Multitasking, doing more with less resources, being results-driven, getting along with others and having high integrity are always at the top of the list.
It is critical to have a strong HR partner in the business to ensure the right succession planning and diversification to drive positive change. HR needs to be included in the overall strategy of the business to drive sustainable growth.
WT: Is it more common to hire these positions from inside or outside the company?
TF: It needs to be a combination of both. Employees will start to question their long-term growth if the company only hires key positions from outside. It’s important for companies to offer internal opportunities for advancement, but it’s also healthy to bring in outside talent as appropriate.
WT: Do qualified candidates ever come from different industries?
TF: Yes, but it depends upon on the company’s preference and the role. Some firms are open to it and others aren’t. I’ve seen the transportation industry be a good parallel industry to find candidates.
WT: Are there any executive hiring trends in the industry that you can point to?
TF: Exposing the candidate to a variety of people and not just the leadership team is one trend. Hiring with stretch goals is also becoming more common. If you are looking for a VP, for example, the best candidate may not currently be a VP, but they are ready for that opportunity.
WT: What are executive-level candidates typically looking for in a workplace?
TF: There are seven key areas executives consider when considering a new opportunity (or staying put). They are:
- A challenge: If there is no challenge, interest is lost quickly.
- Advancement potential: Make it clear what the long-term growth potential is within the organization.
- Stability and risk factors: Some people have a stomach for risk and like it, while others prefer a steady environment.
- Recognition: In my opinion, the most underutilized form of employee retention is positive affirmation. It is the least expensive thing you can do that will go the longest distance.
- Location: Sometimes it matters, and other times it doesn’t. Remote offices continue to pick up steam in geographies that are less appealing to reside in.
- Autonomy: The ability to run your own show and not have to have a committee meeting for approval is an extremely hot issue now, especially with millennials.
- Money: Although it’s usually the last reason a person changes opportunities, it’s important. For higher-level roles (VP and up), some form of equity is standard and helps with retention in seeing challenges through to their completion.
WT: The labor shortage is obviously a challenge in this industry. Is finding qualified executive-level candidates an issue as well? how does the labor shortage affect that?
TF: It’s always an issue because we’re dealing with different demographics. What makes a baby boomer motivated is different than what motivates a millennial. They have different and unique ways of looking at business. Recent data shows that a third of the workforce in the U.S. are millennials.
There is still a war on talent. There are less qualified candidates and not an abundance of younger blood coming up the ranks. Some [executives] are transitioning more into a consulting-type role, so they’re doing things part-time and not fully retiring. Because there is such a gap in talent, some of these older professionals are really going to have to work longer.
If a company is low on labor or has a disgruntled labor force on a consistent basis, it will cause real issues. When that’s the case, you need a “turnaround guy” that flourishes in that type of environment. Part of finding the right leader(s) for organizations is finding those who know how to build thriving teams during labor shortages and know how to attract strong talent despite them.
WT: What have you seen companies doing to attract those younger upper-level employees?
TF: Social media is a big one. It’s just the way of our future with younger professionals, and integration of that in the day-to-day business [is crucial]. That certainly is going to play a larger role in the whole process of attracting the younger workforce.
Aside from a sign-on bonus, companies will craft as much time off as possible. Flex time has been a big thing. Mentor programs are critical and should be imperative at all companies. A better hiring process is also critical. No one likes doing panel interviews, and no one wants to work for a boss that struggles in making a decision.
If you find the right leader, the ones that are really good at what they do know how to attract and gain the trust of the younger workforce. They kind of shoulder that responsibility. I’ve found that’s critical. Your senior leadership and their ability to connect with and attract the younger folks coming up is absolutely imperative.
WT: Is retention an issue with executive-level positions?
TF: If you do your job well from the get-go, retention is not an issue. If you try to put a round peg in a square hole, you will have retention issues. Some companies are very keen on “stay interviews” to learn what will make employees want to stay versus leaving. Treating people well is the best form of retention. Stay interviews allow the employees to provide feedback, which also helps them feel appreciated.
WT: What do you think the next generation of waste and recycling industry executives will look like?
TF: I think they will be more sophisticated with technology. There’ll certainly be an increase of social media integration. I think flex time leads to better work-life balance. Work-life balance use to be a buzzword, and now it’s a must. Those are just a few things on the horizon that I think we’ll see.
The author is the assistant editor for Waste Today magazine and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.