Successful hiring is a key element to success in any business. It is often said that hiring is the single most important skill a business owner must have. In the portable sanitation industry, PROs have always faced unique challenges in the hiring process. Today, those challenges have been compounded and we all know the reason why – the pandemic.
For this edition of Pulse of the PROs, JohnTalk would like to know how effective your hiring efforts have been during the pandemic. Send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org or message JohnTalk on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. You can also leave a reply at the bottom of this page.
Here’s what we’re seeing in the portable sanitation landscape.
Just as the pace of the Delta variant of COVID-19 was beginning to slow late in 2021, the Omicron variant swept across the world. Currently, it’s a good news/bad news situation.
The rising infection rates of Omicron led to a worldwide economic slowdown at the beginning of 2022, especially in the United States, according to the Wall Street Journal.
However, daily cases are falling rapidly in areas where the variant first arrived. Even though much of the country is still experiencing a fast-growing number of cases, the Omicron wave may be peaking nationally.
The pandemic has been described as devastating the labor market like a “tsunami.” It has definitely put pressure on the portable sanitation industry.
The Wall Street Journal reported that there are far more job openings than the number of unemployed people looking for work, with more than 11 million job openings compared to about 7 million unemployed.
The pandemic led to a wave of retirements by Baby Boomers (according to the Pew Research Center, in the third quarter of 2020, nearly 30 million Baby Boomers retired!), as well as a decline in millennials in the job market. Falling birth rates and lower immigration numbers are other significant contributing factors to the job market squeeze.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary (for November 2021), 4.5 million workers quit their jobs, while 6.7 million people took new jobs. This is a signal that workers are using the tight job market to their advantage by taking new jobs with higher pay and better working conditions. Many have switched to jobs that allow them to work remotely or on a flexible schedule, benefits that aren’t compatible with portable sanitation.
These trends are expected to continue through the first half of 2022. However, economists are hopeful that the job market will get better later this year — if the virus is under control.
Stay optimistic! While there are many more employers looking for workers, the great majority are not competing with you. Your candidates’ main job skills include a willingness to clean human waste, work outdoors in all weather, use heavy equipment, drive a truck, and work independently. Most employers are dealing with candidates who want to work from home or have flexible schedules. It’s a world of difference in the labor market!
In fact, the job requirements for a driver can even be a selling point during the pandemic.
OSHA says workers are at lower risk of occupational exposure to COVID-19 when “jobs do not require contact with people known to have or suspected of having COVID-19, nor frequent close contact (within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) with the general public or other workers.“ This is an accurate description of the daily public sanitation work environment, which includes working alone, working outdoors, and having little contact with customers and the public.
Many PROs are pros when it comes to hiring. If you haven’t hired in a while, you can review the basics with these JohnTalk blogs:
If you’re looking for workers, your competitors are probably looking as well. It’s always worth the time to begin the hiring process by first reviewing what your competitors are doing. Are you seeing more job posts than usual? What are they offering in their job ads? What are they saying on social media about hiring?
Here are some tactics that are being used by employers in all industries, including portable sanitation, to gain a hiring advantage in the tight labor market.
Throughout the country, workers are asking for and getting more money and better benefits.
If this is your strategy, you’ll need to re-think the compensation you offer to current employees as well. When new hires receive higher wages, it means your experienced drivers are even more valuable. With so many workers leaving their jobs because they know they can get better offers elsewhere, your goal isn’t just to hire, it’s also to retain the excellent employees you have.
A popular benefit is paid sick leave. In November 2021, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that nearly four in ten workers are employed at a firm that began offering paid leave during the pandemic or expanded their existing paid leave benefits. Workers at small firms are more likely than workers at large firms to have begun receiving paid sick leave for the first time.
Also, consider increasing your prices in tandem with increased employee compensation. We believe the time is overdue for an industry-wide increase in prices for portable sanitation services. In addition to paying more in wages, the economy is also a great incentive for you to act. One economic factor driving the need for higher rates is inflation. Last year saw the largest annual increase in inflation in nearly 40 years. Economists expect inflation to ease later in 2022, but for now, rising costs are taking a bite out of your profitability.
Business Insider reported that job postings with hiring incentives have doubled in a year. The offer of a sign-on bonus can get candidates in the door. However, judging character is important because you run the risk of hiring someone who takes the bonus and leaves shortly afterward. You may require that your new employee meet certain requirements, such as completing a probationary period, before receiving the bonus. Or, pay the bonus in increments. Make sure you spell out these details upfront in your offer.
Employers are responding to competitiveness by reducing the amount of time it takes to go from a potential candidate’s first inquiry to offering the candidate the position. The key is to quicken the process while maintaining the quality. Review resumes within a day and quickly contact references. Text job candidates instead of using email or phone. Stay in communication with updates during the process. Prepare a basic set of interview questions in advance that you can adapt to each candidate.
Some aspects can’t be hurried or dispensed with just to save time. For example, you’ll want to have candidates visit your place of business to demonstrate their driving skills. But by speeding the process in simple ways, you can avoid making a rush to judgment.
The pandemic has shown that employees more than ever want trust and respect. They want to feel they are a valuable part of the team. Review your company “culture.” Do you work well with your team? Do you listen to suggestions and feedback? How do you show your support? Are your trucks, equipment, units, sinks, and supplies in the best possible shape?
Get the perspective of your current employees. What do they like best about their jobs and about working for you? Show prospective employees that you take pride in your business and your drivers, and that will go a long way to getting them on board and keeping them in the long run.
Hiring during the pandemic may involve a greater investment of your time and effort (and possibly marketing budget).
You should be prepared to meet the need for temporary help that can occur suddenly during the pandemic. It may happen that one of your drivers comes down with or is exposed to the virus and will be out of action or in quarantine for several days or weeks. Or, it may be that business is booming, and you’ll need another driver for the entire season.
Temp agencies and internet job boards are immediate go-to sources. In today’s gig economy, it may actually be a little easier to find someone willing to work for a few days or weeks compared to full-time employment. In addition, look for other ways to improve your recruiting:
Have your job description on file, updated with any changes you’ve made in response to the pandemic, such as increased compensation. Detail job responsibilities and the anticipated time frame of the job.
You don’t have to start from scratch every time you need a temp. Potential candidates include:
There may be job candidates who don’t have the level of skill that meet your needs. Can candidates with the potential but not the experience make the grade if you spend extra time on their training?
Hiring a temp is like a probationary period for both the employee and the employer. You’re both checking each other out. When you’re both mutually satisfied in the short term, it opens the door to future temp work or to ease into a full-time gig.
An important part of the recruiting process is how you present your response to the pandemic to your potential hire. A principal reason that so many people have retired, quit the workforce, or switched jobs was fear of catching the COVID-19 virus. To overcome a potential candidate’s infection fears, you’ll have to give them the confidence that they will feel safe in your work environment.
Can you ask a prospective employee if he or she has been vaccinated? What precautions do you have to take in the workplace to protect workers from COVID? If one of your drivers contracts the virus, when can they go back to work? PROs have many questions about COVID in the workplace, and information and guidance may change as the pandemic evolves.
To address the specific aspects of the portable sanitation industry, the best starting point is Portable Sanitation Association International. PSAI offers excellent guidance under its “COVID-19 Resources” page. Information includes:
Just another great reason to join PSAI!
OSHA and the CDC provide comprehensive information and guidance for the workplace environment.
For an introduction to more specific information in the workplace, OSHA has a helpful FAQ page. Questions are grouped by topic, including:
For more detailed info, OSHA’s COVID-19 Safety and Health Topics page provides the most recent guidance to help employers protect their workers and comply with OSHA requirements during the pandemic.
Also, check the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission site “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws.” This helpful Q&A page includes a section on “Hiring and Onboarding.”
(If you have fewer than 15 employees, your business isn’t covered by the ADA. However, it’s recommended that employers should conduct themselves as if they were covered.)
Finally, review your state’s website for additional general guidance on COVID as well as information and requirements that are specific to your state.
Now, it’s your turn. How has hiring changed for your business since the pandemic has started? What new strategies have you tried to promote your business for hiring? New job sites? New incentives? What has worked for you, and what hasn’t? Let us know!
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