ISRI2019: Create culture that attracts next-generation employees

ISRI2019: Create culture that attracts next-generation employees

Recyclers share ways their businesses are recruiting and retaining young professionals.

April 10, 2019

About three to four years ago, Detroit-based Ferrous Processing & Trading (FPT) decided to make some upgrades to its corporate office by modernizing the look. The company updated its cubicles, modernized furniture in the lunch room, placed TVs in its meeting rooms and even installed a gym for workers. 

“[The office] hadn’t been improved in years,” says Howard Sherman, chairman of the board at FPT. “I was not a proponent of this investment; it seemed like dollars out the window.”

Yet the investment proved to be wise. Sherman says the upgrades have been extremely helpful to improving the company’s recruitment efforts. He notes that employees don’t always use the new gym equipment or technology in the corporate office, but it’s a nice selling point to prospective employees when they tour or interview with FPT. 

“It’s helped with recruiting,” he says. “In the minds of prospective employees, they saw a company that looked like other good companies in Detroit.” 

Upgrading an office’s look is just one way to help improve recruitment of next-generation employees. Yet recruiting young professionals into the scrap recycling industry is one of the bigger struggles companies like FPT face today. 


During the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries’ ISRI 2019 Convention & Exposition in Los Angeles, several industry veterans and young executives discussed how their workplaces are working to attract young employees to their businesses. Sherman—along with Albert Cozzi of Cozzi Recycling, Bellwood, Illinois; Tom Crane of Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Recycling Inc.; and Jacqueline Lotzkar of Pacific Metals Recycling International, Vancouver, Canada—all shared their perspectives on how their businesses are working to recruit young professionals to the industry. The following are a few tips they offered: 

Share the big picture: It might be tough for recyclers to compete with big-name companies such as Microsoft or Amazon on offering unique benefits. However, Crane recommends giving prospective employees the big picture of what a career in the scrap industry could look like. “Share the long-term view,” he says. “We have benefits, 401K. Young people who apply are interested in the bottom-line dollar. So, give them the longer term picture of what that could look like.” 

Offer some perks: Recyclers might not be able to create an office like the Google Headquarters, but they can add some benefits that are attractive to next-generation employees. Lotzkar says Pacific Metals Recycling International does this by offering flexible work hours to employees. She adds that the company will also bring in food trucks for lunch some days. Cozzi adds that Cozzi Recycling hosts similar lunch events for employees to create a culture of camaraderie. 

Connect in new ways: Two decades ago, scrap recyclers developed relationships with its community and prospective employees through local organizations, charities and religious institutions. To reach next-generation employees, recyclers need to reach out in different ways. Sherman suggests using social media as an avenue to reach next-generation employees. He adds, “We also have to emulate some ways Amazon and other companies like them reach out. We have to work harder to attract people.” 

Engage employees with industry: Beyond recruitment, one way recyclers can improve retention of its next-generation employees is by encouraging them to engage with the industry. Lotzkar recommends having newer employees get involved in groups like ISRI or groups like Best Young And Brightest. “People who get most out of industry are those who want to give back to the industry,” she says. 

Mentor the employees: Cozzi advises recyclers to find mentors for their next-generation employees. “I’m a firm believer that everyone should have a mentor,” he says. Also, at FPT, Sherman says he’s seen a number of employees step up to mentor young professionals joining the company. “People who have been here 10 years will work with the new, young professionals any way they can,” he says. “Sometimes they decide to have several conversations with them throughout the day or once a week. That’s important so they feel comfortable and both will learn from one another.”