It’s a situation every manager of a material recovery facility (MRF) has faced: how to bring new employees into the plant and integrate them with the existing team without disrupting the operation and its productivity.
It happens when there’s turnover, when shifts or days are added to the schedule or when new lines and equipment are installed. Workforce integration challenges can also occur when there are significant management changes, like new ownership or the addition of new leaders who want to bring their long-term employees with them.
Workforce integration issues can even come up whenever your staffing program or approach changes, perhaps by adding or changing staffing companies or switching from traditional staffing to an embedded work team model.
Whatever the case, when new employees come on board, the MRF’s ongoing productivity depends on a smooth integration. Avoiding these five workforce integration dangers can ensure a seamless transition in the short-term and set up your MRF for greater efficiency and profitability in the long run.
1. Lack of education and training
Every new employee needs basic education, training and orientation to the facility. Even the most experienced sorter or line lead will have a greater chance of immediate success if they are familiar with their new workplace and your expectations.
Start with a thorough orientation to the site, introductions to other employees and an overview of the “rules of the road.” Beyond that, it’s essential to provide training on safe operation of each piece of equipment.
2. Low retention, high turnover
Avoid the risk of losing your existing employees during periods of transition and the equally dangerous trap of keeping employees who no longer fit. Periods of change work both ways; you don’t want turnover, but you should be prepared for it. Have a recruiting plan in place so you can fill any open positions promptly.
Likewise, change creates an opportunity to reinforce the value of working for you to your loyal employees. Consider a celebration or reward for those who stick with you through the difficulties of a workforce integration.
If there are leadership changes, be prepared to assess each of your existing team members to ensure they are right for the new organization. Take time to introduce new managers and workers, procedures and processes so everyone feels like they’re part of the team.
3. Increase in safety incidents
Everyone on your team must stay safe on the job. That’s a given. Working with new colleagues, procedures or equipment raises the possibility of safety hazards. Don’t assume your workforce knows how to stay safe in your site and on your team.
Periods of workforce integration are an ideal time to review all safety training, rethink the makeup of your safety committees, and reward employees for hazard identification, proper PPE, consistent lock-out/tag-out procedures and the like.
4. Lack of motivation
The theme of the first three dangers is “change.” It could just as easily be labeled “opportunity.” Integrating a new workforce is an opportunity to move your existing employees into new roles. When MRF employees see they have a career development and growth path with your organization, it can motivate them to be more productive and build retention across the entire team.
A second theme is “communication.” Keeping employees informed, ensuring they hear about changes from their manager and not the grapevine, and talking to them as individuals all go a long way toward preventing a drop in motivation and encouraging a positive outcome when integrating a new workforce at your MRF.
5. No sense of teamwork
Building a sense of teamwork in a MRF isn’t something to do once and check off your list. It’s an ongoing job for managers. When new employees join an existing team – and even when there is a wholesale replacement of the entire crew – everyone looks to the leader to pull them together.
Establishing a regular meeting schedule is a great place to start.
When employees have a sense of belonging and purpose, they will perform better and stay longer. When employees feel they have a friend at work, they will work harder. And when a MRF operates with true teamwork, efficiency and productivity quickly follow.
High-performance work teams
The traditional staffing model typically has employees transitioning in and out of the team regularly, sometimes on a daily basis. It can be exhausting, demoralizing and expensive. Identifying and overcoming these five dangers must be addressed daily to hit your productivity targets.
When MRFs integrate a high-performance work team on their site – a full-time group of employees managed by an on-site expert they can rely on every day – these dangers may still exist but to a much lower degree.
In this model, coaching, training and education are ongoing, with employees learning from the on-site manager and each other. Turnover is reduced because the work is full-time and steady. MRFs experience fewer safety incidents because safety training sticks and is reinforced and built on every day. People learn how to stay safe on their jobs, and the plant becomes so familiar that potential hazards quickly jump out.
Motivation and teamwork go hand in hand. A team is motivated to succeed as a unit. Motivation drives the formation of teams. And together, members of a high-performing team enjoy their work, look forward to continuous education and growth opportunities, and value their individual and group contributions.
Leadpoint offers workforce solutions and operations consulting for MRFs. For more information, visit https://leadpointusa.com.