Four things to know when selecting a staffing agency.
By Sean Ebner

With waste and recycling industry employment at a 10-year-high and unemployment at a 10-year-low, operators are feeling the pressure as they try to field a full and capable workforce to keep up with a full workload. The most innovative companies adopt a strategic contingent staffing model that shifts some labor cost from fixed to variable. This allows the company to nimbly adjust staff levels to stay ahead of fluctuations in demand that can wreak havoc on the bottom line (see Figures 1 and 2).


Figures 1 and 2


A Strategic Shock Absorber
Contingent staffing is a strategic shock absorber used in many industries, similar to operational performance gains seen in manufacturing with just-in-time supply chain models. Industries that experience cyclical demand surges make it a practice to fill a percentage of their workforce with contingent labor to absorb the ups and downs of production cycles or seasonality. For instance, contingent workers make up around 2 percent of the overall U.S. workforce. In the cyclical manufacturing and logistics sector, use of contingent workers runs as high as 20 percent to 30 percent for some roles. When a demand cycle wanes, operators reduce their contingent staff load rather than see their bottom line erode by fixed labor costs and lagging revenue.

This model also extends bottom-line flex to service industries with more stable operational expectations, but who may experience other headwinds they need to buffer against, such as regulations, budget and technology changes.

While contingent staffing is a good solution for most industries, not all staffing agencies are a good fit for every industry. It is important to work with an agency that understands your business and has experience providing workers who can not only do the job but are a good fit for your organization. We have learned a lot about serving this industry over the years. Here are four things to consider when looking for a staffing partner.

#1: Do They Know You and Your Business?
To have staying power in an industry, a staffing partner should specialize in that industry. It is about more than knowing the local labor market and having the recruiting horsepower to quickly fill a bench of qualified workers. It is about understanding the economics and operational pressures as well as knowing the day-to-day mechanics of your business. Many staffing agencies can provide general labor, but a staffing partner that has invested in a dedicated team specializing solely in the waste and recycling industry can see around corners and help you strategically manage your workforce and add efficiencies into your operating plan.

What to ask:
• How many years has the agency serviced the waste and recycling industry?
• Who are their top clients in the industry?
• Is the agency big enough, with enough locations to service a large, multi-site waste company?

#2: Can They Make a Good Match?
It is not easy to trust another company to help with one of the most important decisions you make as an operator: who to hire. First, can they actually fill your openings? You need good workers and you need them now. A good staffing agency knows your labor market better than most large employers in your area—finding workers is what they do.

Second, can the agency find a worker who is a good match for your business? You know how hard it is to find someone with the temperament and work ethic to be a good fit for your team. Working on a collection truck is like running a 10K every day and workers need to have what it takes to keep the pace. And while it can be dirty work, you field a team of pros and need someone who fits in and represents your brand.

What to ask:
• How does the staffing agency determine a worker is the best fit for your industry?
• How do they ensure you receive a competent worker who meets your compliance requirements?
#3: Is Safety Really #1?
Keeping workers safe has to be integral to your staffing partner’s operations and not just a poster on the wall. A seasoned blue-collar staffing pro should be a skilled safety advisor who can point out potential safety hazards and be willing to turn down an order if she is not convinced that the operator takes safety as seriously as she does. A good staffing partner will do everything possible to ensure workers get home safe at the end of their shifts and that their clients are protected from vulnerabilities.

What to ask:
• What is the staffing agency’s specific safety program for waste and recycling workers?
• Do they have a verifiable history of complying with all federal, state and local regulations?
• Do they require that their workers have the same training and health and safety protections as your employees?


#4: Are They Going to Be There When You Need Them?
Staffing is a people business, not a technology business. That said, staffing is undergoing a technology revolution that promises to make ordering staff as easy as ordering your next ride home from the airport. It is a welcome advancement that adds value to a relationship that still works best with the human touch.
A successful staffing partner knows federal, state and local employment regulations, conducts thorough background checks, confirms eligibility to work in the country, executes W2s, pays Workers’ Compensation, unemployment taxes, benefits—the same critical steps you follow when hiring a new employee. And the staffing partner needs to know how it applies to your unique business. You cannot do that well through technology alone. It remains a people business and in a strategic business partnership you do not want to get stuck with costly headaches if a worker is injured, or big surprises on a bill because wage and hour details were not managed properly.

What to ask:
• Are they a part of the community? Do they have brick and mortar locations near your worksite?
• Do they interview and vet workers face-to-face?
• Is there someone local who can work with your team to ensure all goes smoothly?
• Can they prove financial stability and coverage to weather a serious injury or will they leave you with the bill?

A Mutual Investment
Of course, there are more questions to ask when considering a strategic partnership with someone to help manage your biggest asset. And the staffing partner will have questions of their own. It is a worthwhile mutual investment. The waste and recycling industry revenue growth has outpaced GDP in the past five years, experiencing 3.6 percent growth and is projected to reach $57 billion this year—signs of a healthy, dynamic industry. However, like other industries, there are challenges that pressure operations to seek efficiencies to stay healthy. A strategic use of contingent staffing can help absorb the shock of the ups and downs operators face in an ever-changing environment. | WA

Sean Ebner is the President of PeopleReady (Tacoma, WA), the largest blue-collar staffing agency in North America, with more than 600 branches across the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. A proud Waste Expo sponsor, PeopleReady has been a strategic staffing partner to some of the largest waste and recycling operators in North America for decades, placing between 40,000 and 50,000 workers in the industry each year. The company pioneered on-demand day labor in 1989 and more recently pioneered the use of mobile technology in blue-collar staffing by introducing JobStack. The app allows customers to place and monitor orders, rate workers, and approve worker hours from a smartphone or desktop 24/7. PeopleReady dispatches a worker every 10 seconds on JobStack. For more information, call (844) 775-8326 or visit

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