After implementing Leadpoint’s high-performance work team model, Tri-County’s total output value went up significantly.
By Pat Hudson

Tri-County Recycling and Solid Waste of Appleton, WI, provides residents and businesses in a three-county area with recycling and landfill disposal services, along with education, waste reduction and material reuse ideas. For several years, the company was having a problem at their materials recycling facility (MRF). Tri-County was losing money due to poor quality and missed items on the sort line— some $350k per year by one estimate. The site’s leaders were struggling with high turnover and the inconsistent number of temporary employees on the line every day, lack of motivation among the workforce and a low sense of urgency and accountability from the staffing partner. Line leads felt that they could not rely on the training being delivered to sorters, which caused them to lose time to rework. If the sorter workforce was not reliably on the job every day, ready to work, safe and managed well, Tri-County could not hit its production and revenue goals.

The Need for Change
Despite some 20 years of partnership with a non-profit staffing agency, Tri-County’s leaders were ready for a change in their workforce strategy. Better training and oversight of the temp sorter workforce were solutions the county explored, but the results just were not there.
A frustrating situation was only getting worse at a time when the county needed their production to get better, so that they could stay competitive, deliver on their service agreement with the county’s households and businesses, and meet their revenue targets. As a result, Tri-County issued an RFP for workforce services in November 2017. Leadpoint, who was referred to Tri-County by a recycling consultant, did its due diligence, submitted a proposal and won the business based on the company’s expertise and industry knowledge.

Leadpoint Business Services is a workforce optimization company specializing in the waste and recycling industry. Unlike traditional staffing companies, Leadpoint focuses on performance, not headcount. Since 2000, Leadpoint has helped companies make better decisions about how to maximize their workforce to improve productivity, efficiency and profitability. Based in Phoenix, AZ, the company provides its data-driven approach for optimizing performance to organizations nationwide.

Converting the Existing Workforce
Anytime there is a change in management, employee tenure is at risk. In this case, when Leadpoint took on workforce optimization of Tri-County’s recycling facility, two big challenges had to be faced:
1. How can we be sure our existing workforce does not quit?
2. How do we keep operating during the transition and before the new solution is fully implemented?

Leadpoint’s goal with any new client is always to create the least amount of disruption possible and to retain 100 percent of the existing workforce during a transition. So, both Tri-County and Leadpoint took on these challenges, with each partner stepping up to ensure the existing workforce not only stayed, but also stayed productive and motivated to improve.

When the change was announced, leaders on all sides wanted to create and communicate a united front. Leadpoint was onsite alongside facility leaders and representatives of the outgoing staffing provider. The workforce was presented with a set of attractive options and benefits that were part of the contract among the parties. The outgoing staffing company encouraged its workers to keep their jobs and stay with the new vendor, Leadpoint. For anyone who chose not to stay, the staffing company offered to place them in jobs with other customers.

Tri-County also wanted the current employees to stay—not just remain on the job but stay “whole” from a benefit and opportunity perspective. By contractual agreement with Leadpoint, employees were guaranteed no lapse in medical benefits, their PTO balance was paid out and put on the books with Leadpoint, and all cost of living adjustments previously agreed to were maintained. This unique arrangement was a win-win-win for the new and previous management and, importantly, for the workforce. It was a key driver of a 96 percent retention rate.

For its share, Leadpoint created a contingency plan and workforce pipeline so it could respond immediately if there was a mass walkout of employees. Leadpoint also brought in an onsite manager with strong recycling industry experience, supervisory skills and management abilities. Her credibility created confidence among the employees and made an immediate positive impression between Leadpoint and Tri-County.

Implementation Timeline
Implementing a new team, a new workforce optimization approach and new performance standards is no easy task. It can take up to 90 days to thoroughly cover the basics, including:
• Wage analysis
• Performance reviews of current workforce
• Transition of existing employees
• Recruitment and training of new employees
• Development of a training program
• Creation of safety standards and processes

In this case, the implementation timeline was relatively quick: two weeks of assessment and planning and six weeks of conversion activity. The partnership started with more than 60 employees across two-shifts. During this time, benchmarking data were established, giving Leadpoint a point of reference for its results. In addition, a safety stand-down was put in place before the onsite manager took complete ownership of Leadpoint’s workforce optimization program.

These two steps paved the way for Leadpoint’s program to do what it promised for Tri-County and its stakeholders. “This partnership goes well beyond just staffing. The team has embarked on a dynamic and sophisticated endeavor to monitor, document and show production and quality results via a customizable, real-time dashboard provided by Leadpoint,” says Ryan McNichols, Tri-County’s Recycling Operations Supervisor. “The dashboard is shared not only with sorting staff within the MRF, but also with external stakeholders to show trends and improvements over time.”

A Culture of Safety and Incident Prevention
Workplace safety is a top concern for Leadpoint and Tri-County. By working together, Tri-County was able to improve the facility’s safety culture. As Leadpoint took over MRF staffing, they introduced a safety orientation video, quizzes and daily pre-shift paid time for employees to review Daily Toolbox Safety Topics.

Leadpoint’s line lead, along with supervisory staff, continually monitors the work environment and provides employees with one-on-one attention to address potential safety issues. Leadpoint also organized a safety team with volunteers from their line workers, which created an environment of open dialog for incident prevention.

Leadpoint Delivered Results
Leadpoint promised six primary cost saving and profitability outcomes for its high-performance work team program at Tri-County:
1. Reduce turnover through the onsite manager’s direct supervision of the workforce
2. Leverage its industry experience to bring new employees up-to-speed quickly
3. Increase material picks per minute (PPM) for each sort line
4. Increase the quality of each bale
5. Increase the number of bales produced by improving the uptime efficiency of the process
6. Reduce the amount of material that goes to the landfill

During the conversion, Leadpoint retained 96 percent of the existing workforce. In the first 30 days after implementing its high-performance work team model, Leadpoint decreased Tri-County’s headcount. “After 30 days with Leadpoint, we did a paper bale composition study. The total value of our output went up significantly, by more than $25 thousand,” said McNichols.

Leadpoint and Tri-County are admittedly in the early stages of their business relationship. In the months to come, Leadpoint will continue to improve bale quality; the goal is to get as close as possible to 100 percent bale perfection. The Leadpoint-Tri-County partnership was successful because:
• Tri-County was 100 percent collaborative and engaged from the start and throughout the implementation process
• Clear expectations and accountabilities were set and agreed to among all parties
• Leadpoint assigned a highly-experienced onsite manager
• There were no hiccups during the implementation process

Leadpoint will continue to focus on what it can control: the workforce. It will continue managing and training for good material identification, understanding the priority picks, and ensuring the line is picked properly.

Pat Hudson is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Leadpoint Business Services (Phoenix, AZ). Since 2000, Leadpoint’s expertise and knowledge of the waste and recycling industry has helped companies make better decisions about how to maximize their workforce to improve productivity, efficiency and profitability. The company provides its data-driven approach for optimizing performance to organizations nationwide.

For more information, call (480) 540-8408 or visit


You may also like:

7 Principles for Building Teamwork in Recycling Plants

Best Practices for Writing and Negotiating a Labor RFP

The A-B-Cs of Safety: Easy. Simple. Effective.

Think Differently About MRF Wages and Headcount: New Approach. Bigger Impact.