Town Hall Q&A
Answers on Wheelabrator, customer service, and recycling
Before the company’s quarterly town hall on July 29, employees submitted a range of questions to the company’s senior leadership. Here are some of those questions and their responses.
Q: Why is WM selling Wheelabrator?
A: Wheelabrator has been an important WM asset for more than 20 years. However, energy markets have evolved in recent years. As CEO and President David Steiner has said, our waste-to-energy business has two distinct components — the tip fees that we have received on the front end and the payments for energy we’ve received on the back end.
We do not view the energy payments (the back end) as a natural strategic fit for our ongoing strategy, and we do not have the kind of energy expertise that Energy Capital Partners has. The front-end piece is a great strategic fit for our business. It’s what we do really well and, at the transaction close, we will enter into long-term waste supply agreements with WTI to feed these plants. WM and WTI will continue to work together given these agreements.
Q: Will Wheelabrator remain a stand-alone company or integrated within ECP’s portfolio? What about the name, will it change?
A: That is now a question for ECP. As we get closer to transaction close, these sorts of questions will be answered. In the meantime, it’s business as usual for the WTI business and its employees.
Q: How will Waste Management use the proceeds from the sale of Wheelabrator Technologies?
A: We intend to use the proceeds from the sale to drive incremental shareholder value by, among other things, growth through acquisition in our core solid waste business, paying down debt necessary to maintain a strong balance sheet, and share repurchases.
Q: One of the big problems facing recycling is people putting nonrecyclables in their bins. What are we doing to prevent this?
A: We have developed the Recycle Often. Recycle RightSM education curriculum to address education of school age children in recycling and to hopefully drive key messages into the homes of young families. Other tactics are being piloted and we’re working on a broader campaign for later this year.
Q: Are we giving referral discounts to our customers so we can add more customers?
A: Yes, we have a referral program available for customers. The URL for the program is www.wm.com/refer-a-friend. In this program, we offer our business customers a $50 gift card for each customer successfully referred and we provide the referred customer a gift card when they sign up for service.
Q: Curious if employees ever get the opportunity to review their managers for feedback?
A: There’s no doubt that 360-degree reviews provide a broader perspective on employees. However, if not handled properly, they can also be abused and can damage morale. At this time, WM uses 360-reviews in limited cases for development purposes. At the same time, we encourage an open dialogue between employees and managers.
Q: Will Waste Management bring back their educational assistance program?
A: Currently, we are not considering a program that would pay for non-work-related educational expenses. In the past, we found that our tuition reimbursement program steered a significant amount of available funding to a relatively small number of employees. As a result, we decided to invest in other benefits that a greater number of employees can take advantage of.
That being said, the company will pay for appropriate job-related training and certification, and we also encourage employees to explore our College Marketplace, where employees can receive discounts on participating schools.
Q: We hear a lot about transforming ourselves for our customers, but who’s providing input? Will customer service reps, drivers, etc. be able to submit ideas?
A: Last year, we established a Drivers’ Council that met several times with key leaders to discuss a host of items, including how to drive innovation and better serve our customers. We’re working on some of those ideas now, knowing some of those things will take time. The Drivers’ Council was so successful it was renewed this year (with new drivers). In addition, a separate council was created with some of our best Route Managers, too. One of the upcoming meetings this year will merge the two groups into one and discuss service, tools and innovation. Your suggestion of involving CSRs, is a good one, and we’ll consider that for next year.