VP of HR Doug Harris shares how Clean Harbors is benefiting from its new pre-employment screening approach.
By Debbie Bolla
When you are in the business of removing some of the most hazardous materials in the world, there is no room for error when it comes to hiring nearly 5,000 employees a year. Nobody knows this better than Clean Harbors, North America’s leading provider of environmental and energy services responsible for end-to-end hazardous waste management, emergency spill response, industrial cleaning and maintenance, and recycling services. The organization is also the largest re-refiner and recycler of used oil in the United States. Critical to ensuring the company is hiring the right workers to meet stringent compliance standards is a thorough background screening process.
“Our workforce is very diverse,” says vice president of human resources Doug Harris. “And it’s important for us to conduct background checks because we cannot make mistakes.”
Clean Harbors continues to expand and outpace its competitors due to its unique ability to acquire smaller players. In fact, one acquisition alone brought on 1,400 new employees this year. “We own 80 percent of the disposal locations in the U.S. and the federal government is not allowing any additional hazardous waste sites,” he explains. “But it presents challenges from an HR perspective because we are continually growing.”
A major concern is the inconsistency of prior background checks of employees that join the company post-acquisition. “After we acquire smaller businesses, we find that these companies have different hiring practices than we do, and we don’t want to take on that liability,” Harris says. “We are very compliant and cautious due to the nature of our work and are very particular about our hiring practices.”
Clean Harbors works with global background screening provider CSS to thoroughly vet all employees. Harris estimates that out of the total number of background checks, 75 percent are for direct labor roles, either for drivers with a commercial driver’s license or for workers doing physical labor. The program comprises several background screening services, including:
- federal- and state-run checks;
- criminal searches;
- home address verifications;
- employment and income verifications;
- DOT compliance checks; and
- drug testing.
In addition to maintaining compliance, reducing time to fill is a priority for Harris. And he is not alone. According to research from The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), 62 percent of organizations report that the length of time to receive results is the most significant obstacle when conducting background checks. At one point, it was taking Clean Harbors 90 days on average to get a hire on board, with a former background screening provider taking seven to eight days to deliver results. “Knowing that most of our labor is billable to our clients, we were losing a ton of revenue every day,” he says.
A key in decreasing time to fill was redesigning the provisional hiring process. “We need to do provisional hiring for some of our business,” explains Harris. “CSS was able to cater to our needs in the cases where day-of interviewees start that day or soon after passing pre-employment tests. CSS could expedite the process by providing priority services over those hires that did not need to be hired immediately. That helped us significantly.”
Quality and speed are the best ways to describe it: Clean Harbors has reduced their time to fill by 40 percent. Another improvement playing a role in making the hiring process more efficient is a streamlined offer letter approach. The organization delivers on average a staggering 850 offer letters a month. Harris says CSS helps adjudicate any cases by providing a recommendation with Clean Harbors having the final say.
“This has helped free up staff for a better offer letter process that is legally compliant,” Harris explains. “We now can get offer letters out to candidates within the same day, and historically it took two or three days.”
With Clean Harbors’ growth trajectory not slowing down anytime soon and the labor market remaining tight, the organization is looking to leverage its automated screening process.
“In this day and age as technology is constantly evolving, automation can create efficiencies while giving candidates control and confirmation of the data they provide to employers,” says Mike Chalenski, CEO and founder of CSS.
A mobile app could be especially beneficial for Clean Harbors when hiring drivers. “A lot of our drivers don’t have an office, so our goal is to be able to provide them with what they need on a mobile app,” says Harris.