Dr. Mohab Ali Al-Hinai
In today’s fast-paced and competitive business world, many companies around the world have realised that providing adequate training and leadership development for staff and management is essential in order to keep their competitive advantage.
Sustainable waste management is a public service that we all take for granted. However, if mismanaged, this could lead to severe environmental and health issues affecting the community at large. Thus, continuous training and public awareness within the sector is paramount to ensure that the level of knowledge is on par with the global trends.
As the corporate world is typically moving at a fast pace, it is essential to ensure that all team members are continuously aware of new laws and regulations as well as technological advances in the field by investing in their learning needs. Not only will this ensure that operations are running flawlessly, but it will also ensure that companies are adhering and complying will all environmental regulations.
Moreover, it provides people (including those not in the industry) the opportunity to grasp the scale (and complexity) of the waste management industry. This is typically the first step when wanting to raise awareness and creating a personal connection between people and their waste.
Staff members from all levels of the organisation, whether junior staff or senior executives, all require a certain level and dosage of learning at frequent intervals. Typically, the programme is tailor-made or designed with the trainees’ area of focus within the organisation and their unique needs. Usually, a gap assessment is initially undertaken to understand what specific areas individuals within an organisation require. Subsequently, these individuals are put through a development schedule to ensure that their level of knowledge and skills are enhanced as per their unique needs. If necessary, some tailor-made courses can be designed to ensure that learning is catered to her/his unique tasks.
Another worthy consideration is the uniqueness of the waste industry; all individuals of society are directly involved with the industry as we are all waste producers and interact with collectors. Therefore, it is critical that all parts of society are exposed to some level of environmental training no matter their background or industry/profession up to a skill relative to her/his unique tasks.
Learning & Development is a continuous process. It is important for businesses to have dedicated and well-structured programmes for their employees. Not only does it help the individuals evolve their skills to better operate the business, but it also boosts morale and loyalty to the firm. This is especially important in the field of sustainable waste management as highly qualified individuals are always sought after. Thus, investing in their development will also help their long-term retention.
Effective learning programme design and delivery is essential to reap the rewards of these programmes. The programme must not just address the needs of the organisation but also the needs of each individual learner. Additionally, it is important to decide on who will be delivering the course material. Most often, the expertise resides within the company, especially in the waste management sector, and thus tapping into these resources might be more relevant than hiring external trainers. This ensures that those selected are qualified for the delivery of the programme.
Sustainability is achieved through building and maintaining systems, rather than individual processes. For this reason, training programmes need to touch upon all areas of the industry so individuals can understand how their actions directly and indirectly affect others. However, depending on the area of focus of specific employees/individuals, some additional and specialised programmes may need to be developed. For example, identifying various types of waste is a crucial element for waste segregation and recycling operations.
Thus, providing the targeted employees with the proper tools and skills is necessary to ensure that recyclables and non-recyclables are treated and handled as per global best practices. Obviously, any recyclables that are not sorted or identified is lost revenue for the business. Therefore, investing in such development programmes not only enhances employees skills but also makes good business sense.
There are specific kinds of waste that require a highly specialised level of training and certification. For example, NORM (Natural Occurring Radioactive Material) waste is one of those. NORM is produced by excavation activities such as those found in the Oil & Gas and mining industries. The handling of NORM, classified as a hazardous waste if radioactive levels are below a certain threshold, is an important area especially for the oil producing GCC countries. It can be an expensive process if not well managed. Hence, ensuring that waste operators who handle this type of waste are well trained is vital to ensure the health and safety of the population at large.
In addition to theoretical training, small scale and hands-on experiences can be carried out, which give individuals a taste of how things are actually implemented in the industry. Following are some examples:
- Small scale waste segregation and characterization study for an office building/floor
- Waste amount estimation at a community level (e.g. university campus)
- Conceptualising a system for a city/big company that includes circular economy solutions to manage their waste (instead of landfills)
In order to ensure that our employees, managers and stakeholders are well trained and developed, the Oman Environmental Services Holding Company “be’ah” has established a specialised department called be’ah Academy (be’ah in Arabic means environment) within the Environmental Centre of Excellence. be’ah Academy is tasked with delivering high-level specialised Learning & Development programmes for the waste management sector in Oman as well as professionals and individuals interested in sustainability as a whole.
The author is the Head of Environmental Centre of Excellence at be’ah, Oman.