Public safety communications agencies have been struggling with creating an environment that signifies the importance of the job that we do on a daily basis. This has been going on for years, with a push to highlight the professional nature of the industry and positions. Unfortunately, the attempts have to reach the front lines to be effective. Many front line dispatcher and call takers do take their profession seriously, and attempt daily to raise the level of the work and learn about industry happenings and future technologies, but some just don’t buy into the rhetoric and see only a paycheck. Is this the fault of the employee or a disconnect in the industry? I think a little of both but the industry could do better.
Organizations such as the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials and the National Emergency Number Association offer courses to further the immediate needs of call centers, with offerings for communicators in topics such as active shooter, or stress management, but neither does a great job of preparing the front line communicators for a career in full. Management type courses are often restricted to management personnel and require proof of current management status. The adage that you can’t get ahead if you haven’t already been ahead, rings fairly true at times.
Is there a way to offer development type courses to front line personnel who are interested in moving up in the industry? Is there a mechanism to identify those in front line positions that are involved but often disregarded due to the current position they hold? It starts with the idea that everyone has a voice and ideas come from the most unlikely of places.
In order to prepare for the future leadership needs in Public Safety Communications, agencies and industry organizations need to become mentors to those who with to advance, share the knowledge that is needed to act as management personnel with anyone who is interested, and invest time and money into broadening the potential of employees. For example, if today, your communications center became wide open in the area of management due to a mass exodus of leadership, would you staff the open positions with qualified personnel in your communications center or would you look to the outside for a fresh approach? If you have adequately informed personnel available that you have developed in an appropriate manner, you could have many options for promoting from within. Is this always the best case scenario? No, but it is an option, and it’s only available to you if you are vigilant about providing development type resources. Going to the outside world for staffing can be a great way to build a team, but the time it takes to bring an outsider up to speed on the policies, procedures, and equipment usage may have been better spent investing in the future of your current team.
I have heard the argument that promoting from within creates a difficult environment for the person promoted, but having gone through this process in the past, I can testify that moving from one position to a higher one is not difficult if everyone understands that the conditions of the job has changed for the person promoted. They no longer are only responsible for their actions, they have responsibility for everyone that reports to them, so the team dynamic is altered and the work continues.
Moral of the story: Invest in your agencies future now, because tomorrow may be too late.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog and any opinions, observations, or ideas are mine and not associated in any way with my employer, The Reedy Creek Improvement District.