9-1-1; What Is Your Emergency?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Your Most Valuable Resource

Editorial taken from Public Safety Communications Magazine June 2006
Written by Toni Finley, Managing Editor

You've heard it a million times. You may even have said it. Say it with me now, in the first person, and listen to the truth in the words: "My employees are my most valuable resource."

But do you live it?

Many studies have shown that it costs much more to replace an employee than to retain one. The costs are higher in our industry than in most others, as we must recruit widely and frequently, test extensively and conduct exhaustive background searches on potential employees.

Finding people who truly are suited to the comm center is a coup and we would be foolish to throw these people away over trivialities like shift conflicts or childcare issues, for instance. We have to find ways to accomodate the lives of our employees and their outside worlds if we want them to dedicate their worklives to our centers.

We expect these uniquely qualified women and men - veritable needles in a haystack - to work any and all hours, holidays and weather conditions, often as mandatory overtime, and with little or no notice for schedule changes. Hurricane coming? We expect them to come to work as emergency personnel when others are evacuating with their families and pets. Blizzard? We expect them to drive on icy roads to the center when the rest of the town is shut down. Wild fires? We expect them to abandon their homesteads and work as the flames encroach on their neighborhoods.

And what do we do for them?

Do we fill all available staff positions so mandatory overtime is minimized? Do we grant shift swaps, so our employees can work the shifts their internal clocks are suited to best? Do we schedule days (or half-days) off so they can attend graduation ceremonies or weddings or school plays? Do we ask them what they need to make their workplaces good places to work? Do we listen to the answers and act on them when we can? Or do we take a "cry me a river" attitude when employees ask us to consider that they are spouses, parents, care-givers, PEOPLE...not just telecommunicators?

With the documented staff shortages in our comm center and the special considerations we must give to hiring, given the nature of our business, we cannot afford to alienate, discount or dismiss our staff when they are already bending over backward to make their lives fit our needs. I urge you to take the time to consider the matter deeply. In a world where your personnel are indeed your most valuable resources, you can't afford not to.

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