9-1-1; What Is Your Emergency?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Dealing With Good Employees

Article taken from Public Safety Communications Magazine, June 2006
Written by T.G. Mieure, Life Member of APCO

In past issues of this magazine and others, numerous articles have dealt with problem employees. Granted, these employees can take up a lot of valuable time, but you rarely see any articles on dealing with good employees.

Good employees are usually the out-of-sight employees who come to work on time (or early), give you 120 percent on their shifts, probably will stay after their shifts end to tidy up their shift duties/assignments and are always there when you need them.

Sometimes we take advantage of them, because of their good work and dedication. Because these employees actually do their assigned duties, administrators have a tendency to either forget about them or pile more assignments on them.

There is numerous adage that we spend 80 percent of our time on 20 percent of our employees (the bad ones). Simple math tells us that we are spending only 20 percent of our time on 80 percent of our employees (the good ones). This is out of synch. We should strive to change the equation so we spend a minimum of 80 percent of our time on 80 percent of our employees.

A good employee can be anyone in the communications center, from the new hire to the most senior. These employees probably show some leadership skills, a fact you should take into account for future staffing needs.

A good employee needs to be mentored. We definitely do this with a problem employee, so why not do it for a good employee? What kind of mentoring? There are different positions within your center that may need to be filled. The amentoring process should be a combination of one-on-one instruction in these positions by communications management members and training outside the communications center.

Are there other ways to reward a good employee? A lot depends on things like whether rewards are governed by contract, policies/procedures, etc. While a bad employee will grumble or complain that "so and so is getting this, that or the other," an employee who is doing a good job or excellent job should be rewarded. My response to a disgruntled employee is that, if he can bring his work level up to that of a good employee, he also will be given a "plum."

Rewards can be many and not necessarily of a monetary value. Here are some examples:
  • A verbal "good job" or "attaboy"
  • Some type of certificate of appreciation
  • Employee-of-the-month nomination or winner
  • Going to "fun" outside training
  • Nominating them for a state or national NENA and/or APCO award
  • Attending a state, regional or international NENA and/or APCO conference
  • Asking them to volunteer for a certain committee

Giving a telecommunicator the ability to get out of the comm center and participate in a committee, especially one that affects his career, gives him a feeling of ownership. This also broadens the telecommunicator's horizons, in that it is not just about taking telephone calls and dispatching public safety units.

Asking a good employee if he wants to volunteer for an assignment in which he has expressed an interest will produce a better result. Face it, if you are told to do something and you do not like the assignment, how much are you going to put into it? Answer: the bare minimum.

As supervisory personnel, we have a tendency to start piling more duties/assignments on good employees than on others, as we know the jobs will be done right by those few superstar employees. You need to spread the wealth around. The whole idea is to make all our employees into good employees. Those in the problematic 20 percent should see that, if they improve to the level of good employees, their improvements will be noted by their supervisors, who might give them small assignments to see how they manage them. It's like climbing up a ladder, one rung at a time.

Good employees come up with good ideas for the center. They strive to make it a good place to work. Be realistic: employees spend as much time at work as at home. As supervisors, we should consider seriously implementing ideas brough forth by our employees. Remember the adage "thinking outside the box"? Even an idea that seems far-fetched may work. Taking your employees' ideas seriously builds their esteem and increases their sense of ownership in the center. A warning: When an employee has a good idea, do not take credit for its implementation. This will destroy any trust your employees have in you.

By filling the center with good employees and mentoring them, you will make a better environment. There will always be bad employees who don't care and are in the profession just to get a paycheck. That is their choice. We need to change our priorities and give good employees more of our time, and problem employees can either get on board or get out.

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