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It's NOT Your Mother's 9-1-1

Author: Sue Pivetta

Date: 2012-06-07
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9-1-1 has come a long way baby.  20 years ago there was no such thing as a 'Training Manager,' simulators, certification, or dispatch academy.  Still - retention remains a persistent challenge for our directors, managers, supervisors, trainers, telecommunicators. 

What is missing?  What is needed?  A Police Chief told me about his 'core group' (solid for 10-20 years) and - the revolving door group (hired in the last 3 years). What's up? 

Hiring the wrong people? Gen X people aren't dedicated? Training not effective?  Workplace negativity?  Shiftwork? Liability fears?  Multi-tasking? No common sense? Not what they expected? 

If the 10-20 employees thrived, we can assume - back then - that we hired the right people, had great training, negativity was rare, shiftwork was easier, we didn't fear liability, were all great at muti-tasking, we had more common sense, we knew what we were getting into.  Really?  Not so much!


New generation, New ideas?

The days of love it or leave it are gone.  “Leave it” is not a direction 9-1-1 Communications Centers can't afford.  Still, some agencies have improved retention with some previously 'out there' ideas: 

  • job share
  • part time positions
  • child care assistance
  • creative and user-friendly scheduling
  • dispatch reserve programs
  • lateral incentive hiring bonuses
  • floor-ready training academy
  • regional 9-1-1 college or academy pre-employment training
  • peer mediation teams    

Keeping status quo when facing high turnover is like the drunk who searched for his keys – he is looking not where he lost them but under the street lamp where the light is good. The suggestions here don't dismiss the value of what has worked or is working. Still. long term employees have grown up gradually in a profession that has become increasingly complex and demanding.  New hires face that complexity and demand full force.  Call them Gen X if you want, but they expect trainers who want to train, an atmosphere that welcomes them, and the ability to learn in a safe environment. 

Of course there are people in every profession who find out it's not for them - or you find out they aren't for you.  That happens in every profession.  The reality is, there are people willing to work in this amazing profession and they may be 'different' than those that became employed years ago.  Some old guard didn't make it through the transition to technology either, those that did adapted. It's a new generation.  9-1-1 systems and applicants alike comprise a new generation of technology and people who have different values and needs.  With each new generation there are new thoughts and new ways of being - and adapting- that must happen.  9-1-1 leaders must make that transition into creative thinking and programs, experimenting and adapting to Gen X.  After all, it really isn’t your mother's 9-1-1 anymore.   

Sue Pivetta is president of Professional Pride, Inc.  She has worked in emergency communications since 1989 as a college instructor, consultant, workshop leader and author.   She teaches adult learning through her book and workshop The Exceptional Trainer.  Contact Sue through her website or email receive monthly special offers or to join the Professional Pride e-mail group.




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