3 Ways to Boost Retention of Public Safety Communications Employees

Written by KOVA Corp

When it comes to stressful jobs, being a 911 dispatcher has got to be near the top of the list. Dealing with anxious, scared, tense callers hour after hour, day after day, takes its toll - in fact, many 911 dispatchers end up experiencing stress-related issues that affect their personal lives, including PTSD.

Combine this fact with the relatively modest pay that dispatchers receive, and it’s easy to see why so many agencies have trouble attracting and retaining high-performing employees. This is a real problem for the entire public safety communications world, which has faced a fairly consistent shortage of employees for years.

While nothing can be done about the nature of the job itself, there are things that agencies can do to improve their employee retention.

  1. Examine your hiring practices. The first step in employee retention is hiring the right people for the job.
  2. What makes this hard for public safety communications is that often, it seems as though the best thing to do is get potential employees on the floor as soon as possible - after all, the phones must be covered no matter what.

    This can create a vicious cycle, however, with regard to employee retention. It means that new employees may be hired too quickly, trained haphazardly, and then put in front of a phone before they’re truly ready for what’s going to come at them. This, in turn, leads to burnout and turnover.

    There are no national hiring standards for 911 dispatchers, which many in the public safety sphere have said needs to be rectified.

    However, this also means that each municipality or state can set their own qualifications, restrictions, and methods for recruiting and hiring new employees.

    While it is notoriously difficult to find time for these kinds of long-term projects in public safety communications organizations, any time spent doing so will pay off exponentially over time.

  3. Spend more time on personal coaching. Classroom and online training are all very well - and necessary - but they only goes so far. Coaching, or spending one-on-one time with your employees with the goal of helping them improve their performance, can be an effective way to show your employees that you’re invested in their success, which in turn can help boost retention.
  4. In addition, coaching can help your employees deal with the really difficult calls they receive. It will help them to talk to another experienced professional who’s dealt with those same types of situations. In these cases, you as a coach can not only help them improve their skills, but also find ways to deal with the stress and tension that they’ll have to manage throughout their career as a dispatcher.

  5. Invest in professional development and career advancement. One surefire way to lose good employees is to give them few or no options to move forward in their positions. You want the good ones to stay for the long haul, not gain experience and then move somewhere else.
  6. While pay raises are not always possible, it is usually possible to offer some kind of professional development. That could mean offering classes in managing stress, legal issues that impact the public safety communications industry, or handling mass casualty or disaster events, for example.

    One great way for agencies to attract and retain serious career-seekers is to consider paying for eligible employees’ certification programs with groups like the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch.

    While there’s always the risk that employees will take advantage of these programs and then leave your organization, in most cases investing in certification and continuing education is likely to be a win-win. As your employee gains more knowledge that helps her perform her job better, she passes those benefits on to your agency.

    Plus, employees that take the time to go through those programs are more likely to see public safety communications as a career, rather than just a job.

And a final thing that public safety agencies can do to keep employees happier and boost retention is invest in current, easy-to-use public safety technology. KOVA offers a range of public safety solutions, including the Verint Media Recorder for Public Safety workforce optimization suite and the multimedia call and screen recorder Verint Media Recorder for Public Safety.

Is Your Organization Ready to Optimize their Public Safety Systems?