Recruiting and retention have become a critical subject for many law enforcement agencies today. Police officers play a crucial role in making sure society doesn’t anarchy and chaos. It’s fair to say that without the police, we as a society would be perilously doomed. In the past few years, many police departments have been struggling in their recruiting efforts. Some believe the challenges agencies face today stem from the “Ferguson” and/or “YouTube” effect. The thought is these effects have caused animosity against the police, and thus a rising crime rate in some U.S. cities. There have been some reports of officers not being as proactive in enforcement for fear of backlash from the public, or even the leadership of their municipality.
The recent spike in ambushes on police officers won’t exactly get prospective recruits to show a great deal of interest in putting on a uniform and working the streets, especially if they feel there’s a perception of a constant target on their back. With the lingering effects of the great recession (i.e., pension reform, lack of adequate pay and benefits), the profession is no longer becoming the desirable career it once was.
Until recently in the past few years, recruiting and retention weren’t major issues. There were always plenty of quality applicants who wanted to get into the profession. However, many police departments today are being met with new challenges related in today’s climate where the appeal of the job is not as prevalent as it once was.
If you’re a leader in a law enforcement agency, and you’re struggling to keep people in your organization, and/or you’re struggling to get quality applicants into your organization, how are you solving the problem? Here’s three ways you can begin resolving your recruiting/retention troubles:
#1 Get a pulse of your organization and acknowledge it
Are you aware of the level of morale of your employees? I’m not talking about what you’ve heard from talking with a few people, but from a quantifiable source such as a questionnaire? If you haven’t administered a survey in your organization to address this, you’re already in trouble. One of the biggest mistakes organizations make is in the perfunctory attitude of surveys administered. Organizations will gather the information and do nothing with it. The high frequency of inaction delegitimizes leadership in that organization. This not only undermines your employees, but now they’ll scoff at giving meaningful answers (or not participate at all) in future surveys. Conduct the survey, and be open and transparent about the findings, even if it’s not flattering to the organization. If there are some low-hanging fruits in your organization, fix them immediately. Be transparent in the process and stay connected to your employees and give regular updates of the process. This is the first step in establishing credibility with your people.
#2 Utilize the talents you have in your organization
This may be a shock to some of you, but not all police officers are alike, and not all have the same interests. You will have some possessing certain skill sets others don’t have. There are some who are good at chasing stolen cars, others finding particular types of criminals, some who enjoy community engagement, and so on. For example, if you have officers in your organization who have the natural gift of gab, and are extremely sociable with others, recognize and use those individuals where they will be effective in areas such as Hostage Negotiators and Public Information Officers. If you want people to not just join your organization, but stay, do not marginalize them by not using them. If you do, they will start looking elsewhere and will find an organization that will utilize their talents. Don’t wait until your officers are in the background process with another department to show that you care, this only exacerbates the lack of recognition and is insulting to the employee.
#3 Demonstrate (don’t just say) how much you value your employees
Who are your best recruiters? If you think it’s the recruiting officers in your recruiting division, you’re wrong. It’s the job of police recruiters to recruit and get people to join your organization. Your best recruiters are the rank and file officers in your department. If your line employees are not happy, get ready for a world of problems. Look at it another way, if the officers are not satisfied in your organization, what do you think they are telling prospective recruits? Officers working for an organization where they do not feel valued are likely telling other potentially new applicants to commit to other agencies because the current one does not listen or value its people. If you were looking for a career in law enforcement, would you go to a department where the majority of the people aren’t happy and morale was low? Don’t put yourself in this predicament. If you’re blaming the low morale, employees leaving your organization, or anything of the sort on the employee, you’ve already failed as an organization. Like any type of relationship, if your significant other isn’t happy, it’s usually because you aren’t living up to your expectations. You can’t blame the other person for leaving you if YOU’RE the one who neglected them in the first place.
Studies show the same consistent reasons why employees leave their organization. Factors include, but aren’t limited to: lack of recognition, poor relationship with their supervisor/organization, toxic work culture, (Troyani, 2015; Paychex, 2016). The days of employees working 20-30 years in one organization regardless of how bad they are treated, are over. Today’s employees are keenly aware of their self-worth, and they will not hesitate to jump ship for better opportunities if they’re not being valued. Don’t be the police organization where new recruits go to for the training, and then leave after making it past probation.
Use these tips as the foundation in solving your recruiting and retention efforts. With the right coach, you can move your organization in the right direction. If you’re interested in knowing more about how coaching can help you in the area of recruiting and retention efforts, contact me today!
Troyani, L. (2015). Employee Retention: What’s Making Workers Quit. Retrieved from: https://news.tinypulse.com/lt-employee-retention-report-82043/
Paychex (2016). Employee Retention: What Makes Employees Stay or Leave. Retrieved from: https://www.paychex.com/articles/human-resources/employee-retention-what-makes-employees-stay-leave