Friday, July 31, 2009

Chapter 1: Recruiting Quality People

“One of the greatest contemporary challenges in law enforcement is recruiting and retaining quality employees.”

The system of building loyalty in employees starts at the recruitment and application stage where departments begin demonstrating and articulating expected standards. One of the greatest contemporary challenges in law enforcement is recruiting and retaining quality employees. Comparing a similar challenge within the private sector, a regional recruiting manager for a large car rental company says the initial interview stage is the most important component, because it is where you begin peeling off the layers to determine if an applicant is a good fit into your organizational structure. This recruiter uses interviewing techniques that establish consistency in the potential employability of the applicant. He says that more and more companies are moving towards “Behavioral Interviewing”, which asserts that past behavior is a good indicator of future behavior. He uses real-life questions to determine how an applicant may have handled certain scenarios in the past. He says that unless there has been a break in patterned behavior (i.e., through training, a personal crisis or some other life-altering event), the applicant will handle current and future situations the same as he has handled past situations. The break in patterned behavior may come about through crisis situations or training that has impacted employees enough to modify their behavior.

This recruiter also says, “The reason companies are struggling to find qualified employees is because they typically do not put a whole lot of time, energy, and resources in their recruitment practices.” This goes to the point that whatever a company focuses on will be manifested in its results. Aside from finding quality employees, a structured recruitment program saves time, training, and resources, which would otherwise be wasted. A company in its recruitment and application stage should first determine what qualities it seeks in applicants. Whether it is an entry or managerial position, the company must know what it wants initially. The criteria should be spelled out and described.

Before you can determine if an applicant might be valuable to your company, you must first spell out the characteristics of a valued employee. It will not be sufficient merely to hire someone in a position because they have prior experience. You ultimately want to insure that the person has core competencies that suit your needs. For example, a person might have worked in a sales position for 10 years for your competitor. On the surface, it looks like you are getting a qualified person based on experience. However, when you ask about certain decision-making traits, you find that the applicant does not possess them. He might be married to his previous boss’ daughter and never had any real responsibility. Consequently, his 10 years experience has no validity for the competency you are seeking. In essence, there are three things to remember:

· Make sure you have a good understanding of the position or need you are trying to fill. By hiring this person, what are you trying to accomplish?
· Put interview questions together which relate to your needs. All questions should help you decide whether this person has the skills needed to get the job done.
· Make a decision that the applicant is a good “fit” for the company based on whether the criteria you have outlined has been met.

“In some instances, the high demand for superstars renders them disloyal opting for the department that will give them the most.”

Another challenge for many departments is determining where to find potential applicants. Often departments overlook quality applicants because they desire applicants who are perceived to be the best qualified in terms of skill and expertise. We all want superstars, but quite frankly, superstars are in short supply in all fields. The reality is that you do not need superstars to grow your departments and maintain loyalty. In some instances, the high demand for superstars renders them disloyal opting for the department that will give them the most. Untapped resources can be found in:

· Colleges
· Vocational Schools
· Employment Offices
· High Schools
· Word-of-Mouth

These represent the myriad of places where qualified persons can be found. But you must first decide what your needs are and pursue them accordingly. Often, the most loyal employees are at opposite ends of the spectrum – they are both young and older, and the same motivation may not apply to both groups. The youth want to learn and show that they are willing to accept responsibility and produce. Mature adults want to show that they still have value to produce in a society that often writes them off as employable undesirables.

“First, it is important to understand that people respect and respond to structure and guidance much more than the absence of these factors.”

Once you have created the ideal workplace and have recruited employees who will buy into the direction of your department, it becomes important to put into place a system that will instill loyalty. First, it is important to understand that people respect and respond to structure and guidance much more than the absence of these factors. It has been repeatedly shown that companies and organizations with standards fair better than those companies and organizations that lack them.

On day one, employees should understand the role they play within the organization. Departments should determine the interests of new hires and place them on a career trajectory based on employee interest.  If you walk into any number of grocery stores or fast food restaurants, you see from the outset where the connection between employee service and management objectives is not being met. The consumer almost feels that they are a bother to the employee. Somewhere in the initial process, a correlation has not been drawn between customers frequenting the establishment and corporate viability. Consequently, if customers stop patronizing the business, the store loses profits, the business closes, and the employees lose their jobs. If employees do not have direction as to what’s expected of them, they will resign themselves to complacency and apathy. They will come to work and do the minimum amount of work without any compunction, because there is disconnection in their role within the department as well as long-term goals. This feeling is less pervasive when employees have bought into a department's system and see where their own goals can be actualized. The more employees see their long-term goals being fulfilled, the longer they will stay and prosper within the department.

Essentially, people strive to maintain the investments they make in time and energy rather than low-level commitments. In this case, employees who are willing to give of their time through the application, background checks, internal testing, training, and probationary process will be inclined to remain committed to the department's ideals over a process lacking these safeguards if their self-interests are reciprocated. People have a desire to say, “I made it” through a process that challenges them as well as the system that serves their interests.

Chapter 2: Thoroughly Screening Applicants

Law enforcement agencies have been very successful in recruiting employees that are loyal, because they engage in a system of hiring that allows applicants to actually earn their employment within the process. This system (which we will refer to throughout this chapter) is important for private companies to embrace so that they also can create loyal employees.

The process of filling out an application for employment is pretty standard. The basic questions involving vital statistics, education, employment history as well as pertinent facts about the applicant are revealed through the application. The application is the initial tool that companies use to begin determining whether an applicant will be a good match. The application or the “file” becomes the subject of scrutiny once submitted by the applicant. It is recommended that the file leave no loopholes for interpretation. All that the applicant says was achieved should be checked.

“A personality profile helps the employer view traits that he believes may or may not help the organization reach its goals.”

Many departments require an applicant to take a personality test as part of the hiring process. This test determines the personality traits of the applicant as well as I.Q. (Intelligence Quotient). The questions tend to be multiple choice allowing for the applicant to choose the answer that best reflects his feelings on a particular topic. A personality profile helps the employer view traits that he believes may or may not help the organization reach its goals. While this may not be cost effective in time, resources, and manpower for smaller companies, there are alternatives.

You can become creative in determining how you feel about the possibilities of this applicant joining your department. While testing and other processes may gauge the feasibility of a person working out within your organization, it is only a gauge. People who might have made mistakes in the past can change based on their willingness, so do not be quick to rule an applicant ineligible because of a blemish on their record.

“Remember you are investing in the value the applicant is bringing to your company in exchange for fair compensation and growth potential.”

Once the recruitment department has undergone the preliminary investigation, the file is sent to the Background section. The Background section is responsible for verifying the truthfulness of the applicant’s information. Investigators scrutinize every piece of information provided by the applicant to determine his character and stability. Everything from employment history to credit worthiness is scrutinized. Remember you are investing in the value the applicant is bringing to your organization in exchange for fair compensation and growth potential. To grow your department, it is important that the person possess the basic faculties to create a “win-win” situation.

The Background section's recommendation strongly influences the chances for hire. After the Background investigator has examined the file, he makes a determination of an applicant’s viability for hire.  After the Background section has made a determination on the viability of the applicant, the applicant's file is forwarded to the police psychologist. The police psychologist views the psychological tests and background information to determine if the applicant is fit for law enforcement. The police psychologist has an overall view of the applicant and may ask pointed questions to determine the temperament of the applicant to enhance his assessment. Some tactics might be to have the applicant wait two to three hours in the waiting room before the police psychologist sees him. Under normal conditions, a person may become a bit angry and demonstrate this in the interview. Also, this is part of the conditioning process of having the applicant buy into the department. The more you prolong giving the applicant what he wants, the more he wants it. Remember, the conditions have placated his desire and the more the carrot is dangled, the more the applicant wants to comply. The applicant has made it this far, so he is not willing to jeopardize his chances because he may be seemingly “jumping through hoops.”  Finally, Psychological Services determines if the applicant is “satisfactory,” “unsatisfactory,” or “marginal.” The applicant's file is then sent to the Chief of Police for approval. If the chief approves, the file goes back to Background to insure that the applicant is drug free and physically fit.
After the applicant has been hired and goes through the six months of training in the police academy, he graduates and begins working as a police officer. He is still not considered a permanent employee, which means that he is on probation for the next six months. This is further assurance that the employee is “a fit” -- in a practical sense. Yes, he has passed all of the initial tests and has excelled through training, but how will he handle “real-life” situations? With close supervision and evaluations, he is monitored during this probationary period.  Remember, the object is not to micromanage the employee, but insure that he is meeting the expectations outlined in creating a “win-win” situation.

At the same time, as you are developing the employee to meet the needs of the department, you may begin allowing employee incentives to take place. If this employee wants more time off during this process, allow for this leeway. If he wants professional development, create in-house training based on his needs. As he is giving, he is also getting. This creates loyalty, because he sees that the department believes and is willing to invest in him from the outset. It would be unwise to prolong employee benefits for an undetermined time and think that he will remain committed. With every step of the process, there is a symbiotic relationship being built between the employer and employee. The employee is consciously seeing that the mission statement and practices of the department are complimentary. Many law enforcement agencies have been effective in creating commitment on the part of the employee, but have been less effective in maintaining the loyalty aspect. Once the employee feels that this relationship is not working for him, he will cease to be committed, productive, and loyal.

As you can see, the average law enforcement agency expends a lot of time and resources in insuring that the applicant is a good fit for the department. In this case, the safety of society and the department rely on these “checks and balances” to be in place. The phenomenal part of this system is that it works. While some applicants fall through the cracks, because no system is fail-proof, overwhelmingly, police departments have been successful because they obtain two things:

1. A thoroughly screened applicant with a profile of future performance.

2. The applicant's buy-in where he is less inclined to leave because of the nearly two-year investment of trying to get into the department.

This is the "Honey Pot" for law enforcement. If you have committed and motivated employees, do not create obstacles or impediments that de-motivate them. When they decide that the department's mission and politics do not operate within their self-interest, they will not always leave, but instead, create system inside your department's operations that acts more like a cancer than a mutually beneficial alliance.

Chapter 3: Developing Employee Loyalty

The workplace, ever-changing, is no longer viewed in the same way. Budgetary restraints, interdepartmental poaching, and the global economy have created a competitive environment within law enforcement never seen before.

“Earlier researchers believed that money was the motivation for employee morale.”

Creating a system of employee loyalty is creating the ideal work environment. The study of employee motivation has evolved over the past 50 years. Earlier researchers believed that money was the motivation for employee morale. As challenges persisted that did not solve this dilemma, new theories emerged.

The most popular theory being the “Hierarchy of Needs” postulated by psychologist Abraham Maslow. Maslow contended that man is a wanting animal. As soon as one need has been satisfied another one moves in to take its place. Consequently, human beings are constantly striving to realize their full potential or “self-actualization.” The complexity to understand human motivation, generally, and employee motivation, specifically, has led to the extraction of past theories fusing with changing times and situations. Fundamentally, there is no one theory that assumes to represent all employee motivation. Dr. Angela M. Bowey, in her article “Motivation At Work: A Key Issue in Remuneration,” talks about a prevailing theory called the “Contingency Theory”. Under the Contingency Theory, management would not focus on one element of employee motivation, but would be open for the myriad of motivational factors in a department including pay, time off, and career development.

Furthermore, what might work for one company might not work for another. A Metro Atlanta Police survey conducted by Edward S. Brown International, Inc., a success development company, revealed some interesting findings. The hypothesis was that there is a morale problem in many, if not most, police departments in the Metro Atlanta area. The company contracted an independent statistician, Patrick Minor, who had worked closely with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, to formulate the survey and report the findings. One hundred ninety one officers were surveyed within the City of Atlanta Police department. Various questions were asked to analyze the areas where the morale problems originated. The study provided the following results:

· 69.1% of Atlanta Officers said they like their job.
· 33.5% said that supervisors take interest in their opinions.
· 40.8% felt that they made a difference.
· 84.8% felt that they are not adequately recognized.
· 59.2% disagreed that attitude in the department is pretty good.

Officers in Atlanta concluded that there is a morale problem, although they like their job. This suggests that liking the job is not synonymous with good morale. Atlanta officers ranked in order of priority what they thought would improve morale:

· Provide motivational training
· Provide management training
· Give more recognition
· Provide career development assistance
· Provide salary increase
· Provide personal time off

In this survey, it was the organizational environment that was the source of discontentment. Studies consistently show that the workplace is the determining factor of employee loyalty. Employees overwhelmingly state that the most important criteria involve issues such as recognition, professional development, incentives, respect, and flexibility as the catalyst for improved morale and productivity. Yet, many departments consistently overlook these factors. The employees are talking, but many departments are not listening.

As stated, employees are often motivated by the intangible elements such as praise over the tangible elements such as money. As humans, we often make decisions based on our emotions more often than our reason. We act on emotion and then justify our actions based on reason. Money becomes an overarching objective when the intangible rewards are not in place.  Department heads should not burden themselves in attempting to be mind readers. They need only ask their employees and understand basic human motivation.

The list of items that people are motivated by — taken from David A. People’s, Presentation Plus (Georgia: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1992) — can be numerous, but some of the basics are:

· Health · Pain
· Money · Safety
· Exclusivity · Enjoyment
· Trouble · Time
· Family · Love · Sex · Comfort
· Control · Fame/Glory
· Fear

Although there are numerous factors that employees may be motivated by, it would not be unwise to consider a few areas of concentration that employees tend to focus on. These items tend to be recognition and incentives, flexible schedules with amenable time-off, career development, comparable salary, and personal and professional development. These factors should be considered in the mission statement as part of the department's infrastructure. Once the internal environment has been established, its effectiveness will be manifested in its external environment. Consequently, if a desirable work environment has been created, it will be reflected in better deliverables and services with special emphasis on customer service.

Chapter 4: A Changing World

“In a global economy, it becomes more important to respond to the needs of people.”

Society has changed and continues to change such that corporate practices also have to change without changing the core values. The knowledge of human motivation allows for the needs of employers as well as employees to be met. In the global economy, it becomes even more important to respond to the needs of people. With competition coming from all angles, departments that are unwilling to learn and expand will find their resources dwindling consistently, resulting in a decrease in services and tax base. Once citizens begin a mass exodus from your city, you will experience what East St, Louis and now Detroit are experiencing--economic, social, and business upheaval. Employee loyalty has diminished because the workplace has changed. Departments have to change also.

The one thing that police departments have accomplished in its hiring practice is tapping into the needs of employees. There would have to be a great inducement for police officers to stake their lives on a job that does not pay them proportionate to the risk. The need that encourages officers to take such risks can be expanded even further for the benefit of departments. Managing people after understanding what motivates them brings success. The extent that departments understand and give employees what they want will be the extent of their success. As the world turns, departments that create innovative environments that enlist the brainpower of employees, inspire a feeling of security, and are agile enough to respond to rapid changes in the market place, will not only thrive in a global economy, but set the standard for all within its industry.