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Developing an Employer Brand (Part 2 of 4)

As an employer, every department is known for something, whether it is great salaries or poor working conditions. Having a strong employer brand is critical for recruiting and retaining the best employees. The first step to developing a strong brand image is to identify the agency’s current strengths and weaknesses and how incumbents, potential candidates, and the public view the department.

To accomplish this, the department must have leadership commitment, develop a brand assessment team, and objectively measure its image from a variety of perspectives. Once an accurate assessment of the current brand is complete, a strategic plan can be developed to create the desired conditions and employer brand.

Before any work can be done to assess the default brand, the agency’s leadership must publicly announce their support of the branding effort and commit to the process. It is important to remember the purpose of the brand assessment is not to point fingers, but to find out what the agency is doing well and what it needs to do better.

Regardless, anytime an organization participates in an operational assessment, there is a possibility the findings and recommendations will be painful for some staff. Failing to receive the leadership’s endorsement and direction will significantly limit the project’s success.

Assuming leaders initiate and endorse the project, the next step is to form a branding committee. In a small department, it may be possible for every employee to participate, whereas larger agencies may be able to only appoint one representative from every unit. At this stage, it is important that as many viewpoints as possible be considered.

Assignment of members should not be limited to people who are always supportive of the department. The most outspoken critics should be encouraged to participate. These people are more likely to give their assessment of working conditions, and their involvement offers the project credibility and support from within the ranks.

the committee is being formed, a conscious decision should be made as to whether the group leader will be from inside or outside the department. If someone from within the department is leading the effort, they should enjoy respect and credibility throughout the organization.

On the other hand, outside facilitators often provide instant credibility because they are viewed as independent and unbiased. When conducting the assessment, the leader should have the authority to examine all aspects of the agency’s operations, management skills to recognize desired behavior, and organizational skills to keep the project on schedule and produce a quality report.

Having created the branding committee, information must be collected of the department’s image and operations from a variety of sources. If the department does not have a staff person who is familiar with survey development, it is recommended contact be made with a local college or university to contract for survey development, administration and analysis.

Remember, the purpose of this process is not to identify just the positive aspects of the operations. It is critical that an accurate reflection of the agency, including all of its blemishes and warts, be developed.

The team can use a variety of sources to make this assessment. First, use exit interviews. Review comments from people leaving the department regarding what they liked about the agency, why they left, what type of job they left for, and would they recommend the agency to someone else. Second, stay interviews. Similar to exit interviews, these interviews of productive, tenured employees are designed to identify similar traits of incumbents, what attracted them to the job, and factors that help to retain them.

Third, do employee attitude surveys. These instruments measure how employees feel about a host of issues such as schedules, salary, leadership, and operational procedures. Information learned from attitude surveys can be critical to identifying aspects of the department operations that are causing conflict for employees and negatively impacting operations, recruitment, and retention.

Fourth, use Internet search engines. Employers should expect that prospective employees are going to research the agency before applying or accepting a position. By conducting Internet searches and alerts, leaders can be aware of the information candidates are likely to find posted or blogged about the agency and prepare a response.

Fifth, applicant surveys may be useful. New employees have a unique perspective on how they were treated as a potential candidate. In addition, people who were not offered employment must justify their rejection. How these people were treated and what they are saying about the process can impact other potential applicants. Because of this, it is critical to know how they perceive the agency treated them during the selection process.

Sixth, use internal organizational assessments. This review is usually more comprehensive and time consuming. However, it can produce an enormous amount of information of how to improve operations, factors increasing attrition / retention, and issues impacting recruitment.

, review citizen complaints. When people have a bad experience, they are likely to tell at least 10 people how they were treated. Repeated incidents can easily influence the department’s overall image. This review should include an analysis of all complaints, as well as by precinct, shift, and officer. Common patterns of behavior needing to be addressed will likely be identified.

Eighth, perform a community survey. How the department is perceived by the public influences individual’s decision to apply for vacancies. These perceptions also impact the support applicants may receive from friends and family members.

When the analysis of the data is complete, a detailed report should be produced that includes the purpose of the project, how the information was gathered, and the findings. Patterns of positive and negative responses should be identified and an explanation provided of how these factors “pull” employees into or “push” them out of the department. Specific issues of concern may require immediate attention. In those instances, the leadership should initiate an internal investigation and take the appropriate corrective action.

In the end, the leadership should have a thorough and objective assessment of the department’s operations and its image as perceived by the current officers, former employees, potential candidates, and the public. Using this information, leaders will have a platform for facilitating change to meets its desired image.

Dwayne Orrick has been the Cordele, GA Police chief for 18 years. He holds a Masters of Public Administration and a BA in criminal justice from the University of Georgia. People with questions or suggestions regarding their department’s recruitment and retention program can contact Orrick at

Published in Law and Order, Oct 2008

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