"Retention has a major impact on law enforcement."
By: Art Adkins
Private and public corporations are experiencing a high turnover rate and are having a difficult time retaining employees. Statistics indicate that by the age of 38 most people will have held 10 to 14 different jobs. That is not how older generations were raised. The Baby Boomers were taught to identify a career, get a job, and remain there until retirement. The idea of committing to a company for 20 to 30 years was the norm, not the exception.
The cost to businesses today to constantly hire and train new personnel is staggering. I have read it costs one and half times the price of a current employee to replace them. Is there a way to stem this outbound flow of personnel and retain them? There is.
Not all companies are having this issue. Organizations retaining people are also the ones with a high level of morale, receive high job satisfaction ratings by the employees, and command a lofty status within the marketplace. They have developed the initiative to solve the issue of employee retention.
Leaders within these organizations have recognized the new employee wants a partnership with management to develop their careers. When I started in law enforcement over 33 years ago, I was responsible for identifying those courses I would need to continue my education to develop my skills. That has changed, particularly in law enforcement.
The officer of today realizes he/she is the commodity in demand and if the agency does not assist with his/her career development, the officer can go elsewhere and find a job. The successful leaders of today have taken action to develop this work-life model to benefit the employee and the agency. The results have been impressive.
When I am contacted by both private and public entities to assist with leadership development, the first question I ask those in charge is to describe their model for developing the skill set of their employees. Oftentimes I receive a blank stare and no response. It is not because they do not have an interest in their employees—they do. But most leaders in law enforcement today are Baby Boomers and were raised like myself where career development was the responsibility of the individual. This partnership concept to develop an employee’s skill set and retain him/her is a new one.
During a recent 10-week leadership series I was conducting with an agency, I challenged the supervisors to hold monthly sessions with their subordinates. I had them focus on career development, goal setting, and establishing a time line to accomplish the individual desires of the employee.
I made sure to have the supervisors identify the mission and goals of the agency and weave that into the personal development of the employee as well. After all, the product of law enforcement is service and we should always strive to accomplish that task based on the specific objectives of an agency and the needs of the community.
I also challenged the officers to approach supervision and ask for help in establishing their career paths. The officers were instructed to work with supervision to develop an in-house program to enhance their skill sets.
The result of this type of career development has far-reaching benefits. The level of communication is enhanced between supervisor and subordinate. There is a huge buy-in by the officers and they actively engage in problem solving, because they have been encouraged by supervision to increase their skill sets. What better way to showcase their newfound knowledge, then by placing what they have learned into action?
Do not procrastinate in developing strategies to retain officers. Conduct a survey of all employees to identify their likes and dislikes about the agency. The results will assist with professional development ideas. Then develop an Ops Plan to partner with employees, increase their skill sets, and identify their career paths.