Webinar presenter Halcyon Frank answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Building Your Team: Lessons for Dispatch Organizations. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: What do we do when we can’t compete on salary? How do we sell our agency to these candidates?
Halcyon Frank: I think, and I know this is going to sound cheesy to some people. But I think really have a conversation with the candidate. And maybe just even ask them, “What attracts you to this role?”, “What attracts you to this agency?” And then in their answer, if they’re like, “Oh, well, I saw that. I get every other weekend off.” You can kind of then highlight, “Yes, you do get every other weekend off along with that, you earn eight hours of vacation a month.” “We are usually able to accommodate vacation months. We work well as a team so that way people can have the time off. We also have people who are willing to split weekends if you ever need a different one,” keying into those specific things because we can’t change pay as much as we would all love to and but maybe just even asking some questions. And I don’t want to call it like sleight of hand, but almost if you’re like, “Look over here, don’t look over here at the pay, look at every other weekend off.” Which isn’t necessarily the best way to look at it, kind of that way, right? Like, focus on this. Don’t focus on that.
Host: And again, focusing on the candidate. Because, as you were saying, when you stayed at your agency for a number of years, it wasn’t about the pay. Don’t get me wrong. The research is out there, yes, we have to remain competitive, but the pay is not the most important thing that every candidate is looking for.
Halcyon Frank: Yeah, because if it was so many of us wouldn’t stay at our jobs. I’m sure if we, as was like everybody here, you know, raise your hand if you’re in your job right now. That doesn’t pay the most, but there are other benefits. But a good portion of us would raise our hands for sure.
Host: Or you know, there’s a whole bunch of school teachers out there that do what they love, but they’re not doing it necessarily for the pay.
Halcyon Frank: Yeah. Bless them. Yeah, I cannot praise them enough, especially in today’s climate.
Audience Question: How do we sell our agency or even this career path to candidates who maybe never considered public safety as a career? I think we all have that image of all public safety, they immediately think of law enforcement, there’s a whole bunch of other career paths that maybe people have never considered. How do you approach that problem?
Halcyon Frank: I think it’s about getting out there. If you can find ways like career fairs, or reaching out to local colleges and high schools to get the message out there. That is social media has its downsides, but that can be its upsides if you can show that information to people who may be otherwise would never pay attention. And I know Vegas, and I think there might be a few other places that have high schools that actually are where someone can go if they’re interested in public safety. So, that way, they can kind of start, they don’t have to graduate college, and they can get some certifications ahead of time. So, I think really, it’s getting it out there. I know from my agency offering sit along even was just a small kind of thing that we did, and then we got a couple of people into just even seeing it beforehand. It really just is information, we just live in such an information age that really, the only way we’re going to get that is if we just get it out in front of them. So, however that works for you and your agency to get it out in front of people. You don’t have a perfect solution, unfortunately. But I think that’s what it is. However, it’s going to work for you guys.
Audience Question: Well, I’m glad you brought up what you did because that was one of the questions. What do you think about reaching out to high schools and colleges? I know we had a presenter two years ago, who talked about what you were saying. He was coming from the law enforcement side of the fence, but he had relationships with a bunch of different university professors, who they would call him to be a guest speaker. He set up an internship program where the college kids could come in, and, yes, there’s some paperwork. I will be the first one to say that. But we all work in government, Y’all know how to do paperwork. So, he had to do some paperwork to evaluate the students at the end of the semester. He had service-learning students and coming in doing service-learning projects. It sounds like you’re saying basically, just be willing to reach out to those high school teachers, and college teachers, and make relationships…?
Halcyon Frank: Yeah. Really just reaching out. Again, kind of like I said in the beginning, it’s a shift. People aren’t coming to us anymore so we got to do some of that legwork to get out to them, but it could be really beneficial to get out to them because also, just the other thing to keep in mind is as a dispatcher let’s say when I go to a high school if I go to a high school and I tell them about being a dispatcher. And maybe not a single person in there ever becomes a dispatcher with any interest. But now I have if it’s a one class I have 30 people who now maybe know how to dial 911. And yes, I have to ask your questions. And yes, I’m going to do this that and the other thing and yes, the officers are going to do this when they get on scene. So, really, to a certain extent, I don’t think it’s ever an opportunity wasted, because if nothing else, we’ve just done some public education, right?
Audience Question: Do you have any ideas for how to deal with HR, not necessarily connected to the recruitment and hiring process, but on the extreme onboarding delays with new hires. It sounds like, basically, how do we build better relationships with HR?
Halcyon Frank: Yeah, I think if you can have a conversation, first and foremost, of course, ask them, what is their process. Sometimes, I think that things are just in place for so long, that we just keep going with them. So maybe it’s something, if they’re open to it, you can look at the process. Is there something maybe the dispatcher, the officers, or somebody can do on their end to help with that process? Also, sometimes educating them, if we can find a way to make them understand, like, why we need people so quickly. Because people are working 16-, 18- hour days. That’s not safe. Maybe they just don’t even know that because it is easy to assume. Like they should assume a short staff people are working a lot. But especially like if they’re building, maybe they just don’t know. Maybe it’s a new HR person who really just doesn’t know. So, starting with that. I think initially, too, we like to tell people about ourselves. So, I would say to initially, maybe just reach out with like, curiosity. Be like, Hey, I’m just curious, what does it look like for you guys on, all right, you know? We’ve hired all these people. I’ve been here for so many years, and I just don’t even know what you guys do. And that can kind of open the conversation, right? And maybe from there, you can figure out if there are steps that can be taken.
Audience Question: Building on that, do you think agencies should reconsider policies about exclusionary hiring criteria such as prior convictions or previous drug use, or is it ok to get their GED as opposed to graduating high school? …All of these presumptions that have been barriers in the past for some populations. What do you think?
Halcyon Frank: I think, and I’m just going to put a disclaimer, this is my personal opinion. I think there are that’s something that can be revisited. Obviously, criminal acts, that kind of background, we definitely want to make sure that we’re doing the due diligence and keeping people out who shouldn’t be. But even just things like tattoo policy, hair policies, baby stuff that’s being more accepted nowadays can be revisited. Because people make the argument my tattoos don’t change the type of person I am necessarily. And I think there’s some truth to that. And change, especially in government is slow. But just taking the time to revisit and say, “Yeah, is there something?” I think that’s something that law enforcement specifically, is going to have to think about is, for instance, marijuana becomes more widely legalized. It’s just going to increase the chances that people have partaken in that. So, I think, just in general, like, as things become more common, like tattoos, like different colored hair, like legalizing marijuana, it is something that’s going to have to be addressed because that’s as time marches forward. If it’s not, it is going to affect the number, I think. And that’s just kind of based on the numbers, right? Like, that’s not. Because of anything specific. It’s just like, if it’s legal, more people are going to do it. That’s just what it is, so, definitely, something to think about for sure.
Audience Question: So, we’ve been talking more from the focus of attracting that younger employee. But, of course, there’s a whole body of people out there who may have 5, 10, or 15 years of experience and then decide they just want something different. You talked about how people will move careers more flexibly. So, who should we be thinking creatively about possible candidates? Should we be looking at other government agency workers who want to stay with the government, but may want to change? What about law enforcement, who simply want a different role, they want to take a different career path for a while. Or different idea: customer service folks, call center folks who are used to the call center, high-pressure environment. What do you think?
Halcyon Frank: Yeah, I think, there’s part of me, that’s like no, don’t take from another agency, they need them too. But at the same time, yes. Like looking at other agencies, other governmental agencies. The customer service, just on Facebook the other day, somebody was like, I” want to dispatch job, what kind of training is going to help me?” and people had a lot of good suggestions. But mine was customer service, I worked in a bank out of high school. I learned to talk to calm people, mad people, and sad people. People get really mad if you mess with their money, or they think you mess with their money. So, yeah, looking for the call centers. You know, and I pick on McDonald’s, but maybe it’s a frontline worker at McDonald’s that’s keeping up really well and organizes helping people, and gets it all sorted out and getting everybody their food is really efficiently. Maybe that’s the person that you go. “Have you ever thought about being a dispatcher,” looking for those skills that are applicable in the Dispatch Center, but then maybe not in an environment where you would normally think of those skills?
Audience Question: I am so glad you said that. We’ve had two speakers say something very similar. Brenda Dietzman has talked about this before. Cheryl Victorian, a police chief, has talked about this, experiencing an employee at a retail store, and they give just such amazingly great customer service at Best Buy. So they share a contact card and say, “Hey, when you’re ready to think about being a dispatcher, when you’re ready to think about this next career move, give us a call because you’ve got all of those great skills.” Like you just said, customer service at the foundation of it.
Halcyon Frank: Yeah, and one thing I will add, too, is sometimes we get a little, I don’t know what the right word is. But you have somebody who comes in to interview for dispatch and they say, Well, I want to be an officer. So, you know, I’m going to dispatch for a few years, and some people will immediately go like, Okay, we don’t want you if you’re not going to stick around. And I think we’re really doing ourselves a disservice. Because if nothing else, for 2 to 3 years, one, we have somebody doing the job, who wants to be there, because it’s contributing to their next goal. Two, when they get out on the road as an officer, they are going to be our biggest advocate. Most likely, not always, but most of the time, because they know what it’s like. Three, there are people who have come in, like, “Oh, I want to be an officer. So, I’m going to go and dispatch.” and they never leave, so we don’t want to, you know, run them off. But, at the same time, to maybe certain parts of public safety isn’t the perfect fit for you, or maybe isn’t a perfect fit for that candidate, but you may be can then point them in the direction. Okay, maybe being an officer wasn’t, have you tried dispatch? Have you tried corrections? Maybe dispatch is for you. But we have this victim services or probation officers that you seem to have these skills that would fit really well for. So even kind of steering people that way, too.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Building Your Team: Lessons for Dispatch Organizations.