Webinar presenter Dr. Jeff Fox answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Recruiting and Retaining Quality Employees: Creating and Maintaining a Great Workforce. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: What are your thoughts on agreements where new hires promise not to leave for a certain period of time.
Dr. Jeff Fox: Whoa, wow, that’s very interesting. There are two things there: One, is it a verbal agreement, is there a written agreement. But the more important part, is there any penalties involved? And the only way I would apply any penalty and I’m hesitant to do that is if you’ve invested time and money in their training, I can understand that where you want to recoup your losses. There are agencies out there to say, you have to stay two years after you’ve graduated the academy or you have to reimburse us, some of them do that on a prorated schedule, which I think that’s fair also. Say you spent a total of $10,000 on them during their nine months in training, and they stay there are to stay two years and only stay half. Then I wouldn’t penalize the whole 10,000. I would probably do 5,000. I would also probably have stipulations in there if it were emergencies. Have something to do with illness or that sort of thing. But I think it’s okay to do that because you are investing a lot of time and money in them. And I don’t find anything unethical about that or illegal. I know there are agencies out there who do that, and because some people, they already know that they’re going to later use you as a steppingstone to go someplace else. Some people may tell you that, most of them won’t. That’s to be expected to a degree sometimes. Maybe it’s local. Maybe it’s not. But I don’t have any problem with making that stipulation as long as you have a good policy set up, the reason that we have got to be consistent. One thing I’ve always thought about that, if a person is not going to go to another agency, they just want to get out of it altogether, they can just mess up enough where they make you fire him or her. And then they can avoid the payment part of it. But I don’t think that’s a very wise thing to do, so I kind of hope that gives you some guidance on that. I don’t think that’s a bad policy, necessarily. I would look at it probably at number 1 or 2 years. What might happen is when you send somebody off to a super-specialized school, and you spend 10, 15, $20,000 on it for training, and they’d been, on now, 5, 10 years, and then they come back and say, oh, I’ve got my training now. I’m quitting. You know, I’m not 100% opposed there, either, to say, if you’ve got somebody you send to maybe a bomb school, or maybe it’s some sort of advanced series of a computer forensics schools, and you’re going to spend 10, 15, $20,000 on them and he or she walks out the door after training. I’m not opposed there either to put a stipulation on that and I hope that helps.
Audience Question: Josh wanted to share, as he mentioned, law enforcement often focuses on the uniformed side first, and this has come around to create major staffing shortages on our civilian side. What is your position? What are your thoughts on hiring a temp agency to backfill those positions, until applicants can get through the background check process?
Dr. Jeff Fox: Wow, that’s a very interesting question. What normally happens is somebody else has to fill in and cover. And what I have seen, it ends up being sworn people like the sergeant who fills in. Who is supposed to be doing such and such is doing the secretary’s job? I’ve been there, done that on more than one occasion. I’m not 100% opposed to that. I’m a little leery of it, dependent upon the situation and what it is. That they haven’t done, a thorough background check and that person isn’t vetted very well. Then I would not do that unless they can make them, and this can meet your standards. If they can meet your standards and guarantee those standards okay. I’m not necessarily opposed without doing further study on it. On a very temporary basis, I’d rather not do that. You know, maybe there’s somebody else who can assist. No, it’s very different when I was at the state police. I had one secretary or maybe two if one secretary is out, that was fun. I had another one, but a lot of offices are one-person secretarial offices They were gone for a month. Then that means you either had to bring a trooper there, who could do certain work, or I had to do that, my job plus that job. So yeah, that would have been nice to have had some temporary help. Or we would have to bring somebody from another division over and we pay them to travel and the time and all of that. So, there are some workarounds there, especially the more that we do remote work, there’s potential there well, as well. So, I would not rule out the idea of remote work. And if somebody else helping out maybe on an occasional basis. That’s a pretty good idea. I would rather not do that. It’d be my last resort, and if I did, they would have to make sure they met my standards. Which would be the same standards for anybody else who works there.
Audience Question: What are your thoughts on utilizing a company’s social media platforms for questionable posts? We currently do it ourselves, but I’m seriously looking at paying a company that can do a more thorough checkup of all the platforms.
Dr. Jeff Fox: That’s a great question, and kudos to you. You absolutely should be looking at all of that. I mean, if it’s not live, if you want to keep your private life private then keep it private. If one puts it out there for everybody to see, then it is fair game. Any agency that is not devouring, everything that’s open-source on a potential employee sworn or not, is making a huge mistake. Another way of doing that would be to get your people who do those backgrounds trained up so they could do it themselves. That’s what I would prefer to do and to get my people who do the backgrounds really, really good at that. And you could probably send them someplace. So, they could be equally as well versed as a person who you’re hiring. But I’m not opposed to that necessarily, hire somebody to do that. I don’t know how many hires you do; that could get very cumbersome, it might get time-consuming. I wonder if those who do background investigations are well versed with this. Or that well-versed to be able to go as deep as you want. That’s the big issue now. People are looking at that doxing and then not just before you hire them, but after you hire them, we had a fellow who had gone out and he had ridden with an FTO. He was a super nice guy, very innocent guy, very down to earth guy, and somebody in person, internal affairs, for whatever reason. I guess they were just randomly checking this guy’s Facebook. On his Facebook page, he had made comments about how he had responded to a call and how poorly this other agency had done. So, they called us, he was back at the Academy, and we looked it up in our manual. We had not brought it up to speed yet. This is 15, 20 years ago, maybe 15 years ago, keeping up with social media. And hopefully, your manuals are covering this very well and they need to, and other than just using poor judgment, there was nothing to cover it. He was a trainee, he had a good attitude and we brought him in, and we said what you posted was innocent enough, but it was very damaging. Imagine if other agencies saw that, look at the harm it would cause. We suggest you go over there, in the library and delete that post from your Facebook right now. He was just happy not to get fired, and he went and did that. So, you know, we need to remind our people, that everything they do, is under a microscope, and now add social media and every other form of that to it. So, one way or the other, it needs to be done, whether you have people capable of doing it, or you want to hire people, and I think that’s fine.
Audience Question: My department is not part of the police when I brought up doing more in-depth background checks. It’s been met with resistance from HR. Any suggestions to overcome this obstacle?
Dr. Jeff Fox: Oh, wow, that’s a great question. I’m sorry, you’re having those difficulties. It’s the right timing, convincing them, and sometimes, if you can explain the idea of pay me now, or pay me later, of the problems that you face if you don’t do a very, very thorough background investigation, you don’t want to face that. So, let’s do it right, to begin with. That might mean that you should go find examples of where they weren’t done, and people in the same type of field at your end because I know what you’re saying, if people think, well, it’s not sworn, so it doesn’t matter as much. Well, yeah, it can matter a lot. I don’t know what agency you’re with, but you could be a civilian and dealing with very sensitive information if you work in a prosecutor’s office. If you work with criminal records etc. or anything like that, or if you work at public records, you better make sure you have all the ducks in a row. So, I don’t have a perfect answer for you. I wish I did. I’ve had these types of questions before where it really is a convincing question. How do I convince somebody we need to do something. And there isn’t a perfect answer for that, other than show me the money. Show them what our problems could be. Show them what would happen. And if you can give examples of that. I’m not suggesting that you jump over the top of a person, but sometimes, politics play a role in that, then if you get there, you’re the right person. Maybe you catch them at the right time, and I would not give up on it. I would keep on with it until they tell you, just leave me alone. Never mention it again. Because it does need to be a very thorough background, and I don’t know how good it is now, but another thing you can do also, is if you can find similar agencies to you. You need to show them. This is what other agencies are doing that is similar to ours, now you’re adding to it, because what’s going to happen is, when it goes to court, they’re going to ask, whatever standard practices, what are best practices? What are similar agencies doing? And if you’re not meeting those, now your liability is just going to go up, and up, and up.
Audience Question: Do you support formal mentorship relationships or informal relationships?
Dr. Jeff Fox: Both. You’re going to have informal. Now, here’s the thing, we’re hoping that the mentor is a positive influence is a positive mentor. I think when we think of the word mentor, we do think it’s a positive sign. I think it could also be a negative thing, and I could spend days on this talking about people who are dragged down. They didn’t have a strong personality and it really ends up getting the wrong people who drive them down to the rabbit hole. That was a bad mentor, so we want to make sure you can’t stop informal mentorships. But it’s nice to have a formal mentorship program, especially if you don’t have that field training officer program or something, because then you can make sure you get those people. Look to people, you want them to be like, you look around the office, and he is saying, I want somebody to emulate this person, all right. That’s your mentor right there. But that person needs to be trained to be a mentor. That might not be who the people gravitate toward, because maybe that person is a little shy. Doesn’t mean, I’m not a great example. Sometimes, a person can be very charismatic. They can, they can be very charming. Very funny. But they might not be the person who wanted to be the mentor. So, while you’re going to have informal, I’m a big, big fan of formal mentoring.
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