After the Webinar: The Secret Sauce to Finding the Best Candidates. Q&A with Adam Leath

Webinar presenter Adam Leath answered a number of your questions after his presentation, The Secret Sauce to Finding the Best Candidates. Here are just a few of his responses.


Audience Question:  We have found that in hiring Millennials and Gen Z, that keeping the candidate informed greatly increases the applicants staying with the process. Is this something that you’ve experienced? And as it’s something you’ve had to adapt to?

Adam Leath: It is, in fact, the traditional practices of hiring greatly depend upon generations and age, and where we are in our way of trying to be more diverse and more inclusive. We’ve had to change a number of things that we do, and certainly, not the least of, which is what you just described. Depending upon which generation that we’re working with. They may be looking to gain something totally different. You know, I actually, in my, I’m a millennial myself. So, I sort of lumped myself into this category, but I really want to be engaged more than even compensation. I want to know that what I’m doing has a real and tangible effect on the community. And if it doesn’t, then I’m probably not going to be staying at that position. So what you bring up is a really important point, and one that everyone should be thinking about, especially depending upon, you know, we have an aging workforce, and we need to ensure that we’re providing a great deal of breadth of experience from multi-generations and a wide variety of background. So, we want to make sure that we’re able to attract all the different generations, who might have an interest in the work that we do.



Audience Question: We often hear that turnover, or the loss of a person, costs about 50% of the person’s yearly salary in terms of the turnover costs. Have you seen any metrics similar to this, specific to animal welfare? 

Adam Leath: I haven’t seen any specific metrics for Animal Welfare. It’s really hard to put an exact number. You know, that 5000 was literally just to do the onboarding and the interviewing and getting them set up. Depending upon how long that position remains open, you have lost productivity. I mean, the cost continues to escalate. So, it’s very realistic to think that, depending upon that salary, but it might cost that employer, even in excess of half of that salary. If they’re not able to fill that position, for instance, if there’s a particularly hard position to fill, I know, for a period of time, our Department of Corrections here, for Volusia County, had some great deal of vacancies. And I know they really struggled because there were so many vacancies that they were mandating overtime for current employees. And found that they had an even higher burnout rate because of it. So, there were a lot of inherent costs that are really kind of hard to understand and really have an appreciation for that can’t even be captured.



Audience Question:  In your opinion, are soft skills such as knowing how to work with people in a related context of work less equally or more important than previous experience and the position you’re seeking? 

Adam Leath: Wow, that is a great question, and I think it certainly might vary depending upon that position. I think, you know, in my personal opinion, I think it’s equally important. I think I can bring someone in who may have experience in a totally different field, but they struggle to find a way to relate to those that are around them or they find, particularly, officers find it to be challenging sometimes to work with people in confrontational or highly emotionally charged situations. And they could be a very talented officer who may know how to do all the nuances of the data and how to perform the technical roles of their positions. But if they’re not able to find some way to relate to the individuals that they’re working with, whether that’s complaints or suspects, they’re really going to struggle in that position. So, I would say that it is equally as important as the technical skills, as well as the years of experience even within animal welfare.



Audience Question:  At what point do you cut bait on someone during the probationary period? If it becomes clear that they cannot accomplish the duties of their job?

Adam Leath: Yeah, and that’s a real tough one, because, you know, while I do find that, you have to be able to provide real-time feedback. What’s going to be challenging is if you didn’t really set out some clear expectations, or if you did not provide opportunity or training, and that is the reason why the person isn’t doing well, maybe they’re not functioning in doing the technical things that you want them to do. If that’s the reason then I would say, you really should focus on providing them an opportunity. If they can articulate that they truly didn’t know, and they didn’t understand, and can point to that, and are open and receptive to not only receiving that feedback but if they’re also open to getting those skills to improve their performance, I would be much more inclined to provide additional opportunities. Don’t forget that you also have the opportunity to extend probationary periods. Sometimes it takes people a little longer to catch on, or sometimes it takes people a little longer to show their true colors. So, I like your analogy of cutting bait because it is true. There are times, depending upon the egregiousness of the situation, where we make those decisions early on, I mean, we’re talking about someone’s livelihood and we never want to take, you know, the decision for termination lightly. But there are certain things that even as a new employee, I really can’t. If I’m questioning your honesty or your integrity, those are things that aren’t performance-based. Those are personal attributes that you come to the job with. So, if I find that there are challenges in those aspects, I would probably, as you said, cut bait pretty quickly in those situations.



Audience Question:  In terms of formalized training, do you recommend waiting before enrolling a person in a paid course to make sure they are a good fit or maybe even until that probationary period is over, or should that be part of the onboarding process? 

Adam Leath: We have this debate internally quite honestly very often. Because we’re dealing with a limited budget. Training is always, always, really expensive, and sometimes we don’t want to use the funds, and we’re inclined to say… whoa. I don’t know. Maybe we want to wait. I don’t want to use the funds for this person, because I’m already having performance-based issues. You know, I think that’s a tough call, and I don’t think that there’s a one size fits all response to that. What I would say is, as a general policy, you should not hold back training for new employees. Because if you’re not giving them an opportunity to shine, you’re not giving them every opportunity to learn and grow. Then you could inadvertently be part of the reason why they’re not growing or learning what you want them to learn. So, I would say, as a general rule of thumb, we don’t hold back. In fact, we are about to send, just next week a brand-new hire who’s been here less than six months to get additional training that is costly. But I would say that in all of those situations, we don’t make it a policy to refrain until after a probationary period, but I can see why people might, certainly, depending upon, you know, the cost. If it’s an exorbitant cost and I may not be able to afford to do it. I might wait, but it’s really not a one size fits all.



Audience Question: Does your department hire their own dispatchers? I’m currently hiring five more so we can expand dispatch to 24×7. Do you have any suggestions on how to evaluate between a few different candidates? 

Adam Leath: Well, those are going to be pretty important positions. Dispatchers are going to be your frontline for the face of your organization in many instances. So those are, those are some pretty important decisions that you have in front of you. I would say when I’ve hired dispatchers in the past, I’ve looked for those that may not necessarily be in a field that’s directly related. I like to look at the helping industries like social services and those sectors because those are people who are routinely comfortable in working in high-stress environments and dealing with potentially confrontational situations and people who are having a bad day. And those are going to be the frontline that you have. Currently, my division actually worked with our 911 Dispatch Center. So, we have an entire Dispatch Center that handles all the calls, both to law enforcement, as well as our division. So, that’s not a position that I necessarily recruit and retain. But it is important because we do have our administrative staff that sometimes fill into those roles. So, I would say, you know, focusing on customer service, and those that are easily able to pick up and accept direction. And, also can exercise good judgment or know when to contact a supervisor when necessary.



Audience Question:  When you have to terminate an employee, how do you talk to your remaining employees and your team afterward to help keep morale up? 

Adam Leath: It’s a great question. And as a practice and policy, we actually don’t discuss personnel issues. That does present some liability to our organization. So, we really don’t have the discussion. They’re not really. I mean, it is public record. So, if they chose to understand, they could certainly request those records. But it’s not something that we discuss because we want to avoid there to be any, you know, accusations of impropriety, or defamation of character or anything like that. So, we don’t actually have discussions. What I’m oftentimes surprised by, more often than not, is that the team kind of knows. The team, may even actually know far more than management does about some of the concerns, and are typically not surprised.



Audience Question:  I hire for entry-level positions that require skill and degree. However, I often lose staff in a high turnover position that pays more within our agency. I seem to continue to get candidates who want more pay and are not concerned about the job. So, are there things that you can recommend to reduce that turnover to keep people in that position?

Adam Leath: Well, I would limit any assumptions, unless you’re truly taking a survey of these candidates that ended up leaving, or they’re doing exit interviews, or they’re providing you with a lot of information about how they came to that decision. I would really caution on making any assumption. Because sometimes, there could be underlying issues, potentially – workplace, the environment that the interaction they may have with other employees, there could be a personality conflict, there could be a whole host of other things that you may not necessarily fully appreciate. And that person may not be willing to tell you, quite frankly. So, I oftentimes am surprised at just some of the dynamic that happen, because I’m not necessarily doing that work, I’m supervising that work. So, you know, trying to have a good pulse of the dynamic is, is an all an ever-evolving challenge. But I would say, it really is important that you, you’re not making any assumptions, because if you’re looking at pay, I know that for entry-level positions, that’s a big one. It just is, Because, your entry-level, you’re trying to do everything that you can, you’re jumping into the organization, and you want to try and build up as much as you can in terms of benefit and compensation is just one of them. So, I would say, if you haven’t done so already, do that salary survey. There are some really good tools out there. The CPQ, if you haven’t ever done that before, is a comprehensive position questionnaire. There’s a number of different ones out there whereby management can actually have a full and thorough evaluation of the position to understand whether or not what you’re offering is consistent, maybe with what other divisions, or other departments, or even other cities or counties nearby are offering. And you might find that if you are disparagingly low, that you’re really not given a fair chance. Because you may have an amazing opportunity, but for someone who’s at an entry-level, they’re just trying to get through things. They’re just trying to find new ways to climb the ladder as quickly as they can. And if that’s not with you, that’s not a reflection of that work environment potentially, that’s just a reflection of your compensation plan. And especially in times that we’re dealing with today, it’s the job market is changing, and it is becoming more and more challenging to see employment to everyone who needs it or wants it. So, I can say that not always is it that there’s going to be funding available. You know if you’re a tax-funded organization, COVID has hit all agencies in a big way and so there may not actually be funding to do something like that. So, you have to politically figure out, when is a good time, but certainly doing that survey, looking at your surrounding cities and counties, or even in your own organization. I even find that even within our own County, you know, sometimes we find that it’s important to check to make sure that it’s consistent across all divisions and all departments. So, we post all of our positions within the County and are frequently evaluating and ensuring that someone who’s working at an entry-level, let’s say, a staff member,  or an Office Assistant three position. That salary range is the same regardless of anywhere you go in the county. That may not be the case for a city within the county, or within a for-profit or non-profit organization. So, just having your pulse about what’s out there and what opportunities are out there will better inform your decisions in the future.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of The Secret Sauce to Finding the Best Candidates.



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