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Executive Officer Leadership: The Relationship Between Human Resources and Community Awareness

The primary human-resource responsibilities in any public-safety organization include attracting qualified applicants, retaining desirable members, motivating members, planning for succession development and offering relevant training programs.

A goal of an effective recruitment-and-retention program is to ensure a high degree of professionalism. Other goals include increasing an organization’s public status, level of respect and trust, quality of communication and sense of belonging and pride among organization members.

Conclusions are drawn centered on fire chiefs’ ability to ask some challenging questions. This challenge, if not done and repeated consistently, lends to the attitude that “it’s now as good as it's going to get.”

Here are 12 “Are We Satisfied?” questions that together serve as both a reality check and a potential measure of success:

  • Are we pleased with our ability to meet today’s and tomorrow’s challenges?
  • Is our existing organizational structure compatible with our aspirations?
  • Do those we serve have a clear understanding of what we do, how we do it and the obstacles we face?
  • What do we have to offer as we attempt to recruit and retain new members?
  • Do we have the right team in place to go where we need to go?
  • What best practices can we employ for recruitment success?
  • What best practices can we employ for retention success?
  • What can we offer providers for succession-development success?
  • What can we offer those we serve to help them better understand our role and mission?
  • What best practices and information can we offer our cohorts so this becomes an important collective challenge we can all contribute to and participate in?
  • Have we determined and shared our organizational values to ensure success and sustainability?
  • How would those in our organization respond if asked them these 11 questions above?

Community members may be unaware of the various models of organizational structure and operational options available. It’s important they know of the significance of any shortfall in a public-safety agency in terms of staffing and specifically the inadequacy of staffing and the possible consequences.

We all have a responsibility to share this information with those we serve. It’s obvious that if we avoid these issues, we only have ourselves to blame and should be prepared to deal with the consequences.

With transparency, we maintain our emphasis on keeping constituents informed and engaged. This is critical to future cooperation, lasting trust and organizational success.

Burying our heads in the sand will do nothing except exacerbate the problem. The key to success is understanding all public-safety issues within our own areas and taking a proactive approach to increase recruitment initiatives, develop retention programs and create a succession process that maintains quality personnel for all public-safety agencies.

All leaders have a fiduciary responsibility to be competent and forward-thinking. Recruiting new members is a costly endeavor and more problematic if the organization isn’t adequately prepared to accept new personnel in a manner that encourages them rather than confuses them.

Every organization should strive to become a destination organization, not a stepping stone. The goal is to get to the point where the focus is on quality of candidates rather than quantity. Because your most valuable resource is your human resource, there’s nothing costlier in terms of money and perception than a constant turnover in personnel.

Your community and stakeholders reap the benefits of quality personnel, a well-prepared workforce and a successful succession-management program, which allow an organization to fulfill its mission more effectively and efficiently as it minimizes the likelihood of gaps in critical knowledge and experience.

Community awareness through communication and relationship-building is transformational. The facts and the solutions are clear; the challenge for us is to get it right.


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