FBINAA Associate Magazine Oct/Dec 2021

Continued from "COVID", on page 14

we also know that many in the emerging generation are look- ing for opportunities to make a meaningful difference in their community, they are adaptive to change and open to diversity of people and ideas. Our job as leaders is to figure out how to appeal to the next generation of public servants and then care- fully screen candidates to mine the best characteristics that are compatible with the law enforcement values. Candidates who had a number of short-lived jobs – ‘job hopping’ – is something that previously caused background investigators to raise an eyebrow. In the future, this will most likely be the norm in applicants to law enforcement agencies. Much like the economic disaster in 2008 caused many to lose their homes or file bankruptcy – something which would have disqualified applicants in prior years - investigators had to dig deeper when looking into financial shortcomings to determine whether a bad credit rating was the result of falling real estate values or reckless spending. More individualized assessments will be necessary to evaluate the work habits and expectations in the available workforce. Background investigations are going to be more complex in this new environment. Agencies need to find the best tools and most efficient available to manage and streamline the adminis- trative tasks in a background investigation so investigators can spend time on the more personalized and individualized review of an applicant’s positive and negative characteristics. These tools need to be optimized for communication with applicants via smartphones. My organization used the background inves- tigation software eSOPH for several years. This system allowed us to easily communicate with candidates, assess background investigation status and see trends and highlight areas for further investigation. The background investigator will be able to recognize patterns such as job hopping, non-responsive refer- ences, gaps in employment or education. It is important to customize background forms and update questions to adapt to an agency’s evolving hiring criteria. eSOPH was a customizable tool that allowed our agency to easily adapt our investigative materials when we made shifts in our hir- ing requirements. Moreover, having an electronic background system helps provide easily accessible summary information to supervisors and human resource professionals to ensure fairness and consistency in the process. This gives the agency credibility and ability to respond to challenges to background processes. Public safety agencies need to reframe how they value employees and will have to re-evaluate and redefine the desired characteristics and competencies that align with community and department values. In defining these characteristics, agencies need to consider the reality of the new, post-COVID world and the available post-COVID workforce. This will require leadership, flexibility, creativity, and openness to changes in the current culture to one that respects the changing values and priorities of employees. How will your agency differentiate itself from others to draw and retain employees? In what ways can law enforcement agencies enhance work-life balance? Changing work norms and expectations can be a difficult task, especially in organizations where assignments, authority, and flexibility are often driven by seniority. Acceptance of new ways of working and new types of people to come into the organization must be felt at every level continued on page 32

ployment options. There will likely be less loyalty to career and employer, and more willingness to move from one job to another looking for the job that provides flexibility and alignment with personal and family values. These changing attitudes will no doubt bring significant challenges to law enforcement for both existing and prospective employees. As the pandemic recedes, many in today’s workforce are considering changing career fields altogether. Studies indi- cate that this is due to employees dissatisfied by several things in their workplace that have been amplified by their pandemic experience. Inflexible work hours, few opportunities for career advancement and stress are high on the list of reasons why em- ployees are considering career changes. The large number of openings in the job market give many opportunities to new job seekers and those looking to change careers. Those searching for new opportunities are exploring the market to see if there are positions that offer them newly prioritized work-life balance or a position that fulfills their pas- sions. In today’s hiring climate, employees have options. Law enforcement employees, with their extensive training and vetted backgrounds will have many options to find another organiza- tion that aligns better with their personal priorities. These trends do not bode well for law enforcement hiring. There are realities to law enforcement employment that make it even more challenging to recruit and retain employees who are looking for work-life balance. Law enforcement is a 24/7/365 profession. Schedules are not generally flexible. There are no snow days or shutdowns on weekends and holidays. Many agen- cies have widespread staffing shortages that often require last- minute mandated overtime or shift extensions. In a pre-COVID workplace, esprit de corps, loyalty and prioritization of the job as a character trait were expected; however, the pandemic has im- pacted the workforce expectations and employers need to find new incentives to recruit and retain law enforcement employees. Pre-COVID work conditions and activities that were com- monplace are now unsettling. Many public safety duties do not lend themselves to social distancing. Tasks that require face- to-face interaction and on-site presence may not be appealing anymore. Facing unmasked protesters shouting at a protest may be more than stressful, it could be dangerous to you and your family’s health. People may be wary of working in close proxim- ity to others, such as in jails or dispatch centers. Along with the risks inherent in law enforcement during a pandemic, the hours are not always flexible to respond to family needs. Increasingly irregular and unpredictable childcare and school schedules are a concern especially for parents with young families who now need more flexibility in their work schedules. Although they are in an essential public service profession, employees may not be as willing to sacrifice their work-life balance to satisfy the boss. It is apparent that the law enforcement hiring landscape is in turmoil. However, those of us in law enforcement are service-minded problem solvers and we will adapt to the new reality. Agencies need to accept that the pool of potential law enforcement employees has changed and this change is likely permanent. This applicant pool has some characteristics that historically were viewed as less desirable in an ideal candidate. In previous years behavior such as frequently changing jobs or recreational marijuana use might have caused an applicant to be rejected. However, although we might question some behavior,

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