Friday, May 17, 2019

New hires in Dispatch Centers: the culture of welcoming or not

We are in the process of hiring a Dispatcher trainee. Public Safety Telecommunicators (aka Public Safety Dispatchers, or for the rest of this post, Dispatchers) go through the same hiring hoops as law enforcement personnel. It is a long path to that first day.

So why do we, as a rule, treat our trainers like crap, when we should be welcoming each and every one with open arms?

This atmosphere has existed for as long as I have been in the business, and probably even longer than that. Sure, at first folks were "Hey, glad to meet you." but that quickly changed. The smiles changed to smirks or glares when I made mistakes or didn't catch on as quick as they felt I should. Luckily, in my case, there wasn't a CAD system to tackle. My biggest obstacle was proving myself to the officers.

At least I had field experience and was still working shifts turning my probation. I even ran into fire and police units running calls. That helped.

When I was assigned my first trainee I was determined to be different. Other co-workers told me they were purposely 'mean' to their assigned trainees because that was how they were treated. Really? Just how did that help their progress? Praise in public and scold in private. I tried to encourage whenever possible. Did I make mistakes? YES! Later, after I was a Supervisor and took over training it was my goal to achieve 100% success. It didn't happen, of course but I tried. Some folks just are not right for the job not matter what he or she think.

Positive reinforcement and plenty of practice with consistency. That is the key. Any decent training program, no matter what size, must constantly move forward. Review the materials. What is working? If you have 4 trainees and only 1 or 2 make it why? Do you do exit interviews? Ask what might have made the difference. Documentation is important. Remember: if it isn't in writing, it never happened.

Help with the transition to the environment. Public Safety is stressful for those who know the job. A new person, especially an entry-level trainee, really has no clue about the job unless a family member works as a Dispatcher for your agency. Let's face it folks, agencies vary from department to department, even within the same county. There is no consistency with protocols and procedures. Codes are different. The public's perception of out job is based upon watching  "9-1-1", "Live PD", "Cops", or listening to a scanner app.

The reality is far from that.

Be ready for that first day with a welcome sign. Greet your trainee with a smile. Think about it this way: once he/she completes her training and probation, this is one more person to help with the holes in the schedule and one more chance at getting an extra day off. Getting this person trained properly will be helpful during that major incident. Don't forget to go over stress management.

NOT making a decent effort at training will only resort in resentment and frustration later. Help your trainers by asking if there is anything you can do to assist. Again, it is to your benefit. After all, you will be working with the trainee in the end.

Until next time, stay safe out there.


  1. Absolutely true! Thank you.

  2. Thank you for reading the blog. I love hearing from readers,