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Adapting to the New Normal: How Police and Fire Departments can Maintain Hiring and Promoting Employees During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As police and fire departments grasp the realities (and uncertainties) of stay at home orders, social distancing and other challenges related to this unprecedented pandemic, it’s increasingly clear that new approaches are needed to maintain staffing levels and to process departmental promotions.

At FirstIdea, our mission is to assist organizations in identifying the right people for the right positions so their organization can thrive.  In our efforts to continue assisting our current clients and new clients in developing oral interviews, assessments, written tests, and assessment centers; we are adapting how we work to address these new realities.

To help our clients navigate these uncertainties, we recommend evolving your hiring and promotional processes by following a few simple, but very important tips. While not exhaustive, we believe they address the main challenges facing police and fire departments in these uncertain times.

Embrace Technology, Go Remote

The reality of remote candidate screenings and testing is inevitable. Many public safety departments have already made the transition, or are in the process of developing remote and virtual protocols and procedures.  From ZOOM to Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams and a myriad of other platforms — there are several tech platforms to choose from as you consider how you will evolve your recruitment and promotional processes.

Each organization will definitely need to consult their IT team to determine the best platforms for their department based on resources, internet security, and their relationship with any third party providers for their HR and hiring needs. The organization’s IT administrator will have concerns about candidate privacy and security; including the prospect of hackers gaining access to written tests in advance.

Honestly, there’s no substitute for interpersonal interaction when doing candidate interviews and assessment centers.  FirstIdea has done research and is able to deliver all our solutions and processes virtually, without compromising safety or quality during the COVID crisis and beyond.  Our proprietary rating software can be used web-based so assessors can rate from wherever they are and you can still take advantage of your results within 48 hours of completion.

Online Testing for Written Tests and Assessments

FirstIdea currently has a couple of online platforms where candidates can take their written tests or assessments.  Candidates can take their tests online at home on a laptop, tablet, or even a phone or in a computer lab, practicing social distancing.  We have the capability to proctor testing online using software that will lock candidate screens so there is no going back and forth between screens.

Comply with CDC/State Guidelines for Oral Interviews or Assessment Centers

Every Police Chief, Fire Chief, and Sherriff anticipates their staffing needs long in advance, but in this uncertain time staffing requirements are a lot more difficult to predict. As First Responders, many officers and firefighters have been exposed to the virus, jeopardizing their own health and even the health of their family and loved ones.  At FirstIdea, we are grateful for these heroes each and every day.

In some cases, it’s inevitable that your organization will have to bring candidates in as part of their hiring process. However, for in-person hiring events or promoting employees, all of us need to strictly follow all CDC and State mandated guidelines.

By now, we all know what these protocols are for ensuring the safety of everyone.. The size of your force or department doesn’t matter. We recommend limiting the size of such events to no more than 10 people in the same room at the same time — unless otherwise recommended by Federal or State health officials.  You’ll also want to ensure everyone is supplied with PPE while maintaining social distancing standards of six feet or more; so it will be important to provide a room with enough space to accommodate that requirement. If you don’t have a large enough space in your facility, consider moving the event offsite.

Think Long Term!

While this global pandemic has created a lot of anxiety in all areas of our lives and work, it has also presented us with an opportunity to take a closer look at how we currently operate and envision new ways of delivering the same services in a more efficient and effective way.  Each and every crisis that occurs in our daily lives will always present new opportunities.

As is the case with healthcare and other sectors, the virus has changed our systems nationwide.  It has become a growing fact that many police and fire departments have old and outdated technology and systems. This is an opportunity to make your best case for upgrades to your current or outdated systems for hiring and promoting

By determining the right mix of virtual and live hiring and recruiting events now, you can save your department a lot of time — and money — in the future.

Rapidly responding and adapting to this pandemic can ensure your department is ready now and always in the months to come as we work through this together.  Getting to a more efficient and reliable process takes time, vision, and commitment. However, you don’t have to do this alone.  We, at FirstIdea, have the depth and expertise, knowledge, and experience to help your agency transition to a more agile and responsive agency.

For over three (3) decades, FirstIdea, has partnered with hundreds of organizations to secure the next generation of talent.  From high-tech to personal interactions, we provide an array of tailored Human Resource selection and promotional services, including Great People Inside, the world’s first customizable assessment platform.  We have been successful in putting communities’ futures first.  We have made a positive difference in every organization we partner with.  Your department is unique, and your people must reflect on your mission, culture, and values.  We can help you accomplish this every step of the way now more than ever.

If you are interested in learning more about ways we can help you now, give us a call at 303-840-3346 or visit:  www.firstidea.org.

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