By Kelly Sanders-Kelley

In today's increasingly changing world, most PSAPs struggle to recruit and retain qualified Telecommunicators.  The most successful PSAPs are implementing robust training and communication programs.

It's been approximately 50 years since 9-1-1 originated, and the landscape has evolved significantly over time.  The days of an administrative assistant using pen and paper to distribute messages and requests are long gone.  Today, your telecommunicators answering these calls are the first responders of most life and death situations.  They are trained to use advanced technology, ask the right questions, and pick up on background noises, such as the sound of a gunshot.  They also need to have life-saving skills, such as delivering a baby or saving a chocking victim, creating a highly stressful environment.  All of these factors lead to an industry talent shortage and leave PSAPs struggling to recruit and retain qualified individuals.

PSAP managers tell they have historically taken the initiative to retain employees through quality training and development programs, including internal training, national conferences, and online training opportunities.  In recent months, the COVID-19 Pandemic has delayed this process due to social distancing requirements and budget constraints created by anticipated revenue pitfalls.

In this article, we will explain why training and communication are valuable, how practical training and communication programs impact recruitment and retention, as well as offer suggestions and tips on how to select the right training program for your PSAP while managing within the confines of your current budget.

Throughout our process of creating and delivering top quality training programs, we have discovered that you need to know the value training provides to your telecommunications staff.  Training improves employee retention and performance, and it also increases engagement.

  1. Rising Retention – Training shows an organization's commitment to invest in its employee's value, thus creating a higher level of engagement and loyalty, motivation, and morale.  PSAPs will have more opportunities to promote from within, which reduces recruitment and onboarding costs, allowing you to work within the constraints of your budget by reallocating costs. 
  2. Climbing Performance – One of the primary objectives of employee training is to increase your PSAP productivity and overall performance.  It gives them the knowledge and understanding to perform their jobs and positively enhances their agency's performance.  Training provides managers with a solid understanding of roles and responsibilities, and employees are empowered and equipped to meet the expectations of their jobs.
  3. Escalated Engagement and Communication – Engaged employees make more productive employees.  Training engages employees and, in return, allows them to engage back.  When communication is reciprocal and organizational transparency occurs, they become more emotionally invested and become more committed to their jobs and PSAPs.

How do you choose a training program that best fits the needs of your PSAP?  According to Jamison Peevyhouse, Training Coordinator for the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board and immediate past president of NENA, training should be Relevant, Relatable, and Realistic.

  1. Relevant – It should be about what telecommunicators are doing on the job that includes relevant content that can be used immediately.
  2. Relatable – Subject Matter Experts in the telecommunications industry are delivering the courses.
  3. Realistic – Content should be realistic and align with job duties.

Partnering with the right training organization is key to managing through retention and recruitment challenges now and in the future.  Virtual Academy offers top-quality online training developed by top subject matter experts, a robust communication system that allows communication daily with staff, the creation of internal training courses, and overall policy and records management.  All of this can be done in one system while operating within the confines of the same budget.