Grow Your Own EMS Leaders

Every year, JEMS, in partnership with Fitch & Associates, surveys hundreds of EMS organizations across the United States in search of trends in salary and workplace practices. (Download the full Ë™2007 JEMS Salary & Workplace Surveyà“ results below.) This year, we also asked EMS leaders what their organizations do to develop and manage their personnel talent. The following is a summary of those results.

The survey asked if organizations targeted their management approach to the specific needs of the four distinct generations represented in today_s workplace. Eight out of 10 (81.0%) said they do not manage generations differently, but 60% of respondents admitted they experience challenges from managing those different generations.”ž

A major Ë™demotivatorà“ for high performers is feeling their work is unappreciated or unrecognized. The survey asked respondents whether they focused the majority of their attention on the high performers or the small number of staff who are low performers. SadlyÆ’but not surprisinglyÆ’58.6% of organizations still spend most of their time correcting poor performers, while hoping high performers keep performing and stick around. The other 41.4% claim they aim their efforts at empowering high performers and eliminating the low performers who distract from the organization_s mission.

When it comes to developing talent, two obstacles often occur: identifying the talent and finding the funding to help them develop. More than half of the respondents (57.3%) report actively seeking out high performers at every level. This percentage appears optimistic, however; if many of those organizations evaluated their process, they_d likely discover they_re more aligned with the 43.1% of respondents who admit star performers are identified only when they rise to the top. Failure to search out talent can result in extinguishing employee enthusiasm or losing employees to other organizations.”ž

Another significant issue is how to effectively motivate employees through reward and recognition. Although recognition for a job well done is nice, a body of evidence is building that cautions managers to reconsider rewards and their corrupting effects. Unfortunately, 73.1% of organizations still treat everyone equally versus equitably. In other words, in attempts to be fair, employers apply uniform rewards and recognition to all employees regardless of individual needs or preferences. Progressive organizations now recognize, however, that the value of rewards and recognition should be measured by the level of importance they hold for each individual employee, rather than by dollars.”ž

Although talent management costs little when it_s the result of mentoring and exposing employees to the right growth experiences, most employee development tools do require funding. However, 61.0% of the respondents reported allocating little or no funding to each employee_s development. Only 39% report identifying employees with leadership potential early, then initiating and funding efforts to cultivate and grow them into future top performers.

When asked how much funding they allocate annually to help develop each employee (not including medical continuing education), 73.7% report investing less than $1,000 for each front-line employee, 52.1% spend less than $500 and 28.6% commit zero to $200 each year. Unfortunately, it doesn_t get much better in the supervisor and management ranks: 62.9% of the organizations allocate less than $1,000 for each supervisor_s development, and 52.4% report spending less than $1,000 annually on each manager. For a scheduled 40-hour employee, this equals a 48-cent investment per scheduled hour.”ž

EMS organizations use a variety of informal and formal approaches to grow their internal talent. The most common methods include participation in EMS training programs (80.6%), informal management mentoring (70.7%) and non-EMS training programs (56.5%). Forty percent rotate employees through different organizational experiences to diversify their skills.

Nineteen percent of respondents report using professional/organizational assessments to provide employees with a better awareness of the preferred work styles. Most commonly used (by 39.6% of those using assessments) is the 360-degree or multi-reviewer survey, in which the person being assessed, as well as the person_s supervisor, peers and direct reports respond to a survey about the person_s performance, resulting in a comprehensive multi-angle feedback report. The classic personality preference indicator (the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) is the second most common (31.5%) assessment tool used. It provides insight into how employees remain energized, process information, make decisions and manage their lives.

Other assessments used include the Emotional Competency Inventory (9.0%), the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Indicator (4.5%), the Strong Interest Inventory (4.5%), the Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation-Behavior (FIRO-B) (3.6%), and the Autonomy and Relatedness Inventory (2.7%).

Although many EMS leaders stress the value of college education as a prerequisite for management positions and insist that a failure to value higher education presents a major obstacle to improving the profession, 79.2% of those surveyed responded that a college degree is a bonus in an employee but that clinical and organizational experience is more essential for an EMS leader or manager.”ž

However, 56.7% of respondents report their organization offers more than 20 hours per year of on-site management training, and 36.9% had more than 40 hours of such training annually. Training included communication and feedback (78.4%), team building (68.8%), process improvement (65.8%), personality and work styles (42%), and productivity/time management (35.5%). Ten percent (10.8%) indicated a handful of targeted topics specific to organizational issues they were experiencing.

So, you_ve found your star employees, done the assessments and conducted the training, but how do you ensure the right people are in the right roles? Almost a quarter (24.5%) of respondents have identified the core competencies associated with key positions so they can match them with the ideal candidates, and 40.9% use skills or competency testing to help identify the right candidates for leadership positions. However, 57.0% have not used competency modeling, and 18.6% didn_t clearly understand what it was.

Finally, many respondents reported a loss of organizational knowledge and experience within their organizations as baby boomers begin to retire. Although 58.1% said their organization has anticipated the turnover and proactively identified up-and-coming talent, 79.9% report their organization has no succession plan. It_s hard to prepare for seamless management transition without a succession plan.

Personnel makes up one of the largest line items of an organization_s budget, and the cost of retaining employees is a fraction of the cost of replacing them. By identifying high performers, helping them develop their strengths and thoughtfully growing them within your organization, you can build a sustainable pool of committed talent.

David M. Williams, MS, is a senior associate at the emergency services consulting firm Fitch & Associates ( Contact him at”ž

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