So, you’ve decided that paid staff is necessary. You should have identified the the number of new staff needed, properly eliminated or diffused the potential labor-related landmines and chosen which path you’ll take to acquire the candidates, you are ready to announce the start date for the paid people to begin work.
I’ve identified the TEN COMMANDMENTS that you absolutely MUST follow if you want the integration to be a success. If you follow these, your integration will be successful, if not, well…remember, I told you so.
Thou shalt have only one set of rules and policies for the organization.
It is very common to develop a set of rules and regulations specific for the newly arriving paid staff. I’ve even seen agencies where certain areas of the building like workout rooms, showers and in one case the kitchen, were designated ‘volunteer members only’
This is a sure fire way to help derail the integration process.
Also with one set of rules, anyone needing discipline, is treated equally. Do not come down with a heavy hand on the paid staff for something and allow a volunteer to slip by unscathed for the same offense.
Thou shalt have a ‘get-to-know-you’ meeting prior to the start date.
Invite the new paid personnel, the volunteers, Board members, the local responders, FD, PD, dispatchers and the community to a meet and greet. Have an open house, a cookout, coffee, anything. Try not to have people meet for the first time during a call.
Thou shalt make sure that information about the paid staffing program is open to all.
Be very open about the hiring process, the start dates, the coverage hours, and the rationale for bringing paid staff into the organization. If the program is designed to supplement sagging daytime coverage, make your case. “We’ve tried recruiting, we’ve tried begging for coverage and we’re still missing 25% of our activations. That’s why it’s time to do this.” Informed membership revolts less.
Thou shalt kill rumors immediately.
Regardless of your information flow, emergency service people love to gossip. If you are a leader in an organization and you hear a serious rumor that is false, correct the information. It is better to correct it now, before it becomes an urban legend.
In one organization, undergoing significant change we actually published a simple word-processor generated newsletter entitled “The Rumor Mill”. It listed all the rumors of the week and management’s response. Get everyone on the same page and try to keep them there.
Thou shalt remind the volunteers of their continued importance.
Everyone likes pat on the back, especially people doing hard work for free. It is also important to eliminate anyone’s feelings of failure. Often it is seen by longtime members as a failing that paid people were even needed. It can lead to premature retirement at a time when experience is needed. Show them their value, identify the hundreds of hours each year NOT covered by paid staff. Continue recruiting and always try to fill choice stand-by assignments like concerts, etc. with volunteers before paying staff.
Thou shalt keep people focused on the organization’s mission.
As the few people opposed to the change in your organization loudly voice their opinions about the fact that paid people exist, in reality there will only be a few, you need to continuously re-make your case and remind people of the mission.
“We have to take care of the community and this is necessary to fulfill that goal.”
Thou shalt allow and encourage paid staff to be on operational and planning committees.
Include your newest staff members in all committees. You hired them for their experience, remember the hiring process, and tap the potential. This is even more critical if you hire full time employees. They will actually be out in the community, in the hospitals and see more of the volunteers in a week than most of the leadership team will. Listen to their input and advice.
Thou shalt designate ONE supervisor for the paid staff to report to.
Establish a clear chain of command. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to please the sometimes conflicting requests of multiple supervisors. Unless it is the middle of an emergency situation or there might be, immediate safety concerns paid staff and other leaders in the organization funnel requests, assignments and discipline through one person. Also answer in advance the inevitable question from the volunteers, do volunteers outrank the paid on calls or do they outrank us?
The only rank on calls should be crew chiefs and officers. If a paid staff member is the crew chief, they’re in charge until a higher-ranking officer takes control. The paid staff needs to operate on calls and in the building under the same rules that existed before there was paid staff. Now, if you don’t have those rules in place, that’s an entirely different article.
Thou shalt NOT allow ‘dumping’ on the paid staff.
It is very common for the volunteers to begin relying on the fact that paid staff will be there and ‘forgetting’ to complete their chores. Suddenly ambulances don’t get re-stocked or washed after runs because “I have to get to work”, dishes pile up in the sink over a weekend just waiting for the paid staff on Monday morning. Leaders, thou shall NOT let this happen.
This is a guaranteed way to develop raging animosity that will poison the group.
Thou shalt not allow the words ‘us’ and ‘them’ to enter the organization.
There is only ‘we’. One organization that is made up of paid and volunteer professionals.
Remove any semblance of fence building, compartmentalization or segregation.
Source by Bob Holdsworth