According to our 2018 study, it costs a department approximately $9,500 to host a new hire test, including written tests, skills evaluation, CPAT and interviews for 50 candidates.
Many departments have had to increase the frequency of tests due to lack of applicants, turnover, or other issues…Some agencies are even reporting having to host a test 4-5 times per year. That’s $30,000.
What would your agency do with an extra $30K?
The numbers: (from www.payscale.com)
Chief time - $35/hr
Battalion Chief time $25/hr
Captain time $20/hr
Firefighter time $15/hr
Administration time $13/hr
For 50 candidates....
Common places where candidates get lost in testing process:
Job posting not reaching candidates
Unclear or restrictive application requirements
Broken website links
Non-relevant testing material (written test questions, skills)
Overly restrictive time limits or biased tasks on CPAT
Job focused interview questions (opposed to candidate focused)
Yep....there is a generation after Millennials....
Ok that might seem super obvious, but to some people, especially in the fire service, it is already a challenge to wrap our heads around Millennials that we don't even want to THINK about the next ones!
Time marches on and Gen Z is on their way to the fire service and it is likely that this group will hit even harder than Millennials are.
Generation Z was born between 1995 and 2012. They have never known a time without technology, many of them raised with a smartphone firmly in grasp.
Millennials make up 25% of the US population now (2018), but in 2020, Generation Z will make up 1/3. They will contribute a significant amount to the economy in the 2020s and are hot on the heels of Millennials in the work force.
Generation Z grew up with constant phone updates, a new fancy device every year and instantaneous, 24/7 entertainment. This created a group that adapts to change very well, can multi-task better than any human has ever imagined and are extremely mobile. They are following the footsteps of the Millennials, by abandoning traditional routes of career and education paths, starting their own businesses, going to college on the side (or not at all), and seeking their inner purpose, delaying even starting families, while they discover and cultivate their passions.
This is also a group that is more accepting of individuality as ever. They were washed over in the wave of equal rights movements for LGBTQ+, the Me Too movement, constant public shootings, economic crisis, and witnessing the effects of global warming. They feel passionately about standing up for others, service and preservation and have little tolerance for abuse of others.
This group will bring that sense of duty to others to the fire service, but will desire more ownership over their position as ever. Similarly to Millennials, they will also put their wellbeing and that of their loved ones, over anything else. This group will desire constant engagement, connection and the need to be heard and recognized. Gen Z is also one of public image. Marketing and purchasing studies have shown that already, Gen Z buyers will purchase brand name or top of the line products to increase their image/standing within social groups.
Considerations for the fire service with Gen Z:
Engagement - how can we increase job engagement with this extremely mentally active group? How can we increase their sense of service in day-to-day tasks?
Visibility - will this group understand what it means to be humble or will we have to address this? Can inter-departmentally recognition satisfy their need for visibility?
Diversity - how can departments bridge the gaps between older generations and Gen Z who may be far more diverse in their self identification? How would your departments senior members act around an individual that identifies as gender-fluid or transgender, even if they performed their work at a high level?
Links and references:
August’s Millennial of the Month (MOM) is a full time firefighter from Salt Lake City, Utah. He is a probationary firefighter who has a passion for the industry and knows that there are ways to improve communication between generations.
MOM requested to remain anonymous at the time of the interview.
MOM: I was born in 1991, graduated high school and began a professional career in the construction and tech industry. As I studied at a local university, I realized that the degree I was receiving had rather boring day to day work. I met a wildland firefighter who really inspired me to take an EMT class and look into the field.
During the class, I discovered the pull of the service industry, being able to make a difference and work with a specialized skill set. I became excited about a career in the fire service and decided to pursue it.
2. What has it been like to get into the sector? What struggles have you faced while trying to get hired? What was anticipated, what wasn’t? What struggles have you face once IN the fire service?
MOM: It took me about 2.5 years to get a full time job offer. I remember the constantly stress of tests and interviews, plus the uneasiness of not knowing exactly where I would end up with a job, whether it be career, volunteer or a combination department. It was stunning to me that of my initial firefighter training class, only 2 of the 22 students I trained with, ended up staying in the field…I did not know the drop out rate was so large.
I tried to work hard as a part time employee for several local agencies, trying to build my credibility, skill set, and resume. It was difficult, with low pay and no benefits at all. Like most entry-level candidates, I worked long hours at multiple jobs.
As time went on, I noticed the length of time, and expectations of the testing and hiring process truly weeded out those individuals that were not committed, similarly to the military. To further “sift out the gold nuggets” even those that make it through the testing process, could be lost in the intensive new hire academy, as I saw in my own training.
3. What are the three biggest challenges that you feel the fire service faces today?
MOM: The three biggest challenges that I see for the fire service are; departments struggling to retain experienced employees, as employees at my department are constantly being cherry picked to work at departments out of state for better benefits, overall fitness and health of employees, and recruiting new talent.
My department runs, not only a massive number of calls during the shift, but we often see more fire than the statistic, due to the building types in the response area. We also run on terrible calls such as assaults, overdoses, violence and other difficult calls, again due to the area we respond to. My department, while it is very supportive of mental health, struggles to fully support employees as individuals.
4. You are a Millennial. How do you think that stereotype has helped or harmed you in your career?
MOM: I feel that being a Millennial has not necessarily been positive or negative, but has been a challenge that I have addressed head on. Working in non-service industries, I have seen the “worst” kind of stereotype Millennials and am determined to change that stereotype. Anytime someone starts talking bad about Millennials, I use that as an opportunity to prove them wrong, by working harder, staying fitter, and being the smartest, highest quality employee there is.
I have noticed that a characteristic of the newer employees, including Millennials, is that they are FAR better in shape than the older, more experienced employees.
5. Can you speak to hazing? Were you hazed? How so? Have you hazed someone else? Do you think it is a positive or negative thing?
MOM: Yes I have been hazed, however my experience is that I received more of generally harmless teasing, with small amounts of negative hazing. I have, however, seen and heard much more hazing than what I experienced first hand. In my experience, positive feedback, especially when new employees are encouraged to express their own experiences, weaknesses and goals, is far more productive than hazing in creating employee improvement.
6. Do you feel the fire service is a sustainable career for you - financially, mentally, physically and in regards to your family and personal life? Why or why not? Do you work other jobs? How many and what in?
MOM: My answer to this is a resounding NO! Not in Utah! If it weren’t for my spouses income and insurance, I would be struggling in a bad way. If things don’t improve here, I plan to leave Utah, after I have repaid my department for hiring me in the first place. I owe them that. I work two other EMT jobs, outside of firefighting and am expecting to have to take another to support my family. I want to move my family to a state with better pay and better retirement.
I am also a little disappointed with the line-of-duty-death benefits, if something were to happen to me, I don’t know if my family would receive enough support.
7. If you could change one thing about the fire service, what would it be?
MOM: Pay and benefits. I would love to stay in Utah, I love my department and the state, but will likely leave to support my family. I even opted out of the fire departments health insurance, as it was far better to join my spouses insurance.
8. Do you feel the fire service supports a healthy, sustainable culture? How supported do you feel as a newer employee?
MOM: I feel that my department does have decent culture, but they will continue to see talented, experienced employees leave due to the pay, benefits, and call volume.
9. Which of the following is most important to you in your work? Job & income security, personal recognition, work environment, wellbeing, good leadership, or communication.
The CSC culture factor that was most important to me is health and wellbeing. Without it, a person can’t function.
10. If you could give the chiefs of the industry a recommendation about recruiting and retaining Millennials, what would you say?
MOM: “Stop saying, ‘back in my day’. The population has nearly doubled since your day, the technology, drugs and crime has drastically increased and the calls we run are no longer comparable. We face complex car extrications, fires with solar paneled roofs, school shootings, rampant opioid addiction, increased violence, suicides, and it isn’t fair to expect that we should behave the same way you did when you were new.
“There ARE amazing Millennials out there, but without the pay, benefits and mental health support, they will continue to leave. If you pay peanuts, you will get monkeys. Advocate for us in the retirement system and support us in the field as we try to serve an every changing, complex society.”
Thanks to Augusts Millennial of the Month for offering some insight on what it’s like to have a passion for the industry and yet be struggling with some of the most common issues in the industry.
Today, we will spotlight the Baby Boomers, born 1946 and 1964, this generation gets its name from the massive increase in births following WWII through the Cold War.
According to history.com, the Boomers were excited to embrace home life, after suffering through difficult war times. The suburban lifestyle exploded, unions sounded a rally cry for better benefits of workers, women were encouraged to remain home and be the cooking, cleaning, housemother. This particular campaign was disheartening to many women, as they had found a new sense of self and independence by working in factories, or even on the front lines, during the wars. This dissatisfaction with a new expectation would later lead to the feminist movements.
It was a time of new stuff. Televisions replaced the home radio, a new car could be seen in many driveways and Disneyland opened in 1955, bringing a flood of new toys to the market for children. Credit cards, TV dinners, velcro, microwave ovens, and ironically, birth control pills, were all products unveiled in this time.
Social movements also marked the time of the Boomers. They protested the Vietnam war, lobbied for equal rights for women, ethnic and racial groups and even youth. Some however, preferred peace and as such, the "hippie" was born.
By 2030, one in five Americans will be over 65. Even now, as this group begins to leave the work force, we see an increase in nursing homes, more pulls on social security and, the true loss in the fire service, experience....
These Boomers are the leaders of the fire service now. If not officially in title, it is in time and experience. They are reaching retirement age (if they haven't left already) and as they exit the workforce, they take a lifetime worth of hard lessons, techniques and worth ethic with them. We would all benefit from sitting down with a Boomer, listening to their stories and getting their advice, even though our world in the fire service is vastly different than they worked in, some lessons will still be valuable.
We salute these Boomers, as they suffered through as the unofficial "safety" testers that led the fire service to SCBAs, turnouts, mandatory seatbelts, and other equipment and PPE that we may not think much about.
For more on this, check out this Firehouse article:
Links and references:
Why is there a decline of entry level firefighter candidates? We used to have thousands of candidates competing for five or six openings, now it seems we are putting on tests every few months, so...was there a party and we just didn't get invited?
Millennials are an ambitious and informed group. Research is at the heart of nearly all their decisions and more often than not, choices are screened by friends and family before they are acted on.
As a result, it is very easy to just get online and compare careers, make lists and even experience different jobs through working interviews or job fairs. These are some of the results they are seeing, thanks to www.glassdoor.com for providing the information:
Both categories have strengths and weaknesses....
Even employees that enter the field and make it through the testing process, will leave if they feel abused for too long. Preventing the burnout and job dissatisfaction can stop Millennials from leaving the industry once they are in and attract more candidates to the field.
Getting creative with solutions is the key.
"100 years of tradition, unimpeded by progress" - this revealing quote needs to be disproven for departments to really start to attract and keep some talent for the long term.
Considerations for departments:
Declassify PTO - doesn't just have to be sick or vacation. Just labeled at personal leave or paid time off, an employee can use it as they need.
Gym memberships or discounts
Raffels and contests
Fix company culture issues if they exists
Increase pay and benefits as possible
There are four generations that are actively working in the fire service right now;
Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
Generation X (1965-1979)
Each of these generational groups experienced a different environment growing up that drive overall behavior, beliefs and values.
Baby Boomers faced intense political and civil rights movements, the Korean and Vietnam War and new love for entertainment. They grew up in a time without instant communication or social media and as result developed great interpersonal skills, a strong work ethic and have had to adapt to rapid increases in technology.
Generation X is the first generation to value work-life balance. Many experienced broken homes due to extreme work demands on their parents and thus became wary of overworking. This group saw several significant political events and the beginnings of computers and the internet.
Xennials had the benefits of rapidly growing technology while also being one of the hardest hit working groups in the early 2000s recession, 9-11 terrorist attacks, and being thrust into an entirely connected world. Xennials also experienced a focus on environmental issues.
Perhaps the most feared generation in the fire service now is the Millennials....often titled as lazy, entitled, and self-centered, agencies all over the country are facing a massive reduction in entry level testing numbers as this well-connected group become entrepreneurs and tech giants.
Frustrations and finger pointing are often the result of poor communication between all these groups. Older generations feel that these kids should just be grateful to have a job, to worship the fire service, and to get off their damn phones! Younger generations have far less tolerance for low pay, hazing and teasing, and the demand on personal life that the fire service presents.
However there are solutions...and both parties MUST adapt. Those departments that refuse to change will face huge turnover and an increase of entry level testing frequency as candidates flee from public safety. Millennials must develop as professionals and take communication into their own hands to show departments what makes them want to stay.
The answer does not have to be solely and increase in pay...