Effective communication is essential for any organization to work smoothly, and the ability to communicate clearly and candidly can mean the difference between success and stagnation.
Most leaders know that taking the time to praise a team member for a job well done shows them their efforts are noticed and appreciated.
When done in the right way, taking the time to discuss inappropriate behavior with a team member can have similar benefits.
An empathetic conversation shows you care enough to “coach” them and suggest ways to develop and improve their performance.
However, when it comes to both positive and negative feedback, finding the time to meet with all personnel you oversee is a common challenge.
Without sufficient insight into your staff, prioritizing conversations—and ensure you have the information you need for the discussions—can feel impossible.
That’s where an early intervention system (EIS) can really make a difference. When supported by the right mindset and culture, an EIS helps leadership identify, evaluate, and address situations that need to be corrected and commend employees if they have gone above and beyond.
The philosophy behind early intervention is to identify patterns of employee behavior before they become entrenched or difficult to remedy. By addressing potential problems early, behavior that may be hurting an employee’s performance or effectiveness can be discussed before it negatively affects the whole organization. The goal is to make the workplace more efficient, productive, accountable, and rewarding (or fulfilling).
Digital early intervention systems have grown in popularity in recent years. Although they are sometimes referred to as “early warning systems,” it is critical that your EIS also be used to praise employee performance—celebrating accomplishments and achievements.
Failure to use the early intervention tool to recognize employees as well as identify problems means leadership is not using the full potential of this technology and can even lead to morale problems.
A consistent pattern of candidly discussing behavior and celebrating positive contributions will demonstrate that you are interested—not just in negative behaviors but in all behaviors.
There are five primary features early intervention systems (EIS) should include in order to support leaders with a goal of effective and holistic feedback:
Leadership needs to be promptly notified of employee behaviors so action can be taken quickly when the feedback will be most effective. Conversely, leaders and supervisors should have the flexibility to send recognition notification flags companywide, commending deserving employees.
Riley is a young paramedic with a promising future, but due to his wife’s pregnancy, he has been late for his morning shift three times in the past two weeks.
Riley’s supervisor, John, has been alerted to the situation through the agency’s EIS and schedules a meeting with Riley to discuss his tardiness.
Following a frank and empathetic discussion about the problems Riley’s wife is having late in her pregnancy, John says he will ask other team members if they are willing to switch shifts with Riley for a few weeks until his baby is born.
Lauren offers to switch shifts with Riley, and John publicly commends Lauren with a companywide alert on the agency’s EIS for her willingness to step up and assist a fellow team member.
For an EIS to be effective, employees must be able to check their personal standing with real-time feedback and notes. Transparency of performance data, supervisor feedback, and improvement plans helps supervisors and employees discuss behavior from a shared understanding.
With a firing range certification upcoming, Catherine’s supervisor recently discussed notes in her record that indicated she had difficulties with firearm skills in the past. As a result, the supervisor connected Catherine with training resources, and she spent extra time preparing for her upcoming exam.
A few days after the exam, results were posted, and Catherine learned she had passed. She also could read notes from the instructor on shooting tips specific to her performance that she could further work on. With this information, Catherine can begin implementing those tips immediately, and her supervisor will be able to see her progress.
Employees often move to different internal positions over their careers. A well-developed EIS enables each employee’s data to move with them—from hire to retire.
Personal Documentation Scenario
Nick was a jack-of-all-trades within his public health organization and frequently filled in for people in different departments during their absences. A member of HR was looking for employees with the skills needed for an open position. Though Nick’s formal job title would not have indicated that he had the necessary experience, the HR member could view all of Nick’s performance documentation in every role he filled within the organization and reached out to him about the role.
An EIS should allow leadership to choose which entries publish in real-time and which require approval before posting.
Customized Approval Scenario
Rachel is the data entry supervisor for her city’s five fire departments. After recording several entries to the system’s EIS, she noticed certification requirements were pending on two firefighters, and a third was being reviewed at a supervisor’s request. Rachel posted her entries for real-time viewing except for the three that were pending further review.
Performance documentation on every employee should be accessible in a single centralized, secure location. Convenient access to data helps make an organization nimble, proactive, and more effective.
Secure, Centralized Storage Scenario
A police superintendent is making the case to his mayor that additional budget cuts will reduce the department’s effectiveness and lead to officer layoffs. Despite the last two rounds of budget cuts, the department has excelled, with several officers receiving commendations for their actions. To better argue his case, the superintendent has requested documentation on the performance records of several officers to share with the mayor and the city council at an upcoming meeting. After receiving the request at 10:15 a.m., the Communications Director quickly accesses the performance records of the officers in the department’s EIS, compiles profiles on each along with their commendations and career service records, and has it ready for the superintendent by 3 p.m. the same day.
Consistently providing feedback to employees to help them improve or to compliment them on their efforts shows that you are attentive to their contributions and don’t just meet with them to reprimand them.
Yet, candid communication involves not only sharing or instructing but also listening. Strong leaders are good listeners that encourage a listening culture in the workplace. Diverse opinions and creative ways of thinking should be encouraged.
Overseeing a productive, work-friendly public safety organization is not an insurmountable challenge. However, it does require you to be available to your team, clear in your instructions, specific with expectations, and empathetic in your communications.