Success Stories

May 19, 2023 4 min read

Metro Nashville DEC Leverages Guardian Tracking to Create an Empowered and Accountable 911 Emergency Communications Culture


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Stephen Martini has worked with many 911 dispatchers during his two-decade tenure in 911 emergency communications. Stephen started off as a 911 dispatcher at the Chattanooga Police Department. From there, he moved on to be the Training and QA Specialist at Hamilton County 911 Emergency Communications District, and then on to be an Emergency Communications Supervisor at Brentwood 911 Emergency Communications, and then into a director role at Williamson County Department of Emergency Communications.

When Metro Nashville Department of Emergency Communications (DEC) offered Stephen the director position, he entered the role with a lot of experience in creating a positive Emergency Communication Center (ECC) culture. With more than 1 million annual calls and responsibility for dispatching across police, fire, and emergency medical services—a positive ECC culture is a critical component for the operations of the very busy Metro Nashville DEC team. In fact, when Stephen started at the Center, one of his first initiatives was getting Guardian Tracking. “This product was my top priority because people are a priority,” said Stephen.

Whether it is high performance, a discipline issue, or a need for more training, we are using Guardian Tracking to help create a transparent culture of empowered and accountable employees to be the best they can be.” 

The Challenge

Metro Nashville DEC telecommunicators handle a continuous influx of residents and visitors needing help, often on the worst day of their lives. In a career that typically has a high-turnover rate, creating a positive workplace culture that retains high performers is critical.

At a large and very busy ECC like Metro Nashville DEC, it’s difficult for supervisors to monitor the performance and conduct of every employee. “As the calls are ringing and you’re jumping in there handling the day-to-day, it’s easy to miss the trends,” explained Stephen in a recent webinar titled “Training, Retaining, and Creating an Emergency Comm Center Dream Team.”

During the webinar, Stephen shared a Gallup 2022 poll on employee engagement that showed one third of employees are typically high performers while 15-20 percent of employees are typically low performers regardless of a supervisor’s efforts. However, the other roughly half of employees are coachable and impacted by a supervisor’s approach. “For the other half of the staff, they might sit on the fence and follow the comm center cultural wave of the day,” said Stephen. Consequently, supervisors can make a significant impact on the culture and resulting performance and retention of their telecommunicators.

The Choice

Metro Nashville DEC’s value statement is “to be an innovative, dynamic, and engaged Center, with capable and empowered team members collaborating with internal and external partners to accomplish our mission.” Four key components of this vision include creating an ECC culture where the 911 call takers, dispatchers, supervisors, etc. feel a sense of:

  1. Engagement
  2. Involvement
  3. A voice making a difference
  4. Work that matters

To help create this type of ECC culture, one of the important tools Metro Nashville DEC leverages is Guardian Tracking. “Guardian Tracking is like a part-time assistant that comes and taps you on the shoulder when someone is doing really well or poorly. We set baseline expectations in a variety of areas, including attendance trends, exceptional QA reviews, commendations from peers and citizens, etc. which helps create a holistic view for that employee.”

Guardian Tracking helps Metro Nashville DEC supervisors identify trends that might be outside of typical behaviors for an employee. For example, a telecommunicator might be going through a difficult time in their personal life and calls in sick more often. “By opening up lines of communication about an issue that is impacting work performance,” said Stephen, “our supervisors have a better chance to address an issue as well as make an impact on that employee who appreciates the help and becomes a more engaged and committed employee.”

“Guardian Tracking is like a part-time assistant that comes and taps you on the shoulder when someone is doing really well or poorly.”

Stephen Martini

Metro Nashville Department of Emergency Communications

The Change

With Guardian Tracking, ECCs can allow peers to enter commendations for their colleagues which can be routed to a series of leaders so that the performance doesn’t go unacknowledged. “These ‘flags’ are the virtual assistants that come and tap you on the shoulder when there’s something you should know about,” said Stephen. “Whether it is high performance, a discipline issue, or a need for more training, we are using Guardian Tracking to help create a transparent culture of empowered and accountable employees to be the best they can be.”

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