The Next Generation: Recruiting and Retaining Millennials
As of 2015, millennials (roughly defined as those born between 1981 and 1997) make up one-third of the American workforce. As baby boomer officers retire, many law enforcement agencies have found it difficult to recruit and retain millennial police officers, leaving police departments understaffed.
Millennials have been labeled as entitled, lazy and self-absorbed. But studies have shown that millennials have high ethical standards, are willing to work hard and are highly trainable. Millennials want to be part of something bigger, and they value purpose more than paychecks. These qualities can make them great police officers, but police departments may have to make some changes in order to attract and keep millennial officers. Here are a few places to start:
Establish a mentorship program
A survey from Deloitte found that millennial employees are more loyal to organizations that offer support or training for those who wish to take on leadership roles. One way to offer that support is through a mentorship program, where seasoned officers provide feedback and advice to new recruits. A mentorship program can help millennial officers feel more connected to the department, and therefore more likely to stay. Establishing mentoring relationships outside the department—in local high schools or colleges, for example—can also help combat negative perceptions of law enforcement and draw in new recruits.
Get creative with flexibility
Sometimes referred to as the “freelance generation,” millennials value flexibility and work-life balance. To attract and retain millennial officers, departments should get creative with ways to offer flexibility. One effective way to do this is moving classroom training online, allowing officers to watch training videos and study powerpoint presentations on their own time. Agencies can also get creative with scheduling. Many departments have shifted to four 10-hour shifts instead of five eight-hour shifts, which increases officer satisfaction and reduces overtime costs.
Older generations criticize millennials for not respecting authority, but the tendency of millennials to question rigid, top-down structures can be an asset for police departments looking to improve workplace culture and community relations. Departments should allow space for officers to voice their opinions, and use that feedback to improve policies and foster a culture of mutual respect in the organization as a whole.
Invest in technology
According to PwC survey, 59 percent of millennials considering a job look for employers that provide state-of-the-art technology. While not all technology is conducive to police work, departments should keep an eye on technology trends and take advantage of millennials’ comfort with technology by using cutting edge collaboration and communication tools. They should also invest in maintaining a website and social media presence to recruit for job openings and allow potential recruits to apply online.
Millennials can be a huge asset to law enforcement agencies, but in order to attract and retain millennial officers, departments need to be willing to re-examine some traditional structures, encourage collaboration and invest in technology. These shifts shouldn’t be viewed as a hassle, but rather as an investment in the future of law enforcement.