Key considerations for diversity recruitment and retention

There are several key considerations when it comes to diversity recruitment and retention. The first is to form a diverse recruitment team — if there's not enough diversity in your organization for it, seek assistance from other fire departments or civilian organizations.

In additon, the following measures should be taken:

  • Develop long-term relationships with community leaders of the groups you will be recruiting from, and include on team.
  • Analyze current organizational culture — does it welcome diversity?  If not, how do we change?
  • Identify and remove obstacles in selection process. 
  • Identify target groups — youth organizations, churches, gyms, community centers, amateur sports teams, etc.
  • Market to target groups — Posters, brochures, career days, community center visits, church/school visits, community speaking engagements and Internet, Reach out to diversity organizations for assistance, develop media partnerships, etc. Keep in mind that recruiters need to look like the people you want to hire.
  • Market to fire department personnel — confront and debunk myth that recruiting women and minorities means lowering standards, conduct training on benefits of diversity as it relates to customer service and to internal leadership and professional development, involve members in recruitment, develop incentives for successful recruitment, provide on-going communications to personnel about the process, etc. 
  • Identify and remove obstacles in organizational systems — ensure performance appraisals reward desired behaviors, discipline and accountability, officer development programs, on-going human relations training for all personnel, policies and procedures, recognition & reward systems also need to reward inclusive behaviors.
  • Establish a Mentoring Program.
  • Provide ongoing human relations training for FD members — damage control or "what not to do" training is not sufficient.  
  • Develop organization reward-recognitions systems for supporting diversity.

Debra Jarvis is a retired fire chief with 28 years fire service experience in Indianapolis and the Chicago suburbs. Chief Jarvis currently consults, trains, and does research with public safety and not-for-profit organizations throughout the United States.

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