Generation “Y” Part II – What to Say…

Using New Tactics In Working With New Firefighters

Generation Y’ers are task-orientated, but the task instructions must be detailed. Their structured upbringing requires of them to only do exactly as asked and outlined.

If for example, a new Gen Y firefighter when given the assignment to clean up the day room will set about doing just that. Should the kitchen area be included in the day room area, the dirty dishes in the sink may go untouched. Nobody said anything about doing the dishes.

The same concept applies to describing the functions required of a firefighter. During a recruiting interview, the conversation may have previously involved responding to fires and medical emergencies. The Gen Y recruit needs to be exposed to the “real life” functions of the fire service. The time/function hierarchy of the job is actually: training, maintaining and then responding. If the recruit anticipates that he or she will spend a majority of their time responding to calls, they will become dissatisfied with the job very quickly.

The Gen Y’ers do like learning new things and having their opinions considered, the hierarchy of the job functions provides positive reinforcement of those needs. Allowing probies to participate in the planning of training scenarios provides them the opportunity to learn the whys and why not’s as well as giving them a productive way for them to satisfy the need to be included.

Demonstrating through informal “what if” training discussions followed up with immediate hands-on use of the equipment without notice, rationalizes the maintenance function in the mind of the Gen Y fire fighter. If the importance of the non-responding activities is explained in full, a better reaction will be experienced during the more structured responding activities.

Each generation establishes its identity through dress, mannerisms, and jargon. Following the policy of laying out clear expectations addressing the department’s dress code from the start is a benefit. Gen Yers dress can be sloppy and/or extremely casual. They often don’t fit the fire service image. Gen Yers will, for the most part, conform to a dress code if it makes any sense and is made clear to them. Firefighters enjoy a high regard with the general public, and that is to a large degree due to the image presented. Fire apparatus are generally very impressive. While this “look” is in part tradition, it does send a positive image to the public. By association, it is best if the people who utilize the apparatus convey the same associated image. Volunteer departments should provide shirts, jackets or coverall that can be utilized when volunteers respond to a scene.

When recruiting Gen Y firefighters, reinforcing the consideration of nontraditional work hours of the fire service will be considered in a positive light.

Making expectations clear and concise across the board provides the master key to unlock the innate potential of the new generation of firefighters and first responders.

Pete Adams
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