Everything comes at a cost. If my kids have heard me say this once, they’ve heard me say it a thousand times. And that’s because it’s true. Everything we want, everything we have, everything we do has a cost.
Too many people associate cost with being something negative. Cost isn’t always negative. Sometimes things that we want cost us money. Sometimes the things that we want cost us time. Sometimes the things we want cost us something else that we want, but want less. But there is a trade-off for every decision that is made.
So let’s talk briefly if we can about the cost to the organization. Specifically the cost of the organization when it comes to training (or not training, or failing to train properly) their people.
It is often said in public safety circles that when budgets become tight the first thing that gets cut is training. When money needs to be moved from one account to another to cover some unexpected cost the training is the first one that is taken. Rarely does that transfer come into the training budget.
And I won’t argue with you that much of the training that is out there is expensive. Some are justifiably expensive but with others it’s hard to justify the cost of the training.
With the current staffing shortage in public safety that cost is increased. Because often in order to send one person to training, another person must be paid overtime to cover the shift that that person would’ve worked. I get it – scheduling is tough. Budgeting is tough.
But as leaders I ask you to consider this, what is the non-monetary cost to failing the train? Or failing to train properly? Or failing to train on the correct topic?
The first question can be answered pretty easily. There are numerous court cases out there that address the concept of “deliberate indifference.” Now I’m not a legal scholar. But I do understand that if we identify a situation that one of our people might encounter that there probably needs to be some type of training to address how that situation should be handled. And if we don’t then often times there is a cost to the organization in the form of a civil judgment.
But it’s not enough just to provide training. That training must be appropriate. It must be developed appropriately. It must be evidence-based. It must be both credible and defensible. Too many agencies are using what we refer to as checkbox training. A class is delivered that isn’t properly developed. That is lacking credibility and defensibility. And then turn around and say, “Hey, look, we train our people.” That type of training comes at a cost. Sometimes that cost is in the form of our people making the wrong decisions. Our people behaving inappropriately. And often there’s an added cost of a civil judgment because of those actions or the inactions of our people.
Finally, sometimes we’re just not training on the right topic. The training we provide is delivered appropriately. It’s delivered regularly. But it doesn’t cover the topics that our people need or perhaps need most. If I were to go and ask public safety executives what training do your people need, I would likely get a myriad of different answers. And I’m not saying that those topics are the ones that are needed. What I am trying to say here is that there needs to be a focused training assessment done in our agencies on a regular basis to determine where the knowledge gaps, the skills gaps exist. And then that’s where we should focus our training.
Unfortunately as I’ve traveled around this nation, I have found that there are agencies that have failed to address even one of these issues. The way the training topic is identified, developed, and delivered is haphazard at best.
As I’m writing this blog, I almost wrote down that we need to be creative in our training processes. That we need to think outside the box. But I realized that what I was about to call creative isn’t really creative anymore. When I was a little baby police officer virtual training usually consisted, at least at first, of this monstrosity of a cart rolled into the squad room. And on this cart there was a TV, a VCR, and a variety of VHS tapes. Note to the young folks out there, this cart weighed as much, if not more, than our patrol cars. It was heavy.
Training in the virtual realm has developed far beyond the AV cart. Now there are platforms out there, such as Virtual Academy, that provide interactive, evidence-based, credible, defensible, and contemporary training on topics of public safety professionals need. And if you look at the studies, this type of blended learning provides the best learning experience for people. It is not meant to replace face-to-face training. Its purpose is to enhance the quality of our training and to help us make the best use of our face-to-face time.
Leaders must go beyond the way we’ve always done it. While a leader must manage costs at an executive level, especially in today’s times, the decision cannot be made not to train. Or not to train properly. Because even with those decisions there’s an organizational cost. And too often when there’s an organizational cost, that bill is paid by our people. Sometimes it’s paid in days off. Sometimes it’s paid in job loss. Sometimes it’s pain and loss of freedom because our people go to jail for their poor decisions. And sadly, sometimes it’s paid in blood. Pay the cost, train ‘em up.