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Brown County 911 Facing Unexpected Problem with Employees

December 06, 2012

Given the state of the world economy these days, it could be easily forgiven to think that no business has a problem with turnover anymore. But that's just what Brown County 911 Communications Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin, is seeing.

In fact, it's a problem to such a point that, among the 62 member staff, nearly half of them were new hires in the last 24 months.

Interim director Cullen Peltier discussed the problem recently, suggesting there was a variety of reasons behind the sudden outflow of longer-term employees. There were retirements, of course – to be expected in any work environment – but there was also a surprisingly large number leaving because of job stress or changes to benefits packages.

But there was another larger problem that's likely contributing to the issue – overtime.

With a large amount of turnover in play, that often leaves the Brown County 911 Communications Center short-handed. That means the staff that's left behind must scramble to pick up the slack while they look for new employees.

In a job that deals heavily with life-and-death issues in a major urban area like Green Bay, a whole lot of stress builds up on the remaining employees, lowering morale and leading them to plan to quit just to keep themselves sane.

The County Board, along with the communications center itself, has a list of recommendations they're currently studying from a recent study of the problem, though some of the solutions are fairly obvious.

One idea would be to slightly over-hire, fielding a couple more workers than are absolutely necessary so as to have ready replacements in the event of turnover. Some may regard this as a waste, but then it's a waste in the same way insurance is a waste. For the most part, it's never actually used, but when it's needed, it's absolutely indispensable.

Think of it as workforce insurance.

Another potential solution might be to use more part-time help, limiting the exposure of a high-stress environment and giving employees more chance to relax following a job in which they regularly hold people's lives in their hands.

There are certainly several possible solutions to the Brown County 911 Communications Center's turnover problems, and it's certainly good that it’s considering the various alternatives involved. But it’ll need to act quickly before the problem gets much worse, especially with the longer-term employees likely also looking to quit under the crippling stresses of their jobs.

Taking some pressure off these employees will go a long way to improving the situation, and the sooner the better for all involved.

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Edited by Braden Becker

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