In part one of this series, we discussed the need to ensure your department had a culture that welcomed all walks of life into your fire stations. The generations coming into the fire service have experienced considerable change in their lifetime that formed their views on the world. Consider how much change has occurred in the past five years alone. Terrorism, active shooters, two economic downturns, and a global call for equality are in their making. If everything stays the same within your organization because "that is how we have always done it," they will not fit in well. Look at your fire department from an outsider's view and consider if it is a place of professionalism, fairness, and openness to all genders, races, and ideals. Is your department prepared for the next generations, who expect quality leadership and an inclusive environment?
Our past practices must change to effectively attract the next group of firefighters to join your team. Before posting an announcement, you should determine your area's demographics (statistical data related to your population). By doing so, you can learn a lot about who lives in your neighborhoods. You can find information about your community by simply searching online. Type in your community's name and the word "demographics." You will see data about your neighborhood, such as the population, median age, median property value, ethnicity, and more. You can use this data to market groups by finding their information in familiar ways. For example, Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) still get their news from newspapers, television, and ads. However, according to research from Forbes, 93% of Baby boomers use a search engine on their desktop to find information. Only 50% of this group have a social media account. Therefore, your marketing strategy should include paper ads within the newspaper, email campaigns, or search engine ads such as Google. Another way to attract them is by using a local cable station to help you build a video to play as an infomercial.
As we move into the next generations, Gen Y (Millennials) and "Generation Z" use technology to get their news and information. They were introduced to technology at a young age and find nearly all their information using a hand-held device or computer. If you want to attract them, you will need to create social media "ads" or "posts" to get that information on their screens. Facebook and Instagram are the two most widely used social media platforms globally. Facebook owns Instagram, so many of the marketing tools work together seamlessly. One post can spread amongst many social media platforms with a single click of the mouse.
To move forward with any level of social media presence, your fire department needs to subscribe to social media accounts. Most popular platforms are free, and someone within your organization must build the platform and consistently market your department. With over 69% of the U.S. population having a Facebook account, subscribing to that would surely heighten your fire department's campaign awareness. Video has increased in popularity over the years with platforms such as YouTube and TikTok. If you want to gain attention, start creating videos about your department's activity and let viewers know you are hiring. People can like, share, and follow your posts to stay in touch with your activities.
Open houses offer an opportunity to allow interested candidates into the fire station to speak with firefighters and see the equipment they use. Recently, a county held a county-wide hiring event and wanted some marketing advice. The Chief told me every fire department in the county advertised for a one-day event to become a firefighter. Those interested in becoming a firefighter could stop by any fire department to learn more about the position. A brilliant idea! Together, they are finding solutions to fill their lockers.
Attracting new candidates to your fire department must be strategic and proactive. No longer will a fancy sign in the corner of the lot do. Recruiting new members requires us to look ahead and predict who will be leaving and who is staying to the best of our ability. It should become a departmental effort. Every firefighter should have a statement prepared to encourage others to join your team. Have them use their network and find people to serve with you. Create a Recruitment Officer position and get them trained on the best practices for recruiting. And finally, encourage the entire department to help fill the lockers. There is no better recruiter than the one bearing the title of great trust.
In part 3 of this series, we will discuss the interview process. You will learn how to prepare for an interview and the process for success.