8 tips for creating a robust, diverse team in public safety
The public safety sector is an unusual mix of people with various backgrounds, skills, and experiences. If you want to ensure you’re getting the best possible work done, it’s essential to have a diverse team.
Diversity means more than hiring people from underrepresented groups. It means having different kinds of people with different perspectives, not just race, gender, or sexual orientation. You want people from different cultures and backgrounds, including Indigenous peoples and those with disabilities.
Diversity is about leveraging your workforce’s full range of experiences and perspectives to get the best results for your organization.
Benefits of a diverse team in public safety in Canada
The benefits of having a diverse group in public safety are numerous.
Diverse teams are more innovative
The diversity of ideas, experiences, and perspectives the team members bring to the table is essential to developing creative solutions to complex problems. This is because each member has unique experiences and knowledge that they can use to bring new perspectives. This helps people see things from different angles, leading to innovative thinking and problem-solving.
This can be especially beneficial when dealing with difficult situations such as natural disasters or other unexpected events where there is no time for lengthy research or discussion before deciding how best to proceed.
Having a diverse team with different perspectives allows for more careful consideration of new ideas and concepts, which can help in areas such as communications. For example, when planning a public awareness campaign or developing a new program, it’s essential to have multiple people from different backgrounds working on the project so that all aspects are considered. A diverse team will ensure that everyone’s needs are met.
It improves employee engagement
A diverse workforce helps attract top talent who want to work for organizations that support causes they care about or that recognize the importance of diversity in society. It also helps retain top talent by providing opportunities for professional development and career advancement regardless of gender identity or race/ethnicity.
Additionally, employees who feel their workplace is inclusive will be more likely to recommend their employer as an employer of choice over other companies that lack diversity initiatives or policies.
Diversity is great for an organization’s image
Having a diverse workforce also gives your organization a better image in the eyes of clients and potential employees. Clients want to do business with companies that share their values, so building a diverse workforce can help improve your customer relationships while also attracting new clients who may not have been able to work with your company otherwise.
Diversity improves organizational culture
Diversity also helps foster a positive organizational culture by promoting inclusion and encouraging employees from different backgrounds to share their perspectives. For example, a diverse staff can provide valuable feedback on how to make your workplace more inclusive for all employees—regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, age, disability status, or any other identity factors protected under human rights legislation. This feedback can help you improve the overall quality of your workplace culture for everyone.
Diversity increases the team’s problem-solving ability
Diversity also provides access to people who may have unique insights into a particular issue or situation. This can help organizations make better decisions because they’re able to draw from a broader range of experiences and ideas than one person could ever provide alone.
Finally, diversity improves communication within teams because people come from different backgrounds and life experiences that shape how they interpret information and respond accordingly.
Improved decision making
Diverse teams are better at decision-making than homogenous ones because they have more perspectives to draw on when coming up with solutions to problems or challenges. The more perspectives are included in discussions, the more ideas will be generated, which leads to greater creativity. This can help avoid groupthink when everyone thinks alike because they all come from similar backgrounds and share similar experiences. Diversity also helps ensure that all stakeholders are represented at the table when decisions are being made, which ensures that everyone’s needs are considered during decision-making processes.
Creating a diverse team in public safety
Here are some tips to help you build a diverse team:
Identify your diversity gaps
First, you need to know where you stand on diversity before you can start improving it. You might only be aware that your team needs to improve in certain areas once you take a closer look at who is on your team and who isn’t. You can start by conducting an anonymous survey asking employees what they want from their work environment as well as how they feel about their current work environment. This will give insight into which groups may be feeling isolated or excluded from the conversation.
Recruit from diverse backgrounds
When you recruit from diverse backgrounds, your agency can benefit from new ideas and approaches to problem-solving. This also helps with employee retention because people are more committed to organizations that reflect their own background and culture.
Create inclusive work environments
Once you’ve recruited diverse employees, creating an inclusive work environment where everyone feels comfortable expressing themselves without fear of judgment or retaliation is crucial.
To do this:
- Establish clear policies against discrimination and harassment on any basis
- Provide training for supervisors on how to prevent discrimination or harassment
- Hold managers accountable for violations
- Encourage employees to come forward if they have concerns about discrimination or harassment
- Respond promptly when an allegation is made
Eliminate unconscious bias
Unconscious bias is the tendency to make judgments based on stereotypes and personal preferences without realizing it. These biases can be negative (for example, we think women are worse drivers than men) or positive (for example, we believe women are better at multi-tasking than men).
Unconscious bias is also called implicit bias. The good news is that unconscious biases can be changed through awareness and training. In public safety, unconscious bias can lead to hiring decisions based on stereotypes rather than skill or experience. This means hiring managers may miss out on top talent because they don’t recognize the potential of an applicant who doesn’t fit their idea of what makes an ideal police officer or firefighter, for example.
Here are some ways you can eliminate unconscious bias from your agency:
- Eliminate language that perpetuates stereotypes
- Provide education on implicit biases and how they affect decision-making processes
- Develop an organizational culture that promotes fairness and equality
Hire people who reflect the community you serve
When recruiting new hires, look for candidates who have lived or worked in your community or have similar experiences as those who live there now—whether they are veterans of previous wars or have been affected by natural disasters, for example.
Diversity isn’t just about race, ethnicity, or gender—it’s about culture too. If your department serves a diverse population, ensure you have employees who reflect that diversity. For example, if you have officers working with Spanish-speaking residents who need essential communication assistance from police officers during emergencies, having an officer on duty who speaks Spanish is critical. If your department doesn’t have any officers who speak Spanish (or any other language), consider hiring someone who does so that person can communicate with the community during an emergency.
Listen to your team members
Hear their concerns, their frustrations, and their ideas. Listen to what they offer and how they want to contribute to the team. When you’re listening, don’t just hear the words coming out of their mouths—listen for the emotion behind them. Are they frustrated? Are they excited? Do they feel heard? Do they feel valued? Do they feel like part of the team?
Once you’ve listened, it’s time to act. You can’t create a diverse and inclusive culture if you’re not willing to make changes based on what you’ve learned—so listen carefully and then act toward a common goal: inclusion and belonging.
You might need some help with this step. If so, find it. Consider bringing in an expert who can guide you on issues like unconscious bias or cultural competency training for yourself and your staff members.
Recognize the benefits of having diverse teams
Diversity brings an array of perspectives that challenge the status quo and help solve problems that would otherwise go unsolved or take longer to resolve if they were tackled by homogenous teams lacking such insights. It also helps ensure that your organization is prepared for future challenges by exposing all employees to different issues so they’re better equipped to deal with them when they arise.
Appreciate cultural differences
Recognize that people from different cultures have different values and experiences. For example, some cultures value independence more than others, which may lead members of this culture to act independently without regard for others on the team or even their supervisor. Other cultures value collectivism—putting the needs of others before their own—which can make it difficult for them to speak up about problems they see at work.
How to effectively manage a diverse public safety team
Public safety professionals come from all walks of life. They have different skills and experiences and bring different perspectives to the table. This means that it’s vital for public safety leaders to be able to motivate their teams in a way that works for everyone.
Here are some tips for managing a diverse team.
Recognize your own biases
The first step is recognizing that we all have biases and stereotypes that affect how we see each other and interact. We learn these biases from our families, friends, and communities, as well as from the media and other sources of information. Some of these biases are positive, while others are negative.
The more diverse your team is, the more likely you are to make assumptions about what others think or believe unconsciously. Recognizing this can help you avoid these pitfalls when working on projects or making decisions with other team members.
Understand the differences between people on your team
Your organization may have many different types of people, but some categories stand out more than others. The most apparent difference is race and ethnicity, but there are other factors as well. For example, age matters because older employees may have more experience than younger ones, but sometimes more senior employees also have less energy or stamina than younger ones do. Gender also affects how people think and behave at work: Men and women often have different priorities and expectations regarding work-life balance issues like working hours or vacation time.
Consider advancing your education
There are hundreds of public safety Canada jobs, ranging from police officers and firefighters to emergency medical technicians and paramedics. Some require an associate degree or certificate, but others require years of education beyond high school, and Wilfrid Laurier University can help in that regard.
The type of degree you earn depends on what kind of public safety job you want to have. If you’re interested in developing leadership skills and gaining a deeper understanding of how to manage people, a Master’s of Public Safety would boost your employability prospects exponentially.
A diverse team means a more powerful unit. A diverse team can increase the agency’s ability to recruit and retain employees, improve employee morale, and provide a more informed perspective on agency operations.
A diverse team benefits from varying perspectives, life experiences, and backgrounds. A diverse workforce makes better decisions because it has more information available to it.
The best way to create a diverse team is by developing an inclusive culture in which all employees feel valued and respected for their contributions. In addition, agencies should be sure to include diversity as part of their recruitment process and consider it when making hiring decisions.