How to recruit, engage and retain EMTs and paramedics

Understanding the Employee Value Proposition is the key to attracting, engaging and retaining good people for your EMS organization


Whether volunteer or paid, EMS providers are looking for organizations that will provide them with value in return for their energy, passion and hard work. To attract new members, to keep them engaged and to reduce turnover, today's EMS leaders must understand the expectations and preferences of their members.

The key to making your organization one that EMS providers want to be part of is having an employee value proposition. An EVP is a clear description of what an organization offers its members and what the organization expects in return.

Getting the employee value proposition right can help EMS organizations of any size attract new high-quality candidates, engage members to advance the organization and keep them to reduce turn over. A good EVP can also improve employee performance, the customer experience and business operations.

Using an EVP allows your organization to think beyond traditional rewards. Carefully consider what you are offering your members. Every EMS provider experiences their organization through an exchange of their time and effort for different benefits and types of compensation. The member experience side of the equation, what the members want, consists of four things – purpose, people, work and rewards.

1. Purpose includes clear organizational mission, vision and values engaging and exciting members along with an organizational image and reputation that the people want to be a part of.

2. People includes a culture of mutual trust, support and enjoyable engagement with the organization including its top leaders, immediate supervisors, peers, colleagues and patients.

3. Work involves dealing with the structure of the organization as well as the work environment, the tasks they are asked to do and the tools and resources with which they are asked to do them.

4. Rewards can include both monetary rewards such as a paycheck for an employee or an incentive program for a volunteer or non-monetary rewards including recognition for performance and promotion within the organization.

Using the Employee Value Proposition in an EMS organization

Simply understanding the employee value proposition is not enough. Often there is a disconnect between what the organization assumes that members want and what the members actually care about.

Don't base decisions in your organization on what you want members to value. Find out what they really value by asking them. The answers you receive may not always be what you like, but they will almost always be what you need to hear.

The EVP is not just a single list of features and benefits. Members of your organization will look for different things at different stages of their career. EMS organizations must consider what specifically will attract quality candidates, engage staff and retain them. The lists of what will help bring in new talent, motivate current members, and keep them from leaving will likely overlap, but they will not be exactly the same.

The Willis Towers Watson 2016 Global Workforce and 2016 Global Talent Management and Rewards studies identify what currently attracts, retains and engages employees across the world. While these studies are not emergency services specific, they remain excellent indicators of what people look for in both volunteer and paid organizations. What matters most to the candidates and current members of your organization may vary, but these lists will give you some good ideas to start.

Attracting new EMS members

According to Willis Towers Watson, the top five drivers that attract people to professional organizations are, in order:

1. Monetary compensation
2. Job stability
3. Opportunity to advance
4. Challenging work
5. Opportunity to learn new skills

Engaging current EMS members

The Willis Towers Watson studies list the top five drivers of engagement and performance in professional organizations. Those drivers are:

1. Trust and a belief in the senior leadership of the organization
2. Clear and shared goals and objectives of the organization
3. Good relationships with immediate supervisors
4. Positive image of the organization
5. Reasonable workload with flexibility

Retaining current EMS members

Willis Towers Watson says that the top five drivers that keep good people in organizations are:

1. Monetary compensation
2. Opportunity to advance
3. Good physical work environment
4. Stability of their position
5. Ability to manage work-related stresses

Improving your EMS organization's Employee Value Proposition

Improving your organization’s EVP starts with asking tough questions. Begin by surveying your candidates and current members to learn about attraction:

  • What attracted them to apply?
  • What drives them to do their best?
  • What keeps them with you or would drive them away?

Next, consider how your new people are brought on board to assess engagement with the organization.

  • How are they introduced to the organization?
  • Is purpose of the organization clear?
  • Do people know how to get the job done?
  • Do new members feel that they are supported to learn and grow in the organization?

Then, from the perspective of the current member ask and answer these additional questions about engagement.

  • Are they being fairly compensated for what they are asked to do?
  • Do they have the support of their immediate supervisors?
  • Do they trust the senior leadership?
  • Do they feel that the organization has a good reputation?

Finally, find out what might make a great member of your organization quit to better understand the organization's ability to retain personnel.

  • Is their current position secure?
  • Do they feel that they have opportunities to advance?
  • Is their work environment safe, including support for their physical and mental well-being?

EMS employment, volunteerism is an exchange of values

Work in any organization, large or small, paid or volunteer, involves transactions of value where the member gets value from the organization and gives value back. Volunteer and employment exchanges have traditionally focused on the perspective of the organization and what they could get from members.

Today, leaders must flip that perspective and consider what the member is looking to gain, rather than just what the organization is willing to give to the employee or volunteer. With quality EMS candidates and providers at a premium, organizations that can provide good employee value propositions will thrive and those that cannot or will not will fail to survive.

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