By Means, Randy
Law & Order , Vol. 56, No. 6
Arguably, nothing goes further toward risk management and liability prevention than assuring critical knowledge and proficiencies, i.e., the core competencies that underlie safe, effective and lawful police work. Evaluating officers in respect to those proficiencies is integrally a part of assuring competencies and promoting professional standards. Simple as this is to say, difficulties abound.
Although there is a clear need for systems of employee evaluation and recognition, most such systems have been monumental failures historically. Subjectivity and irrelevance are high on the list of reasons. However, we can make an evaluation system work and identify the components of a properly functioning system. There are several preliminary considerations.
A properly functioning evaluation system should be tightly linked to a correlated band of professional standards. The first order of business in our training programs should be to assure that employees meet professional standards. Policy or other standing orders should put employees on notice of performance and behavioral expectations and how both will be evaluated. Evaluative criteria and professional standards should be interlaced with "carrots" and "sticks" into order to promote compliance with identified standards.
Negative incentives could include disciplinary actions-termination, suspension, reprimand, or other documentation of negative performance. They could also include ineligibility for promotion, specialized assignments, or even certain shifts. Positive incentives could include financial benefits, rewards involving additional vacation or other time off, access to assignments and promotions, little things like desirable parking spaces or equipment, and, of course, simple recognition.
Studies of hierarchical human needs and wants strongly suggest that simple recognition goes a long way toward motivating and satisfying people. This is especially important to law enforcement leaders in times of tight budgets and shrinking resources. That is, if we can't or won't do anything else toward promoting compliance with professional standards, we can at least recognize those who do meet or exceed our professional expectations.
A number of studies and experts suggest that giving people money for achieving certain standards tends to have a motivating effect, but the resulting motivation usually lasts only for a short period. Longer lasting motivational tools are found at those higher levels of the hierarchy involving self-esteem. Support for self-esteem comes from praise, respect, recognition, empowerment and a sense of belonging. Of course, more motivated employees tend to look for better ways to do a job, be more quality oriented, and are usually more productive-all highly desirable outcomes.
Dr. Abraham Maslow became well known in the last century for his theories of human needs and wants. Although his theories of self-actualization are frequently debated as to their merit, it is useful here to remember certain of his words. "What a man can be, he must be. This is the need we may call self-actualization. . .It refers to man's desire for fulfillment, namely to the tendency for him to become actually in what he is potentially; to become everything that one is capable of becoming..."
A century and a half before Maslow was at work, the famous German poetphilosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, "Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be, and he will become as he can and should be." Contemporary best-selling author and motivational guru Bob Nelson allows that, "Recognition is the No. 1 driver of human performance. You get what you reward. Be open and clear about what you want, and recognize and reward it when you get it. Consistent recognition helps you keep important ideas and goals in front of people. It leads to higher performance and morale, lower turnover and an enhanced ability to attract talent to your organization. …