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The Lifesaving Power of Soft Skills in Emergency Dispatch

The Lifesaving Power of Soft Skills in Emergency Dispatch

In the field of public safety, the importance of technical abilities like reading a map or climbing a ladder cannot be overstated. However, there’s another aspect that often gets overlooked in the hiring process – soft skills. These skills, which measure who we are rather than what tasks we are capable of completing, are always present in the KSAOs (Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and Other characteristics) during job analysis.

The Role of Soft Skills in Public Safety

In public safety agencies, which includes police, fire departments and ambulance services, soft skills such as integrity, self-control, dependability, teamwork, learning agility, stress tolerance, rule consciousness, and more, play a crucial role. These skills are not just desirable, but essential for first responders who are often faced with high-stress, high-stakes situations. 

For instance, integrity is essential for maintaining public trust, while self-control is crucial in high-pressure situations. Dependability ensures that each team member can rely on each other, and teamwork orientation fosters a collaborative environment. Learning agility allows for quick adaptation in dynamic situations and stress tolerance ensures performance under pressure. Rule consciousness is vital for adherence to laws and regulations, and the list goes on.

Symptoms of the Soft Skills Gap

In these essential departments, there is a significant gap in soft skills that often goes unnoticed. The symptoms of this gap are evident in various scenarios. 

Catastrophic policing incidents occur not because these particular officers lacked cognitive ability or reading comprehension, but because they lacked the self-control needed in difficult situations. This lack of soft skills can lead to disastrous outcomes, undermining public trust and safety. Fire departments, on the other hand, spend millions hiring people willing to put out fires, but often fail to evaluate their desire to serve as paramedics. This oversight can lead to a mismatch between the job requirements and the individual’s personal inclinations, resulting in less than optimal performance. Similarly, 911 centers hire for listening and typing skills, but often fail to assess resilience to distressing calls.

Furthermore, the public sector, which aims to prioritize diversity, often leans on hard skills that may disadvantage certain populations. The reliance on resumes that meet very specific criteria can inadvertently exclude qualified candidates who may lack traditional qualifications but possess the necessary soft skills. These symptoms of the gap highlight the urgent need for a shift in focus from hard skills to soft skills in the hiring process. 

Leveraging and Measuring Soft Skills in the Public Sector

Soft skills can be leveraged in various ways to enhance the effectiveness of public safety departments. During police oral boards, 911 caller selection and fire fighter training, skills such as integrity, self-control, dependability, teamwork orientation, learning agility, stress tolerance, and rule consciousness can be evaluated to ensure the selection of the most suitable candidates.

Moreover, soft skills can be used to match agency values, predicting resilience, integrity, stress tolerance, and safety behavior. They can also be used to identify high performing and long-tenure characteristics, which can be beneficial during reduction in force (RIF) transfers. In addition, soft skills can be leveraged in talent development, such as safety training and leadership development, to enhance the overall performance of the team. This approach ensures that soft skills are not just recognized but actively cultivated in the workforce.

However, recognizing and leveraging soft skills is only half the battle. The other half is measurement. By measuring soft skills, public safety departments can ensure that they are not just hiring for technical abilities but also for the soft skills that are so crucial in high-stress, high-stakes situations. This approach can significantly enhance the performance and resilience of first responders, ultimately leading to a safer and more secure community.

The importance of measuring soft skills is clear, but it’s the actual process of measurement that matters. This is where Bryq steps in to provide a solution. Based on established theories of I-O Psychology, Bryq’s talent intelligence platform takes the guesswork out of finding the perfect fit by measuring various indicators such as emotional intelligence, communication, leadership potential, learning agility, problem-solving & complex thinking, resilience, safety behavior and more.

Our industry-leading assessment experience objectively measures a candidate’s profile in as little as 20 minutes. You can learn more here.

The Power of Soft Skills in Building Resilient First Responders

In the end, it’s the power of soft skills that helps in building resilient first responders. These skills, when properly measured and leveraged, can significantly enhance the performance and resilience of first responders, ultimately leading to a safer and more secure community.

At Bryq, we understand the importance of soft skills in the public safety sector. As we continue to help public sector agencies approach this problem, we remain committed to developing innovative solutions that value and leverage these skills. If you’re interested in learning more about how Bryq can help your organization promote the importance of soft skills, we invite you to book a demo with us!

  1. Doverspike, Dennis & Petruzzelli, Alexandra & Cubrich, Marc. (2022). Introduction to the Special Issue on Policing: Examining the Role of Testing and Assessment. Personnel Assessment and Decisions.
  2. McCall, J. P. (2001). A correlational study of firefighter personality traits and emotional exhaustion. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, George Fox University
  3. Dillard, D. 2019. The  Transactional Theory  of  Stress and Coping: Predicting Posttraumatic Distress in Telecommunicators. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

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