Multi-Generational Policing

Oct. 2, 2017
The multi-generational nature of public safety can create challenges when implementing new technology. The technological evolution of society requires that law enforcement agencies also adapt.

Provided by Spillman Technologies Inc.

For the first time in American history, four distinct generations are present in the professional sphere, a phenomenon that creates occasional friction as unique communication styles, values, goals, and work habits collide. Some of the Silent Generation (born mid-1920s to early-1940s) are still contributing to the workforce in leadership and mentorship roles, working well beyond typical retirement age. Baby Boomers (mid-1940s to early-1960s) represent a sizeable portion of the workforce and hold many of the executive and management-level positions, while members of Generation X (mid-1960s to early-1980s) are also established in their careers and moving up the corporate ladder. Millennials (mid-1980s to late-1990s) are the newcomers to the job market as they graduate and start to pursue careers. This four-generation workplace will likely become the new norm in the U.S., as the first of the iGeneration (born late-1990s to present) approach college age and begin to choose career paths. 

The idea of a multi-generational workforce is not a new one, but as technology continues to advance and increase in the workplace, the gap between generations can be thrown into sharp relief. As the first generation to grow up using the internet, Millennials tend to adopt new technology more easily than some of their professional counterparts. Millennials gravitate toward the same technology in the workplace that they use in their day-to-day routines, such as instant messaging and cloud computing, while Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers might be more accustomed to phone calls, traditional emails, and hard-copy record keeping in the workplace. The key to success in these diverse workforces is to balance the needs and preferences of the various groups, while integrating technology in a way that benefits everyone.

The multi-generational workforce plays a vital role in many industries and, as retired Police Chief Rich Hendricks explains, it is especially important within the field of law enforcement. Hendricks served as Chief of Police in Logan, Utah, for 12 of his 30 years on the force and gained considerable firsthand knowledge of the benefits of a multi-generational police force. 

“The goal in recruiting and hiring should be for the population within your department to mirror the population of your community. You are obviously going to have multi-generational members in your community requiring the police product, so diversity in your department is always a positive thing,” Hendricks said. 

The multi-generational nature of public safety can create challenges when implementing new technology. Modern law enforcement is built upon traditions that should be upheld and respected. However, the technological evolution of society requires that law enforcement agencies also adapt. Smooth integration is vital in the public safety sector, where there is zero margin for error and little room for experimental or unproven products. 

In order to effectively create and integrate new software within law enforcement, developers must be aware of the users’ technology-related needs and preferences. Josh Smith, Senior Manager of Product Planning at Spillman Technologies, a Motorola Solutions Company, explained that the key to creating new software in this industry is to first thoroughly research current agency practices and potential opportunities for improvement. It is also important to understand the different perspectives that come from multi-generational users.

“That is really the challenge from a design standpoint,” Smith said. “We have the older generations who can be more averse to change, and then the younger people who are looking for new things. They think, ‘We should be able to do this. Why can’t we do this?’ We have to be able to balance that.” 

Smith explained that his team’s approach is to provide new products and features with a simple, intuitive user experience. He also said that they try to push users just enough to get them out of that comfort zone, while providing software that will improve their capabilities and benefit their agencies. 

“You can’t always just jump to the latest and greatest cutting-edge technology in this industry,” he said. “In addition to security and cost concerns generally associated with new technology, we also have to be conscious of the diversity of our user base. This sometimes means a more gradual approach is needed to help them move toward new ways of doing things. Regardless of the pace, however, a simple, intuitive user experience is essential in working with multi-generational users.” 

Chief Hendricks stressed that careful planning is required when introducing new technology to the field of law enforcement. Agency leadership must create and then follow a plan for both implementation and training in order for the transition to be effective. 

“There need to be serious strategic discussions about what success is going to look like and what steps we will take to achieve that success,” Hendricks added. 

The constant evolution of technology and the presence of a multi-generational workforce are both realities that will continue to influence the public safety industry. Personnel from different generations provide an invaluable variety of thought and skill, matching experience and tradition with energy and innovation. At the same time, advances in technology bring new capabilities and increased efficiency to the workforce. Agency leaders must understand the perspectives of each group within their organizations and then use thorough research and training to make new technology accessible to everyone, aligning technology to the multi-generational workforce in order to achieve success in serving their communities. 

About Spillman Technologies Inc.

Spillman Technologies serves more than 1,900 sheriff’s offices, police departments, communication centers, correctional facilities, and fire departments nationwide. Spillman specializes in integrated on-premises and cloud software solutions, including Computer-Aided Dispatch, Records Management Systems, Mobile Data & Field Reporting, Mapping & GIS, Jail Management Systems, Fire, Data Sharing, Personnel & Resources, and Analytics & Intelligence-Led Policing.

For more information about Spillman, visit www.spillman.com.  

MOTOROLA, MOTOROLA SOLUTIONS and the Stylized M Logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Motorola Trademark Holdings, LLC and are used under license. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. ©2017 Motorola Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.  

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