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Company Officers and Personnel Development Plans

        Today we’re going to take a look at personnel development plans (PDPs) and what they mean to Company Officers (CO) and your individual crew members alike. If you have taken some Company Officer Development courses recently you may have heard the term personnel development plan; it’s also mentioned in many state level Fire Officer II courses. For those of you that do not know what a personnel development plan is then continue to read along because I am going to explain what it is, how to start one for your crew members, and even talk about one for yourself.

        A personnel development plan is a plan that is developed and curtailed to an individual employee. It’s kind of like that firefighter’s own career compass and will guide him or her towards their individual goals as they go through their career. Company Officer’s that start each shift with a shift meeting and develop a daily plan for that shift are usually more successful than other CO’s who come in and wing their shift along as things come up, and crews who have PDP’s are usually more well-rounded than crews whom do not. There are no two PDP’s that are alike, and they shouldn’t be, because all firefighters have different goals, dreams, and admiration's in their careers. Just because these are different does not mean that they do not need to be developed, the firefighter that wants to be a Driver/Engineer within the next 5 years is going to have a different plan than the firefighter wanting to be a Fire Inspector within the next five years. Personnel development plans have been around for a long time and they’re used in a lot of industries, examples of companies that use them may be: Fortune 500 companies, private organizations, government bodies, and yes, the fire service.

        To begin working on an individual’s personnel development plan you have to call them in your office and ask them a series of questions. When they answer these questions you need to write them down because you will later type them up, print them, and put them in a binder.

        These questions will be something along the lines of:

• Do you know where you’re going in your career?
• Where do you see yourself (want to be) in one year?
• Where do you see yourself (want to be) in five years?
• Where do you see yourself (want to be) in ten years?

        You may get answers like: “I want to be a paramedic within the next three years.”, “I want to have smoke diver within the next year.”, or “I want to complete my fire science degree within five years.” These are all likely goals. When setting these goals with your crew members remember they need to be measurable, attainable, and “mendable”. We can’t set a goal for someone to complete their Bachelor’s Degree in two years if they’re just now starting on it and we have to be able to go back and make changes, or mend the goals, if need be; because let’s be honest, life throw us curve balls and we may need to take breaks in between our goal reaching for things such as babies being born, moving into a new house a couple times, or the employee may just flat out change their mind completely on where they want to be in their career. It’s your job as their Company Officer to set them up for success and not failure, so set the proper goals with the proper amount of time to reach them. The last thing you want to do is set a goal that’s unreachable and create a sense of failure in their mind. You wouldn’t send two 3 month recruits to the roof alone to cut holes on a structure fire because they might fail, and the same scenario goes for the goals that are set on paper.

        Reasons we want to develop these plans are:

• It creates CLARITY (The employee knows what their trying to accomplish)
• It reminds the employee WHY they’re doing something – even though they may want to give up on their plan.
• Once again, it’s their COMPASS. (It keeps them following that arrow in the proper direction of travel)
• It creates a TRUST and BOND between you and your crew members when you succeed together.

        When you start to create this document for your employees include things such as: People who can help them reach their goals (mentors and supporters), resources they can use to get more information, what actions they need to take to start in the right direction, and more. When events come available locally that fit into someone’s PDP then notify them, sign them up, and send them off to class, help them get the materials necessary for a goal such as map books for people who want to be Driver/Engineers, rescue class applications for someone who wants to be a rescue technician, and so on. If a firefighter flat out says he just wants to be a firefighter for the next 7 years and learn all he can then sign him up for all the local, regional, and national classes that he/she meets the minimum requirements for and wants to attend. If your departmental budget is tight then the National Fire Academy, New Mexico Tech, the Center for Domestic Preparedness, and other FEMA funded courses are great places to start and do not cost your department anything. I would encourage starting with the smallest goals first and then working your way into the larger ones, this is known as a snowball effect, and you will knock their goals out of the way one at a time and each small goal reached builds more confidence rolling into the next one.
        So, get your binders ready and start asking questions. When you are done creating these documents for your crew members then create one for yourself, or allow them to ask you questions. This will enable you to continue your education as a Company Officer, prevent you from becoming complacent, and allow you to stay on top of the latest and greatest ideas and tactics coming into our business each and every day. I’ve used a personal development plan for myself for 7 years now and it has brought me a long long way. I’ve completed all goals and started a completely new plan for myself, when this one is complete I will start another.

I want to remind you that the sky is limit and dreams do come true, it just takes hard work and dedication. There are two types of people in the fire service: Builders and Destroyers. GO BE A BUILDER TODAY!!

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