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5 ways online training improves police officer retention

Turnover in law enforcement is a major problem. Putting an end to attrition saves your department money and time. How can you leverage online learning to minimize turnover?


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5 ways online training improves police officer retention

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By PoliceOne BrandFocus Staff

Turnover rates for law enforcement officers are not regularly evaluated, but data collected in 2003 and 2008 suggest the industry average is around 10.8 percent. And, data collected this year shows in some corrections facilities the turnover rate can be 34 percent or higher.
 
While there is debate over where turnover is highest — certain data points to smaller agencies, municipal agencies, southern regions of the U.S., and rural areas — it’s important to note that larger departments have high vacancies, too.  

Online learning can be one solution for solving high turnover rates at your department. (Photo/Pixabay)
Online learning can be one solution for solving high turnover rates at your department. (Photo/Pixabay)

In other words, the problem of officer retention is widespread. 

How law enforcement turnover compares to other industries

If we use 10.8 percent turnover as a point of reference for law enforcement and compare it to the national quit rate — or voluntary exits from jobs in all industries — you will see a striking difference. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average, national quit rate is only 2.2 percent. 

For jobs specifically in state and local government, the quit rate is even lower — measured at only 0.8 percent.

The cost of replacing law enforcement officers

Clearly, turnover is an issue in law enforcement. As one solution, departments like the one in Asheville, North Carolina began over-hiring to cover turnover. However, this is not the most cost-effective method. 

Studies from the 1990s estimate the cost to replace an officer at around $4,500. More recent research shows that it can cost between $15,000 and $20,000 to recruit, onboard and train new officers. Over hiring can be incredibly expensive if there is no strategy for retention in place. 

The costs are deeper than dollars and cents, too. The true cost of turnover also takes into consideration loss of:

  • Experience
  • Productivity
  • Effectiveness

The best way to protect your department’s budget and culture is to retain your LEOs. 

Why does turnover occur?  

The first step in retaining LEOs is understanding why turnover occurs in the first place. Evidence suggests there is a relationship between performance and turnover. The more successful an officer is on the job, the less likely they will quit. 

Research also shows dissatisfaction from the job often stems from:

  • Lack of benefits 
  • Desire for a better salary 
  • Interest in advancement opportunities 
  • Need for a challenge

How to retain your officers with training 

Understanding why officers quit helps us realize that offering better training opportunities promotes retention. Training is a solution for many frustrations that trigger turnover. In today’s technology-driven society, online learning is one of the most effective ways to train your department effectively. Here are five ways training can improve police officer retention: 

1. Training improves confidence and safety

Online learning helps you customize content to meet your community’s or officer’s immediate needs to build skills, teach safety behaviors and reduce injury risk. 

Online content can be made by a third-party vendor, or in-house trainers, who can cater to challenges specific to your service area, department protocols, and the equipment you access each day. 

The ability to streamline and easily create content helps build confidence in your officers each time they hit the streets. When Topeka (Kan.) Police Department implemented a better training program, it not only helped retain their officers, but three officers described how it helped save their lives.

Digitized content is also easy to access, so if an officer feels they haven’t mastered a particular training area, they can easily repeat the process for continued learning.

2. Training provides opportunities for career progression

As mentioned above, some officers are leaving because they are seeking more challenging opportunities and the ability to advance in their profession.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a national research firm, recently conducted a survey about workforces in the future. One of the questions PwC asks squarely relates to training in the workforce.
 
Of the 10,000 people polled in their survey (across all industries), 87 percent said that opportunities for career progression and excellent training or development programs were the most compelling reasons to stay in an organization. This statistic relates to your officers and the importance of moving up through the ranks.
 
Because online learning can be self-directed training or completed as an elective, it can help officers stand out in promotional processes. Online learning also offers specialized and customized content for additional training geared toward career progression. 

Training documentation provided by online learning platforms creates a documented record of perseverance and accomplishment which can validate the progress of your LEOs training, an important piece of the promotional processes.

3. Training creates a better work environment

When everyone in the department feels confident in their abilities, it improves morale and trust within the department. Improved department culture encourages officers to stay with the department longer. 

Training that is perceived as a waste of time can affect your crew’s willingness to learn. And untrained or unhappy LEOs, who feel that they are being underutilized or are insecure in their roles, are more apt to become frustrated, less loyal, and more likely to quit. 

4. Training sends a consistent message 

A shift commander or supervisor who pencil whips training attendance records puts unprepared officers into the field and creates animosity between shifts. 

Signing training records for officers who don’t complete training trends everyone towards the bare minimum of knowledge and preparedness. If the day shift can get away with pencil whipping, then the night-shift wants in on it as well.

Online training ensures that all content is assigned and completed to the same requirements. A consistent message to officers on every shift and at every station improves the perception of fairness.

5.  Training matches workforce expectations

The millennial generation, which is now the largest in the workforce, requires a different approach to training. Millennials are:

  • Appreciative of immediate feedback
  • Eager to develop their strengths 
  • Experienced with online training 

Training reinforces the value you see in your employees. By offering regular, high-quality training, you are creating a real understanding of how each LEO plays a role in meeting department goals and showing officers how the organization is investing in them. 

Online learning has a multitude of benefits apart from retention. Learn about other ways an online learning solution can help your department. From decreasing liability to improving current procedures. 


 


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