Effective Strategies for Early Intervention: How to Respond and Support Personnel

“Okay, but how exactly do I intervene when someone goes off track?”

One of the benefits of using a comprehensive early intervention system for performance management is that the system automatically flags specific incidents to address.

However, with this added accountability and transparency comes the question: When a supervisor receives an alert, how should they respond?

Adopting the Right Mindset

Understanding how negative incident flagging fits into your organization’s larger readiness strategy will determine how well you, as leaders, can use it as a development tool.

Before you ever address the specifics of a newly flagged incident, keep in mind:

Automatic flagging can catch issues early

Notifications allow you to address issues in a productive way that shows your employee that you notice their work and are there to help them work on the problem together.

It’s much easier to intervene early on than to try to fix it after it’s become a more serious issue.

Having a plan in place is key

Know ahead of time how your organization will respond to the various types of incident flags.

Who will automatically be copied on the communications and documentation involved? Who will be called upon to be part of the conversations around the intervention?

Knowing what’s appropriate in different scenarios—and being sure everyone involved is prepared to act—ensures that you’ll be ready when a flag is triggered.

Consistency on the one hand, individuality on the other

It’s critical that all employees be treated consistently throughout the intervention process. At the same time, care must be taken to treat every person as an individual.

Do some staff respond better to one type of corrective action than do others? Are there factors in one employee’s work or home situation that may not apply to other employees?

Taking these questions into account will help guide you as you consider your options.

Remember: Being vigilant is not the same thing as micromanaging

Responding to early intervention flags lets everyone in your organization know that you care—about them, their essential role in the overall mission, and their career goals—and are ready to support and assist.

Steps for Effective Intervention

A properly planned and implemented person-to-person intervention can help you get a flagged employee back on track—something no technology can do on its own.

Analyzing the Data

Deciding which specific course of action to take begins with having all the information about the situation in question.

The data you collect can range from the related documentation already in your system, to a conversation with the employee in question, to involving the employee’s direct supervisors and colleagues if necessary.

Being upfront and transparent about your actions during this step shows the employee that you’re there to resolve the issue through sharing the responsibility and lets them know what to expect as you go forward in the process.

Remedial Training

Often, training (or re-training) in relevant areas is sufficient in dealing with the behavior that caused the flag.

Again, providing an opportunity for the employee to receive formal training is a good-faith gesture that shows them that, despite the need for a change in their behavior, you’re on their team, and you have faith in their ability to get back on track. Public safety employees themselves, in fact, regularly report that they need and appreciate training that helps them do their jobs.

In addition, documenting formal training can shield your organization from unwanted litigation.

Set Goals and Objectives

If the situation warrants it, the flagged employee may need direction (commonly called “counseling”) from you as to what specific changes you need to see within a given time frame.

Typically, a period of several months—marked by check-in meetings to discuss the progress made—is necessary for counseling to be effective. Additionally, the direction provided should be transparent and accessible to the employee for them (and supervisors) to refer to as they go forward.

The process of identifying goals and objectives is an opportunity for you to bring the employee into better alignment with the greater purpose and values your organization promotes. As you work through the particulars of your plan, you can explain how the changes you expect to see in their performance as an individual will also serve to strengthen your workplace as a whole.

Although much of public safety work isn’t easily quantifiable, wherever possible, it’s a good idea to implement measurable goals and objectives in your intervention.

Clearly defined criteria can be less confusing and easier to track, and hitting mutually-understood benchmarks can be more satisfying for the employee than trying to deliver more subjective results.

Follow Up

No matter which steps you choose to take with a flagged employee, following up with them in formal and informal ways is an essential part of the process.

Looking together at how goals and objectives are being met is a powerful reinforcement tool that signals to the employee that you’re committed to their success, and not just “signing off” on the fact that they’ve gone through their required corrective action.

And of course, recognizing all of the positive steps they’ve taken increases the likelihood that the employee will want to continue along a more productive path.

Access our free Early Intervention Toolkit for more articles and insights on managing and supporting your first responders.

Posted on Dec 2, 2021