Autonomy is our human need to perceive we have choices. It is our perception that we are the source of our actions. When we don’t feel like we have a say in the matter, we become less satisfied.
APCO’s 2005 Project RETAINS contained several data points that reflect how engagement and satisfaction are affected when autonomy is challenged. On average, employees whose primary role in the center was supervisor or trainer were significantly more satisfied than employees whose primary role was call taker or dispatcher. Additionally, employees who had been employed at their current assignment for 6 or more years were significantly more dissatisfied than those who had been at their current assignment one year or less.
The real enemy of autonomy is stagnation. If you feel like you have no input into your daily work life—every day for your entire career, it’s going to be a long slog. The best centers work to engage people at every level of the organization and actively foster buy-in.
The center above that increased CPR saves instated a training program to teach operators about anatomy and what happens to the body in a short amount of time. They trained for more assertiveness and quickness, measured call processing times by person, shift and team. They cheered people on and created ownership in the process. Employees weren’t disciplined for deficiency, they were invited into a process of becoming better together.
The center that slashed mandatory OT spending by $200,000 engaged the line by offering opportunities to participate on committees (Morale Committee, Shift Rotation Committee, Recognition Committee). They offered advancement opportunities in the form of Shift Lead, Tactical Dispatch, and Peer Support appointments. They gave everyone an opportunity to help solve the center’s challenges, and work together towards lasting solutions.