CRACKING THE CODE: Xbox™ Firefighters 14/04.20

Xbox QuotesIn his article for Fast Company magazine titled: “4 Tips To Help Millennials Find Meaningful Work“, Adam Smiley Poswolsky makes the argument that young people want to do work with purpose:

“They call us the lazy generation, the entitled generation, and the “me me me generation.” Based on the young people I know, these stereotypes couldn’t be farther from the truth. Millennials want to work–and despite being shackled by debt, recession, and the jobs crisis–they aren’t motivated by money. Rather, they’re driven to make the world more compassionate, innovative, and sustainable.” –Adam Smiley Poswolsky

It’s insight like this, from members of the GenY generation themselves, that reinforces my goal for sharing my “Xbox Live™” conversation about today’s generation of firefighters:

In sharing ‘From the Xbox™ to the Box Alarm: Understanding & Engaging Today’s Firefighters’, I say that: “My goal is to take the “more experienced” firefighters away from the perception that today‘s firefighters are unmotivated slackers – to the reality that what most of them are is young people truly starved for strong, effective leadership.”

Unfortunately, many of them were never exposed to that style of leadership at home (because they had friends-not parents), in school (because we’ve stripped teachers and administrators of virtually every right and authority), or in the workplace yet.

If we agree with the author that: “…they aren’t motivated by money” than we know that we need to find other motivators. If you’re in a volunteer fire department, the money discussion was already off the table so we don’t need to look much further, but, if you’re a leader in a paid fire department and this harsh reality just smacked you upside the face, we’ve got some work to do.

Chief Jack Snook of the Tualatin Valley Fire-Rescue wrote in “A Breed Apart” in 1989 that: “The problem with volunteers – is that they’re volunteers.” What he was referring to was that in a volunteer fire department we have neither a pay check to motivate them with, or a paycheck to compel them to work. However, whether you’re paid or volunteer in the fire service, that motivation has to come from the heart – if you have any intentions of sticking around awhile and being good at what we do.

Whether you’re trying to recruit more of them, or retain the ones you have, remember this about the Xbox™ generation of firefighters:

  1. They want meaningful work that leads to some form of advancement in knowledge, training or professional growth.
  2. They’re ready to contribute now. Don’t waste their time. Engage them early and often, regardless of how long your application and on-boarding process takes. Look for opportunities to engage them in your organization, even if just as an observer, as early in the process as possible – and keep them engaged throughout the process.
  3. They want to know the “why” of your traditions, programs or processes – before they’ll invest the time and energy into your organization. Be prepared to answer a lot of questions and be prepared to be the mentors and coaches they need us to be.

If you’re struggling to hack into the Xbox™ generation of firefighters, can help. Let us know how we can be of assistance to you and your organization.

Stay safe. Train often.