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Cash Bonuses Amid Staffing Shortages

February 7, 2024

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The Daily Dispatch recently featured an article about Baltimore City’s initiative to address a shortage of emergency medical services (EMS) providers by introducing a recruitment and retention bonus program offering $7,500 . This program is aimed at making Baltimore more competitive in attracting EMS providers amid a shrinking candidate pool. Fire Headlines host Samantha Didion is joined by a panel consisting of Chief Bob Horton and Chief Jeff Buchanan to discuss their experiences and thoughts around hiring incentives as well as recruitment and retention.

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Join us for an insightful discussion on the efficacy of cash incentives in addressing staffing shortages on Western Fire Chiefs Association’s Fire Headlines Podcast.

Cash Bonuses Amid Staffing Shortages

The Daily Dispatch recently featured an article about Baltimore City’s initiative to address a shortage of emergency medical services (EMS) providers by introducing a recruitment and retention bonus program offering $7,500. This program is aimed at making Baltimore more competitive in attracting EMS providers amid a shrinking candidate pool. Fire Headlines host Samantha Didion is joined by a panel consisting of Chief Bob Horton and Chief Jeff Buchanan to discuss their experiences and thoughts around hiring incentives as well as recruitment and retention. 

Effectiveness of a Cash Bonus Incentive

Chief Buchanan shares his insights on the use of cash bonuses to address staffing shortages from his experience as a city manager and fire chief in North Las Vegas. He shares that his biggest struggle with this incentive was evaluating the effectiveness of such incentives, pointing out the lack of a centralized system for evaluating the outcomes. He expresses uncertainty about whether the bonuses succeeded in attracting and retaining qualified personnel, “In the past, we’ve gotten the amount of people [needed] to fill those positions. I merely achieved what had been done in the past. So, I can’t tell if it was more successful or not. Are these employees going to be more successful over time? Did I get a higher value of an employee?”

Chief Horton questions the efficacy of a singular financial incentive in resolving the underlying structural issues contributing to the shortage. He emphasizes the importance of delving into the root causes of staffing challenges and advocates for a holistic approach that considers factors beyond monetary compensation.

What Do Your Employees Value?

Chief Horton urges fire service organizations to prioritize aspects such as work environment, work-life balance, and cultural values, recognizing their significant influence on recruitment and retention efforts.

In their final thoughts, the panel offers invaluable advice to fire service leaders by encouraging chiefs to examine the broader structural challenges facing the fire service, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive approach to recruitment and retention. They advise leaders to clearly define the underlying problems contributing to staffing shortages and explore alternative solutions beyond financial incentives. Chief Horton emphasizes the importance of engaging in conversations about the future of the fire service and addressing both supply and demand issues in recruiting and retaining firefighters.

You can email Fire Headlines at [email protected].

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