In these straitened times, there’s a danger that businesses may be less willing to invest in training their staff – partly because they want to preserve their pennies, and partly because they want to make sure that all hands are firmly to the pump. London’s Metropolitan Police Service is proposing an answer to this conundrum: send your staff to train as volunteer police instead. Not only will they get to learn some useful transferable skills, but you’ll also be doing your bit to make the capital a safer place.
The scheme works by employers giving their staff paid leave (on top of their regular holiday) to join the Employer Supported Policing programme. They’ll then be trained as Special Police Constables, a process that includes lots of tuition in soft skills like communication, conflict resolution and leadership. Not only will this stand them in good stead when they’re finally pounding the streets – which they’ll do for 16 hours a week (unpaid) when they qualify – but, so the theory goes, it could also give them a boost in their day jobs.
By way of example, the Met offers up Josh Town, whose day job is working as an IT Manager for HSBC. ‘The rapidly-changing situations that can arise at any time while on patrol mean that I have to make fast decisions, while influencing others who may not understand or be willing to cooperate,’ says Town ‘This provides me with additional skills training not normally available to employers, which is hugely valuable to HSBC.’ We imagine mollifying a horde of snarling hoodies would probably be quite good practice for dealing with a workgroup of irate PC users who can’t get access to Facebook.
According to the Met’s Neil Barrett, who runs the ESP scheme, different companies will use the scheme for different reasons. ‘For retailers it may be more about protecting their stock and people. For others, it's about cost-effectively and powerfully developing their people and keeping them engaged. In some cases, it's more about working with the community and being socially responsible,’ he says. Presumably, it doesn’t matter whether the decision is motivated by altruism or enlightened self-interest – it still means a more visible police presence on the streets, which is widely regarded as the most effective way of making people feel safer.
But it’s also a chance for your business to get ahead of the curve. Staff volunteering is a growing area, and promoting it can be great for your employer brand. With New Year’s resolutions imminent, this might be a good time to get more people involved...
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