Have you ever done something that you wish someone had recognized? Maybe you had a major call that involved multiple agencies and you worked the radio(s) for the incident. Or you gave CPR instructions for a child who had drowned, only to have them revive before EMS got on scene. If you are a telecommunicator, then you know you have been ‘un-‘ or under-recognized. Most agencies don’t have budgets for TC recognition but that doesn’t have to stop anyone. This blog will cover tips on how to give recognition on a shoestring budget, additionally it will offer suggestions on who should do the recognizing and when the recognition should occur.

Shoestring Budget?

When your budget is nothing, or next to nothing, you have to get creative. Those with a creative mind can look for free or inexpensive items to put together for a big bang. There are numerous websites that will sell in bulk, not to mention a variety of dollar stores. You can purchase buckets or baskets and fill them with homemade gifts, dollar store items, or items collected from conferences.

Telecommunicator Appreciation Gift Baskets

Have a “banquet” for your telecommunicators. Ask your local police and fire associations for donations. Use a room at your local community center which is usually free. Get local schools to make posters for decorations. PowerPoint presentations can be personalized as you see fit for a “show” to recognize each person. Each center has people who have different talents. Use those talents to put your banquet together. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, just giving them the chance to get together and be recognized is a huge morale boost.

E-cards are free and can be used for numerous occasions, such as birthdays, employment anniversaries, etc. Interaction with your employees shows that you are interested and care about them. Create a “Shout Out” board and post your cards or kudos so everyone can see them. And what about social media? It’s not just for memes! Post those congrats to the various dispatcher pages so others can share in the celebrations too!

Candy is inexpensive and we’ve all seen the sayings that go with the different ones. Here’s a poem I wrote to go with candy and some other items. I put them all in a paper bag and stapled the poem to the front.

You’re a crack employee (Cracker Jacks)
We’re just nuts about you (nuts)
You’re a breath of fresh air (Tic Tacs)
There’s nothing you can’t do.
You blow me away (mini bubbles)
The way you handle the stress
Thanks for sticking with us (gum)
Here’s a hug and a kiss! (Hershey’s hug and kiss)

Bigger Investment Long-term Morale

Things to play with during “quiet” times also lift peoples’ spirits. Nerf balls are fun to break up monotony and relieve stress. I purchased a putting green for our agency once and it was a great stress reliever.

When Should You Recognize?

The best time to start recognizing your employees is when they first begin, during the first few weeks on the job. This builds a bond with them and helps them through a stressful training period. A small gathering to say, “We are glad you’re here!” is the perfect way to welcome them and let them know that you appreciate them being there. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive or elaborate, just a potluck or some homemade cupcakes tells them you’re glad to have them. Small gifts such as a mug, badge holder, a pen, and a magnet are inexpensive and easy to put together. Think dollar store!

Don’t wait for special holidays, such as TC Week. Daily recognition goes a long way towards building relationships. One thing that will certainly catch your employees’ attention is a handwritten note telling them how much you appreciate them. Because there is such a diverse collection of personalities in 9-1-1 centers, let each person know something specific about them that you especially appreciate.

Also, don’t forget your steady employees. They are the ones who come to work early every day, do their jobs, and go home. They don’t usually shine but they don’t cause trouble either. They too need to know that they are noticed.

Who Should Do the Recognizing?

It goes without saying that communications center management staff should recognize their telecommunicators. But Chiefs and Sheriffs should also recognize their people, as well as first responders. They are often willing to help but usually don’t have the imagination to make it happen. You can work around that by planning something and giving them tasks to do to help. This also gives them a chance to get together with their telecommunicators and tell them how much they appreciate them, and vice versa. Try planning a day to bring in a meal for each of your shifts, and having the responders cook and/or serve the meals. They will often be willing to purchase the food needed for the meals, sometimes from their police or firefighter association funds.

There are so many more ideas! You just have to get creative with them. If your agency has a budget for recognition, THANK THEM! If they don’t, then put on your thinking caps and show us your creative side. Just remember, it can be done every day, not just in April.

So, go forth and start recognizing!