— Continued on page 63
FROM THE EDITOR
scenes. I listened intently to him during many
of those calls, each one a learning experience
for me. It was both educational and heartbreaking as I watched the unraveling of the
service he worked for decades to build.
The fire union fought in court for two years
to have the top seniority employees reinstated
and finally prevailed with the state’s supreme
court overruling the city’s action, forcing them
to honor their seniority practices and rehire my
dad and the two other senior officers.
My father returned to his position after the
two-year hiatus, but he was never the same
because, during his departure, the culture and
work ethic of the ambulance division dramatically changed. The person put in charge
during his absence didn’t possess the same
institutional knowledge or passion for the
position and immediately made changes that
degraded much of what my father
had put into place.
He did away with the invaluable daily ledger each lieutenant
had to read, contribute to, and sign
off on, when they started and ended
their shift. It was a treasure trove of
institutional information. He also
changed the color of uniforms from
white to navy blue.
Although these may seem like
small changes, they took away an
encyclopedia of valuable knowledge
and not only changed professional
look of the ambulance crews, but cost a young
EMT firefighter his life—the young EMT
who served as my father’s partner for years was
killed when he was struck by a vehicle whose
driver saw the ambulance warning lights but
couldn’t see the young firefighter dressed in
his dark navy blue uniform as he treated a
patient on a highway.
My dad retired a few years later, and the
political appointee promoted to head up the
ambulance division lacked not just his institutional knowledge, but also his devotion to
duty. This appointee was ultimately demoted
because he delayed response to an emergency
call for 10 minutes as he awaited his cross-shifter/relief who was a few minutes late.
The call turned out to be a response to one
of my father’s most respected and experienced
lieutenants who had collapsed into cardiac
arrest in his home. He died and the family
threatened to sue the city.
The city settled out of court by giving up
the ambulance service to a hospital that wanted
to run it. That transfer of service lasted only
a few years before the hospital tired of sub-
sidizing a “loss leader” and turned it over to
the private sector.
Throughout my career, I’ve watched more
EMS organizations than I can count disregard institutional leadership in favor of politics or budgets.
The fact is that the loss of institutional
knowledge can take the wind out of an EMS
organization or division’s sails and result in a
significant setback in the programs and progress. In some cases, it can lead to the organization’s demise, particularly those that are
small and lack leadership depth and financial reserves.
I’ve witnessed medical directors who dedicated their every waking hour to build their
agency’s capabilities and image get cast away
like a dead fish when a new administration
came in, or when they made decisions or instituted changes or improvements that city officials or union leadership didn’t like.
I’ve also watched as high-quality leaders
transferred out of EMS or moved to another
agency because top leadership or staff failed
to accept or respect their knowledge or recommendations for changes and improvements.
It’s not something that I think will ever go
away, but it’s something that you as readers and
leaders can pay attention to and be conscious
of so that you can avoid a loss of institutional
knowledge in your own organization.
You must pay close attention to not just the
inner workings of your department, but also its
separate divisions and the various generations
your employees come from when working to
maintain institutional knowledge.
Today’s workforce is very different from the
workforce we had a few decades ago.
By the year 2018, many employers may
see as many as five generations working side-by-side, which not only affects the organizational makeup, but also how the organization
addresses engagement, values, sustainment,
tenure, and how it retains and transfers institutional knowledge.
As baby boomers prepare to retire, some
Generation Xers and many millennials won’t
remain employed with your organization long
enough to learn from their older colleagues.
Because of this generational shift, the institutional knowledge, history and business continuity that veteran employees possessed might
disappear and could result in a steady increase
in employee turnover and further loss of institutional knowledge, translating into higher
costs and lower institutional efficiency. 1
This will be a rude awakening for
agencies that ignore this issue and
fail to work to retain institutional
knowledge and proven processes.
IDENTIFY FUTURE LEADERS
Your organization must have plans
in place in order to ensure continuity.
To address the loss of institutional
knowledge, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recommends that governmental agencies
focus on identifying leadership com-petencies among existing employees
in an effort to create a pipeline of new leaders. 1
In fact, all organizations should implement a
plan of knowledge transfer in order to survive the loss of older generational employees.
As Ray Barishansky pointed out in a 2013
EMS Insider article on the importance of
mentoring, EMS is a field that’s ripe for good
mentors—people who have been around the
proverbial block, who understand EMS and
know how to share their knowledge with others in a communicative, non-confrontational
manner that can inspire. 2
Barishansky wisely cautioned that when
selecting mentors in EMS, you have to remember that age and seniority aren’t always the
same thing. Individuals start their EMS careers
at different points in their lives, so you have
to select a mentor based on what they know
and not just based on their age. He also recommends you consider choosing a mentor
who’s worked in a variety of systems or held
a number of differing positions. 2
All organizations should
implement a plan of
knowledge transfer in order
to survive the loss of older