Contributors, Leadership

Evaluating to Core Values

Pride can be seen in more than your firehouse and apparatus. (Unsplash/Mor Shani photo)

Standing up to a living set of principles

By David Bullard

Many organizations have adopted core values.   Unfortunately, they tend to end up on posters, signs, or other wall decorations.  While the words have meaning, they rarely get used in a tangible context.   Also, most career and some volunteer departments utilize some form of an employee performance evaluation or appraisal.   What if, the evaluation was conducted based on the core values?

Columbia County, Georgia adopted Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Dedication, and Excellence (PRIDE) as its core values. In doing this, it was decided that the best way to make the core values effective was to make them the evaluation factors for employees. Throughout the year, employees can be complimented, counseled, or reprimanded based on the simplicity of PRIDE.

Many departments and corporations adopt core values.  Some are excellent, but some are merely “checking the box” to say that they have core values. Often, the latter become buzzwords or a hollow pipe dream. By evaluating employees against the core values, it allows them to become a living set of principles.

From a fire service company officer standpoint, this has been an invaluable tool. Every aspect of fire service can be addressed in PRIDE. The company officer can decide where things fit into the five categories. A bonus is employee goals can be set to reflect the values represented in PRIDE.

Professionalism can be evaluated based on presenting a favorable image of the department. This can be uniform appearance, fitness, or presence. Professionalism also is reflected with honesty and confidentiality. Lastly, does the employee represent the mission of the department and provide excellent service.

Respect can be internal or external. Employees who encourage teamwork, collaboration and cooperation all exhibit signs of internal respect. Externally, treatment of the public with compassion and empathy are major aspects of respect that relate to job performance.

Honesty, consistency, and trustworthiness are the hallmarks of integrity. Employees who hold themselves to higher standards, focus on their performance to seek improvement, and hold themselves accountable demonstrate integrity.  Employees who maintain open communication, admit mistakes, and set self-goals are virtuous of high integrity. 

Dedication is the level of commitment to the organization.  This is the factor that a company officer could easily misinterpret. If a company officer is really “into the job” they must remember that they are above average and employees can still be a contributor to the department without eating, sleeping, and breathing the fire service. Dedication is a commitment to the organization, the community, and to oneself. The ability to perform basic job functions well, preparation for work, motivation, and passion are all form of dedication to be evaluated.

Excellence is the overall commitment to the success of the organization.  While dedication covered basic job tasks, excellence can evaluate an employee learning new missions, mastering skills and learning advanced skills.  The keystone of PRIDE is excellence.  When an employee decides not to settle for second best; when they contribute creative thinking and problem solving, and find ways to improve themselves and the organization, they are exhibiting excellence. 

As a company officer, feedback on training, job preparation, or incident responses can be accomplished by weighing the factors of PRIDE. When setting goals for an employee, the goals can be tied to an aspect of PRIDE. While many goals tend to be tied to classes or certifications, it is a challenge and opportunity to work with an employee to help them set a goal related to an element or multiple elements of PRIDE.  For example, an employee who was struggling with physical fitness decided they wanted to work towards running a 5k. This reflected dedication to self-improvement as well as dedication to improving their overall health and fitness for job performance.  The use of core values in goal setting, also allows the employee an aspect of self-reflection into what they perceive that they can improve in relation to the core values. 

No matter what core values an organization develops or adopts, they can be used to help employees judge job performance.  Even if an agency doesn’t formally adopt the core values for evaluation purposes, it can be done at the company level.  The real challenge for a company officer?  Let the crew evaluate you on core values.

David Bullard is a 22 year member of the fire service and currently serves as a Lieutenant and HAZMAT Training Officer the Columbia County Fire Rescue (Ga.) and a part time Firefighter with Grovetown (Ga) DPS.  In addition, he serves on the Board of Directors for the Georgia State Firefighter’s Association, National Volunteer Fire Council State Director and Training Task Force Chair, Georgia Pipeline Emergency Response Initiave Board of Directors, NFPA’s Working Group on Flammable Refrigerants and the 1021 Technical Committee, and was Secretary of IFSTA’s Pumping Apparatus Driver Operator 3rd Edition Curriculum Committee, contributor to the “Training Officer’s Desk Reference.”