Taking the Mystery Out of the Second Role Process

So you’ve established all the second roles you’ll need. Good for you.

But how do you know when your second role process is really going to work? How do you know when it’s not just a process, but an effective program with people truly engaged in the process? Maybe it’s when people assigned to a ‘storm job’ call you before the storm hits. Or when they are watching the weather forecast and wondering when you’re going to pull the trigger.

You know your process is working when the operations folks call to request that you activate additional damage assessment personnel, police / fire call takers, OEM liaisons, and others in advance of an impending storm, or as soon as they realize that they need help. You don’t have to force additional help on them – they call you.

If that’s the kind of process we all want, why do so many companies excel at developing the database of second role personnel, only to have it languish when no one keeps it updated? How can there be so much enthusiasm for second roles in the beginning, only to see it wane when you have a slow storm season?

It all starts with having the “Means”: the database, the people and the training and tools they need to do their jobs. And a frequently ignored element is providing sufficient “Motive-ation,” or reasons to enthusiastically undertake or accept second roles.

But where many programs break down is in the “Opportunity” to perform. After all, second roles are only infrequently activated. As a result, performing a second role can be an awkward and disappointing experience for all concerned.

So what are the key steps to develop, operate and maintain an effective second role process? Let’s go back to the basics of establishing a second role process, and review the key steps. See if your program needs additional work in any of these areas.

First, figure out your resource needs

  • Identify the types of jobs that need to be filled
  • Categorize the skill sets required to fill those jobs
  • Identify how many people are needed by event level / type

Next, identify your pool of potential candidates

  • Identify personnel not typically involved in storm / emergency response
  • Categorize the skill sets possessed by these personnel
  • Create a database where you can cross reference skills and needs

Assign positions and train people

  • Assign each person a second role
  • Ensure that everyone knows their second roll
  • Develop suitable training sessions
  • Develop job aids and tools (checklists, maps to unfamiliar locations, etc.)
  • Conduct appropriate training sessions

Communicate the activation / notification process

  • Make sure the activation and notification process is clear and well understood
  • Practice this periodically

Make sure performance expectations are clear

  • Make sure that people understand what is expected of them
  • Have a process to examine job performance
  • Provide a feedback mechanism for the ‘sending’ and ‘receiving’ departments

Build in a process for on-going improvement

  • Have open lines of communication for all involved – you need to know the good, the bad and the ugly
  • Have a process to track personnel status changes
  • Recognize second role performers for their contributions. Survey them for their input. Reinforce their “Motive-ation” and they’ll work even better next time.
  • Ensure that information received from debriefs and after action reviews are fed back into the program
  • Make sure that action is taken on issues identified
  • Lather, rinse, repeat! (It’s a never-ending job if you’re doing it right).

If people have the willingness to perform a second role (good attitude, understanding of why it’s important); if they have the ability to perform (prior experience, skill set, training, job aids, checklists); if they have the opportunity to perform; then your second role process will have all the ingredients needed for success.

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