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4 Budget-Friendly Practices to Improve Staff Performance

Budget restraints can hinder daily work environments, but it doesn't have to. This blog covers four ways of improving staff performance without breaking the bank.
Alyssa Pfaff
Alyssa Pfaff
Kenzie Koch | Sr. Marketing Specialist

As a jail administrator, budget limitations are a harsh reality that can feel extremely restricting. It usually results in limited resources and hinders a facility's growth. From cutting inmate education programs to enforcing mandatory officer overtime, everyone within the walls feels the consequences of financial restraints. 

However, not everything in your facility necessarily needs to reap the consequences of budget restrictions, nor should it. Maximizing your staff’s performance, for instance, shouldn’t rely solely on financial investments. Staff members are the foundation and the most valuable asset of your facility and should be the focal point of investments, both in terms of resources and time. 

Luckily, improving staff performance doesn’t need to break the bank. There are several cost-effective strategies to empower, engage, and support your team. This blog breaks down four ways administrators can provide their staff with what they need to succeed, without exceeding budget limitations.

1. Foster Officer Recognition and Appreciation:

We all want to know when we’re doing a good job, even if it’s the smallest sign of appreciation or approval, a token of affirmation goes a long way. When you are contributing to the wins of your team or facility, it’s rewarding to get the recognition you deserve. This acknowledgment, however, is ultimately up to supervisors and administrators to provide. And as a supervisor or administrator, you might be thinking, “Why do we need to give people a pat on the back for doing their job?” Well, it’s not just about “doing their job.” 

With correctional officers having one of the highest rates of non-fatal workplace injuries, it’s an understatement to say this job is strenuous and can take a toll on the physical and mental well-being of staff. Officers put their lives on the line daily to ensure the facility is run diligently. It’s only fair to understand why officers struggle to maintain a positive attitude and exceed expectations when they are trained to constantly remain alert and expect the unexpected. 

Fostering an environment of appreciation and recognition (and meaning it) is one of the most effective approaches to instilling higher staff performance and morale. This praise and validation can be done in a variety of ways including:

  • Public praise: Announce individual and team accomplishments during staff meetings, email announcements, newsletters, or bulletin boards. Calling out an employee or team for their success opens the door for praise from other leadership as well as front-line staff. This helps the employees feel recognized and appreciated at an agency-wide level, motivating them to perform at their highest capacity. 

  • Peer-to-peer recognition: Staff should be encouraged to publicly recognize colleagues for their efforts and positive contributions. Having the support of peers helps to promote teamwork and relationship building among staff. One way to promote this would be to create an opportunity for staff to nominate their peers for an “Officer of the Month” title to earn a small reward for their hard work.

  • Personalized notes: Express genuine appreciation through customized, handwritten notes that highlight either the specific actions or qualities of the individual that you value. This more subtle option lets your staff know that you notice and appreciate their work. Even a simple “great job today” on a sticky note goes a long way.

  • Delegation of meaningful tasks: Trust your staff with responsibilities that showcase their skills and allow them to feel valued. Placing meaningful tasks in the hands of your staff shows that you trust and respect them, further nurturing your relationship while pushing them to keep up the good work. 

Regardless of how the acknowledgment is shown, employees who know they are appreciated and recognized for their hard work and successes will be more motivated to continue working diligently. These simple gestures make a considerable impact and cost little to nothing. It’s all about taking that extra step for employees who go the extra mile for the success of the whole facility.

2. Invest in Staff Development:

Investing in staff development will only improve the efficiency, security, functionality, and success of your facility. This investment includes providing the training and resources needed for staff to succeed in their positions. While you may be thinking that quality training equates to big dollar signs, that’s not necessarily the case. There are plenty of budget-friendly ways to ensure your staff has all the training and knowledge needed to successfully and safely do their job, including:

  • Cross-training and knowledge sharing: Provide an opportunity for the more experienced staff to mentor their new colleagues. Not only does it help save money, but it also assists in fostering collaboration and trust between staff members. Having new-boots paired up with seasoned vets creates a foundation of guidance and respect - having a trusted and experienced leader helps pave the way and sets the new officer up for success.

  • Internal workshops and training sessions: Leverage staff expertise by having them lead internal sessions on specific areas of knowledge. This allows employees to learn more about their areas of expertise in greater detail. Instead of paying for outside instructors to come to the facility or sending staff to off-site training courses, conducting internal classes saves money and enables the training to be specific to the unique needs of the facility. 

  • Online resources and webinars: Take advantage of the many free online resources and webinars that provide valuable learning opportunities covering diverse topics. This method can also be used when existing staff are too busy to train or coach new officers. Virtual learning environments with online, self-paced training videos, such as GUARDIAN RFID’s Academy Unlimited, can be utilized for all different levels of employees. 

Staff are the key cornerstone of your facility, so investing in their ongoing education and knowledge is vital for successful facility operations. Whether it be taking advantage of internal resources or seeking free online opportunities, there are many ways to save when conducting employee training. 

3. Empowerment and Communication

As a jail administrator, it is your responsibility to plant the seed of trust between you and your staff. Administrators should strive to house a safe space for communication between staff. Creating an open-door policy, for example, gives staff the confidence to carry out transparent communication in the workplace. Leadership staff should want their team to feel comfortable enough to come to them with concerns, questions, and suggestions. 

To add a more formal line of communication, conducting regular staff meetings can be a beneficial way for staff to share updates, answer any questions, solicit feedback, and give recognition where it’s due. Some staff may not have the opportunity or comfortability to voice their concerns or provide suggestions in a one-on-one meeting with leadership. This option gives staff the framework to have that chance.

Administrators want to know what’s going on in their facility. The good. The bad. The ugly. It’s their responsibility to know the ins and outs of what’s going on within the walls at all times. This is why jail admin needs to have open and candid communication with the front-line staff. They are the ones experiencing the operational functionality of the facility first-hand and are likely to provide the most constructive feedback. Opening up the room to more staff when brainstorming or decision-making allows more minds to be involved in the final decision, further empowering your employees to be genuine in their work.

Empowering your staff is mutually beneficial for everyone. It pushes employees to succeed, enhances trust in leadership, and advocates for other improvements across staff productivity and morale. Delegating decision-making authority on specific tasks or projects enhances ownership and responsibility in staff, which is the main goal of empowerment opportunities. If employees lack this sense of empowerment, they are likely to feel restricted and unmotivated, which can snowball into a toxic environment.

4. Promote Well-being and Resilience 

Some Staff members often experience stress levels that interfere with their ability to complete regular work. If left unchecked, this can cause officer  burnout or a letter of resignation, but it also puts the whole facility’s security, safety, and functionality at risk. So, how can leadership promote well-being and resilience in the officers who are struggling to stay afloat?

  • Instilling stress management techniques: Organize workshops or share resources on mindfulness, meditation, and other stress-reduction techniques. Staff need to be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and resources to effectively manage their stress before they burn out. The problem that needs to be solved isn’t if an employee gets stressed, it’s how they respond when they get stressed. 

  • Leveraging employee assistance programs (EAPs): Assistance programs can provide confidential counseling and support. Many government agencies offer free or subsidized EAPs to provide staff with an external support system, giving employees an outlet to get any help they may need. 

  • Physical activity breaks: It’s important for staff to have a “breather.” Encourage short breaks for stretching, walking, or simple exercises to refresh and improve focus. Even if it’s a 3-minute break to quickly call a family member, it gives employees a chance to do a mental reset. In a correctional facility, officers often don’t see the most uplifting scenarios. So, having an opportunity for a break to get in physical activity provides staff with the opportunity to (hopefully) come back with a boosted attitude. 

  • Organizing team-building activities: Team building helps to build camaraderie and improve morale around the workplace. Organizing non-work-related activities or events such as a cookout or kickball tournament helps staff interact with each other in a more relaxed manner. Having appropriate workplace relationships makes going to work more enjoyable and helps promote trust and communication between staff.

  • Prioritize the mental health of your staff: As all correctional professionals know, working in an environment where you’re witnessing the worst, it’s difficult to stay at your best. Supervisors should prioritize and supply the resources and support needed to promote the physical AND mental well-being of staff. 

By implementing these cost-effective strategies, you can cultivate a more engaged, empowered, and resilient workforce. This ultimately contributes to a more positive and productive work environment for all. Remember, investing in your staff’s well-being and development is an investment in the long-term success of your facility. After all, it’s better to invest in your current team than continuously finding replacements.