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Research Questions

  1. What is EMI's current process for hiring and developing instructors?
  2. What are its challenges?
  3. What are best practices for managing a cadre of primarily short-term contract instructors across the spectrum of activities, from recruitment to development?

As part of its redesign, the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) is rethinking how it secures qualified, effective instructors.

For support in this redesign, EMI asked a Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center team to help improve its instructor hiring and development practices. The goal of the research was to examine EMI's current process, pinpoint strengths and challenges, and identify best practices in managing its instructor cadre across the spectrum of activities, from recruitment and hiring to evaluation and development. The team interviewed EMI staff, consulted the research literature, and identified best practices from other institutions to develop recommendations to improve every phase of the process.

Key Findings

EMI staff identified strengths and challenges in every phase of hiring

  • Most of EMI's six branches hire instructors through micropurchases, a few use outside contractors to hire instructors, and a few others use FEMA employees as instructors.

The majority of challenges appear in hiring, evaluation, and development

  • The current recruitment strategy—asking quality teachers to master additional courses—does not always produce a sufficiently large candidate pool. In addition, it tends to favor familiarity over diversity with respect to professional backgrounds and new skills.
  • Several issues surfaced during selection, including slowness responding to instructor applications and inadequate compensation to attract qualified candidates.
  • The most frequently mentioned problem for hiring was the high administrative burden imposed by the micropurchase process. EMI staff also pointed to the lack of institute-wide standards in defining instructor qualifications.
  • Multiple staff members pointed to a lack of evaluation data that can inform hiring, selection, and staff development.
  • At the time of this writing in the summer of 2023, there were few development opportunities for instructors to stay current in their fields or learn about best practices in teaching and learning.

Recommendations

  • Adapt practices from military-focused war colleges to emergency management to increase educational, research, and thought leadership impact. These include adding a research component to EMI, adding more midcareer and senior leader education, and adding opportunities for visiting instructors from midcareer professional and academic positions.
  • Adapt EMI's employment model to take advantage of a mix of part-time and short-term instructors alongside full-time, long-term instructors.
  • Develop standardized processes across the organization to add predictability, reduce administrative burden, and improve the ability to track performance. For example, standards for instructors—and rubrics to help apply those standards—could inform recruitment, hiring, evaluation, and development.

This research was sponsored by the Emergency Management Institute and conducted within the Disaster Management and Resilience Program of the RAND Homeland Security Research Division.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.