Reimagining a career in policing

An essential part of ANZPAA’s role is researching critical issues in policing and examining the factors and considerations that may help inform the development of long-term strategies and solutions.

Attracting new and skilled recruits is a genuine challenge for police agencies around the globe. With increasing competition for staff, police agencies are contesting with defence, national security agencies and the private sector to attract the younger generation.

Across all these sectors, recruitment campaigns are diversifying to attract employees outside of traditional recruitment pathways and human resources are also focusing on retaining valuable and skilled members. Workplace flexibility and hybrid work arrangements are increasingly expected as baseline benefits of most roles.

An essential part of ANZPAA’s role is researching critical issues in policing and examining the factors and considerations that may help inform the development of long-term strategies and solutions. ANZPAA’s research into workforce management1 and the changing generational perceptions of policing, shows that younger people view their careers and work life balance differently to past generations.

Younger generations change jobs at a rate 134% higher than in 2019.2 Older generations currently in the police workforce are likely to be the last to stay in policing for their full careers, with a cultural shift away from ‘jobs for life.’ Police organisations will likely see increased and sustained movement of staff in and out of policing roles.

As people currently aged 11-26 will make up 27% of the workforce in OECD countries by 20253, it is clear that the next generation is fast becoming a significant subsection of the labour market.

Research has also noted a shift in generational priorities compared to previous generations. According to the Mission Youth Survey 20224 , the most important issues for Australian youth are the environment (51%), equity and minimising discrimination (35.9%) and mental health (33.9%).

In particular, crime, safety and violence were ranked of much lower importance to Gen-Z, with only 10% of respondents to the Mission Youth Survey 2022 indicating this was an important issue.

The younger generation evidently hold different values and expectations of the workforce, which may transform organisational culture and practices.

They increasingly expect organisations to take a stand on social issues and exhibit a degree of social responsibility. They also place greater importance on working at an organisation whose values align with their own through the organisation’s ethics, practices and social impact.5

However, Gen Z also have lower expectations that government, corporations and other institutions will prioritise their needs.6 The most relevant factor impacting future efforts to attract Gen Z recruits is their perceptions of policing and policing careers. The Mission Youth Survey 2022 found that only 10% of males and 5% of females were planning to join the defence force or emergency services (including police) after school.7 This indicates that police organisations may struggle to appeal to Gen Z job seekers. Low interest in policing careers may also be in part due to negative perceptions of policing.

Recent research in the UK highlights a range of concerns Gen Z have about policing including believing that police do not consistently act in line with their own beliefs and values. Viewing policing roles as dangerous and a perceived lack of diversity and representation within policing was also a barrier.8

Police organisations may become more attractive to Gen Z by incorporating myth busting messaging about policing careers and focusing on the community service aspect of policing rather than enforcement. This will align more with Gen Z’s higher concern with social issues. Emphasising the values-driven mission of policing organisations and role in responding to social crises and service role may also make policing careers more appealing.

As Gen Z undertake various career movements and changes, police agencies could move towards promoting aspects such as opportunities for ongoing training and development of transferrable skillsets to other sectors and industries and emphasise the different specialisations and technical opportunities within policing organisations.

Providing seamless pathways for former police officers to re-join after career changes or career breaks could also encourage long-term commitment to policing careers and enable jurisdictions to leverage skillsets and expertise gained in other lines of employment.

[1] ANZPAA.  Current and Emerging Recruitment Challenges – attracting and retaining the future workforce. Available on request to Australia and New Zealand police members and employees.
[3] World Economic Forum, ‘Gen Z and the end of work as we know it’, 19 May 2022,  
[4] Mission Australia, Mission Australia Youth Survey 2022,  
[5] Deloitte, Striving for balance, advocating for change: The Deloitte Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey, 2022,  
[6] Murmuration, Looking Forward with Gen Z: A Gen Z Research Report, 4 June 2022,  
[7] Mission Australia, Mission Australia Youth Survey 2022.

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