MTSU center revamps promotion process for THP troopers

More than 250 Tennessee state troopers will be learning this month where they stand for promotion after undergoing a new procedure devised at MTSU.

COHRE logoAs part of a five-year partnership with the Tennessee Highway Patrol, MTSU’s Center for Organizational and Human Resource Effectiveness, or COHRE, created a new method of determining which THP sergeants and lieutenants were best suited to move up in the ranks.

Applicants for THP sergeant and lieutenant positions had their decisions and actions assessed on 15 job knowledge domains and 25 skills, abilities and other job-related characteristics.

The THP administered the daylong promotional process to 78 prospective lieutenants and 199 sergeants in June.

THP patch web“The scores are being used in promotional decisions starting this month and will be used until the next test is given next June,” said Jennifer Donnals, director of communication for the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

“Members can elect for their score to stand for two test cycles and be in effect until mid-2017.”

To develop the new processes, COHRE’s industrial/organizational psychology consultants and project associates spoke with 110 captains, lieutenants and sergeants to learn their responses in various job situations and circumstances.

“The interviews were conducted to ensure a solid foundation for the development of a job-relevant, realistic and effective promotional process,” said Dr. Mark Frame, an associate professor of psychology and COHRE senior consultant.

Dr. Mark Frame

Dr. Mark Frame

“In the critical incident interviews, we collected detailed information and specific examples about how THP lieutenants and sergeants do their jobs.”

The COHRE team used the job information collected in the interviews to create the two new components of the promotional process. The team then developed work samples and situational judgment tests custom-made for THP.

When the team went through the newly created judgment tests in June, applicants had to rank several possible responses to situations from best to worst.

Frame provided a hypothetical example.

“You’ve just pulled over a motorist,” Frame explained. “There’s a pungent smell of marijuana coming from the car. You want to search the car. You’ve called for backup, but you’ve been told that backup is 30 minutes away. What do you do?”

THP Col. Tracy Trott

THP Col. Tracy Trott

During the work sample, candidates had to pretend to be a new sergeant or lieutenant opening up her or his email inbox and responding to various types of communications using their own words.

“The scores are a ranking mechanism to determine the top 10 candidates who are interested in a posted promotion position,” Donnals said.

“We think that this promotional practice and instrument will help us identify and promote more effective leaders and improve our agency,” added Col. Tracy Trott, leader of the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

“We look forward to the next four years of our contract and our association with MTSU.”

Frame said the partnership saves THP money, improves the promotion process, and results in two state agencies working together for the common good.

“We are tremendously impressed by this MTSU/COHRE collaboration,” said Kerri Balthrop, human resources director for the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

“This will appraise each applicant’s knowledge, skills abilities and competencies for future leadership opportunities within our organization.”

For more information, contact Donnals at 615-251-5143 or jennifer.donnals@tn.gov, or contact Frame at 615-898-2565 or mark.frame@mtsu.edu.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)