West Mercia PEEL 2015
How well has the force performed in our other inspections?
In addition to the three core PEEL pillars, HMIC carries out inspections of a wide range of policing activity throughout the year. Some of these are conducted alongside the PEEL inspections (for instance, our 2016 leadership assessment); others are joint inspections.
Findings from these inspections are published separately to the main PEEL reports, but are taken into account when producing the rounded assessment of each force's performance.
As part of HMIC’s annual all-force inspections into police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy (PEEL) in 2015, HMIC assessed how well led forces are at every rank and grade of the organisation and across all areas inspected in PEEL. We reviewed how well a force understands and is developing its leaders; whether it has set a clear and compelling future direction; and how well it motivates and engages the workforce.
West Mercia Police has clearly communicated its expectations of leaders. The force has worked well with Warwickshire Police to create a single vision for the alliance between the forces, which focuses on protecting people from harm.
Encouragingly, HMIC found widespread understanding of the force’s expectations and future plans and priorities. While the force had not agreed details of its future workforce model, it could have done more to address staff and officers’ concerns about job security. The force could also do more to ensure that it is identifying and developing talent, and should implement a more structured leadership programme, to provide better training and development.
How well does the force have a clear understanding of the current state of its leadership at every level?
HMIC examined how well forces understand the strengths and weaknesses of leadership across the force and how well the workforce understands its leadership role. Strong, clear leadership across every rank and grade is vital to the effectiveness and efficiency of a modern and capable police force.
Leaders within West Mercia Police have a good understanding of what is expected of them, though the force could do more work to ensure that this is the case for every leader. The force has communicated expectations consistently during the process of forming the strategic alliance with Warwickshire Police and both forces have a shared vision of protecting the public from harm. The force has clearly articulated this message to its workforce through chief officer road shows, podcasts and more recently via ‘vision and values’ training events it has provided to line managers. The chief officers meet with newly-promoted officers to talk them through expectations of their new role.
While the force has no overall leadership strategy, it has begun to carry out a force-wide skills audit including an assessment of current leadership capacity and future leadership requirements. The force would also benefit from taking further action to determine how the workforce views senior leadership and leadership in general. The force holds ‘meet the chief’ sessions and has a ‘have your say’ section on its intranet for staff to submit questions and receive feedback.
How well has the force provided a clear and compelling sense of the future direction of the organisation?
HMIC examined the extent to which forces have set out a clear, compelling and realistic sense of future direction, because it is important to ensure that the workforce is motivated to build for the future and that the force knows the kinds of skills it is looking to develop. We were also interested to find out how well leaders are making use of new approaches to enable forces to meet future financial challenges.
The force has articulated ambitious and realistic future plans and priorities. The force has worked closely with Warwickshire Police to provide a clear single vision for the strategic alliance which focuses on protecting people from harm. Staff and officers at all levels understand this vision and are committed to achieving its aims.
The force’s roadshow events have helped attendees to understand the breadth of organisational change that will be required to improve the force. We found a widespread understanding that the alliance will need to be remodelled to take into account changes in demand and finances. While, the force has shared communication about the future direction of the alliance, uncertainties about the proposed workforce model are still causing anxieties for some of the workforce. The force’s superintendent development days also provide a useful way for it to disseminate information to leaders.
We found some evidence of the force making use of new ideas and working practices. West Mercia Police is using mobile devices to provide access to police data systems, however this usage is inconsistent. Senior leaders support the development of an information and communication technology (ICT) modernisation strategy which will inform new developments and improve working practices, such as the planned introduction of a new ICT system, Athena.
How is the force developing leadership, motivating the workforce and encouraging staff engagement?
HMIC examined how well forces identify and develop leadership, as good quality of leadership is key to ensuring that forces overcome their challenges of reducing crime and meeting the needs of victims. We were not looking for one particular style of leadership, but focused on how well leaders motivate their workforce and improve performance to provide a quality service to the public.
The force does not currently have an overarching leadership strategy. It makes little provision for leadership training to most ranks and grades, although the ‘vision and values’ one-day workshops currently being provided across the alliance do incorporate some leadership elements. The force is developing a people strategy to improve leadership, talent management and wellbeing to address some of these issues. Work is also underway as part of the force change programme to carry out an alliance-wide skills audit including an assessment of current leadership capacity and future leadership requirements. The force intends to use this information to inform its leadership programmes.
Presently, the force has no talent management scheme and many of those we spoke to during our inspection were clear that to date there was no systematic approach to identify and develop talent. The absence of a cohesive process with a clear governance structure may mean that the force misses opportunities to identify the most talented individuals to support the challenges of the future, or does not do so fairly.
The force has provided mechanisms for its workforce to make suggestions and raise concerns electronically, although it has not designed these specifically to capture feedback on leadership.
To what extent is leadership improving the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy of the force?
As good quality leadership is an important factor of policing performance, HMIC examined how leaders are improving the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy of forces through clear, reasoned and swift actions. This is the first time HMIC has graded forces on their legitimacy, so no year-on-year comparison is possible for this pillar.
Leadership in West Mercia Police could be stronger to help improve the legitimacy of the force. Encouragingly, the force has introduced a number of measures to improve staff welfare, including a stress management policy to help line managers lead by improving the welfare of those whom they manage. However, the force has identified a number of factors that have led to poor attendance in some departments, including stress and the working environment. While the force is planning to develop an organisational development strategy, it has not yet taken effective action to address these issues.
While West Mercia Police has clearly articulated its vision and values, it could do more to ensure that its workforce understands how this relates to the Code of Ethics and their everyday role. The force has promoted and publicised the code and provides training, though not all staff had completed this, meaning the code is not being applied consistently across the force. HMIC also found that some of the processes within the force’s professional standards department need to improve to ensure that it operates in a transparently fair and consistent fashion.