West Mercia PEEL 2016
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.
Police leadership is crucial in enabling a force to be effective, efficient and legitimate. This inspection focused on how a force understands, develops and displays leadership through its organisational development.
West Mercia Police’s strategic alliance with Warwickshire Constabulary (the alliance) has resulted in all posts below deputy chief constable being shared. Both forces share a single vision and set of values, and work to an agreed set of policies. For this reason, HMIC anticipated that practice and processes would be the same for both forces, and has found this to be the case. Therefore, apart from a few specific examples, all references to the force apply equally to the alliance.
Leadership expectations form an integral part of the force’s vision and values, and are widely understood by officers and staff. The chief officer team meets all newly promoted officers to communicate these expectations.
The force does not make use of all the tools available to improve its leadership capability. For example, it has only recently conducted a comprehensive skills assessment as part of its evaluation of training needs and its leadership development programme. The force maintains a database of interested and skilled people who can be approached for recruitment to specialist posts, including senior leadership positions. However, many officers and staff that HMIC spoke to were unaware of any talent management schemes.
The force has successfully involved its employees in changes through its ‘change hub’ (a team dedicated to managing change) and is working to develop diverse leadership teams, although the force’s policy of posting staff anywhere across West Mercia and Warwickshire has deterred some staff from applying for promotion.
How well does the force understand leadership?
A good understanding of leadership capabilities and expectations is critical to the effective functioning of forces. How forces engage with their workforces when setting leadership expectations is vital in ensuring that police staff and officers feel enabled to lead in an ethical way and to challenge the expectations appropriately.
Forces’ understanding should also extend to their leadership strengths and weaknesses across every rank and grade. This includes an understanding of leadership styles and personality types of individuals, and how they affect wider team dynamics. Forces should be able to take this knowledge and use it to adapt quickly to identify any gaps or issues in leadership.
Officers and staff spoke enthusiastically about the chief constable’s briefing sessions, which explained the force’s vision for 2020, as well as the values that employees are expected to demonstrate. The force has worked with employees to set its leadership expectations and these form an integral part of its vision and values. Its people strategy includes a list of expectations for all leaders, and the expectations are linked to the College of Policing leadership review and the force’s own learning and development strategy. The senior leadership and development manager provides the strategic lead for leadership for both Warwickshire and West Mercia Police, and is supported by two leadership development and management staff and a team leader. A member of the chief officer team meets every newly-promoted officer to discuss the force’s leadership expectations. Newly-promoted supervisors receive a booklet which explains leadership expectations, and this is also available on the force intranet. The staff survey offered employees the opportunity to challenge leadership across the organisation, and when HMIC inspectors attended leadership seminars, it was clear that employees felt confident about challenging senior officers.
Officers and staff understand the force’s leadership expectations, which are communicated widely across the organisation. Psychometric testing and 360-degree feedback are available on request, but the force does not routinely use these, or other methods of understanding leadership, and the force could do more to assess the effectiveness of its current leadership.
The force has recently changed its appraisal process. Officers and staff are now able to opt-out, although many employees that HMIC spoke to thought that the appraisal system no longer existed. Employees who are seeking promotion are encouraged to complete performance appraisals, but it is unclear how the force will use appraisal information to assess leadership capacity and capability. The force is developing a comprehensive assessment of workforce skills, and HMIC acknowledges that progress is being made, but it needs to do more to address gaps in its leadership capability.
Areas for improvement
- West Mercia Police should develop a comprehensive leadership skills analysis, clearly linked to its training needs analysis and leadership development programme.
How well does the force develop leadership?
The way in which a force identifies and develops leadership skills is crucial in making sure they perform well now and in the future. Forces should identify leadership development programmes, containing a broad range of approaches, beyond just formal training, to develop leadership.
Forces’ knowledge of their current leadership capability should also mean that they are aware of the leadership skills and experience they do not currently possess, and are seeking to recruit to address this.
The force has developed a database of people who have expressed an interest in working for the force, and the force runs recruitment campaigns aimed at the private sector. The force also supports Police Now, Fast Track, and Direct Entry (at inspector level) to attract talented people. Other recruitment initiatives include efforts to attract more women and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) candidates. Recruitment events at educational institutions and places of worship have resulted in 50 percent BAME and 50 percent female representation among officer recruits for the current year, helping to ensure that the force has a diverse talent pool from which it can develop potential future leaders. However, its approach to promoting from within is more traditional. HMIC recommend the use of similar innovations for internal recruitment and progression.
The force has a formal mentoring programme and is developing a leadership programme which concentrates on middle managers to help meet identified leadership gaps. Professional development days are being designed for chief inspectors and equivalent police staff grades. The force already runs twice-yearly development days for superintendent ranks. The force needs to assess the impact of these leadership development programmes. The force uses talent management schemes and a talent management grid to identify potential leaders within the force, but many officers and staff that HMIC spoke to did not know about these. HMIC heard from officers who had decided not to apply for promotion because they did not want to be posted to another area of the alliance. This could deter the best candidates from becoming senior leaders. HMIC also found inconsistencies in development opportunities across the force. Some local commanders proactively encourage staff development, but elsewhere, staff expressed concerns that temporary promotions were not equally available to everyone.
Areas for improvement
- West Mercia Police should ensure that all its officers and staff understand how the talent management scheme and talent management grid operate.
How well does the force display leadership?
Good leadership encourages and develops a wide range of people, embraces change and actively supports the development of new ideas. While it is important for forces to ensure that they are representative of the communities they serve, truly diverse leadership teams are built around the wider experience, background and skills of individuals.
West Mercia Police works with other forces to identify good ways of working in areas such as cyber-crime and in improving victim satisfaction. It has also commissioned Northamptonshire Police to review its use of stop and search powers. The force is also keen to disseminate its own experiences of forming the strategic alliance to other forces which are implementing or considering this type of alliance. The force encourages innovation at all levels. A chief inspector has been appointed to promote new ways of working and review suggestions which staff have submitted via the intranet and at “ask the boss” forums. Some employees we spoke to felt that the force responded positively to suggestions, but awareness of suggestion schemes was generally low. The force has invested in a change hub team of employees and interim staff, where front line staff work in ‘test bed’ environments.
The force understands diversity beyond the protected characteristics such as age, disability, or gender reassignment, set out in the Equality Act, and has employed a new specialist recruitment manager to improve workforce diversity. The chief officer team also monitors and makes regular changes to postings within the senior leadership teams across the force, moving senior staff and officers between teams to ensure the right blend of skills, and to provide opportunities for lateral development. The chief constable’s strategic diversity group promotes diversity at all levels and the force is helping officers who may be suffering from stress. Volunteer employees who have been trained by the charity MIND provide support.
The force supports the Realising Potential programme, which has resulted in one female and one BAME senior officer being promoted to assistant chief constable rank. It has also improved its promotion and selection process to reduce unconscious bias. The force has trained senior officers and staff, as well as HR professionals, to recognise and avoid unconscious bias, ensuring that at least one member of each police promotion interview panel has been trained in this way. Before any promotion process begins, panel members are briefed about the importance of avoiding unconscious bias, so that they always conduct interviews fairly and impartially.
However, the alliance’s policy of recruiting from across both forces and posting in either West Mercia or Warwickshire areas might possibly deter good candidates who are unable to commute long distances or relocate. HMIC heard from officers who had decided not to apply for promotion because they did not want to be posted to another area of the alliance. This approach may limit the force’s ability to develop diverse leadership teams.
HMIC recognises the force’s policy of its chief officer team deciding postings for chief inspectors and above. This helps ensure that the skills, abilities and relevance to the local policing environment are balanced in all senior teams.
Areas for improvement
- West Mercia Police should review the policy for promotion (including the support offered to candidates) to ensure it does not inadvertently deter prospective candidates, and limit the potential diverse mix of leaders within the organisation.