West Yorkshire 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 Yorkshire Police has engaged effectively with its workforce to create leadership expectations that are clearly defined at all levels. The force has also taken steps to develop a culture in which officers and staff are encouraged to question the leadership expectations. During our inspection HMIC found that police staff and officers feel that they are able to challenge and question supervisors and leaders. However, more could be done to ensure there is a more developed understanding of the leadership expectations across every rank and grade. For the force to progress it should do more to develop a detailed understanding of the level of commitment that the workforce has to the expectations. The force has a clear rationale for the techniques it uses to understand the relative strengths of its leadership. It has also used recruitment to address capability gaps. This understanding could, however, be used more effectively to ensure that its leadership development, and its recruitment programmes, are correctly targeted. However, HMIC welcomes the broad range of approaches the force uses in developing leadership through its well-established development and talent programmes.
HMIC also welcomes the way the force actively searches for new ideas and methods not only in the police service, but also further afield. The force has forged strong links with local academic institutions and regularly evaluates innovations and ways of doing things in other police forces to ensure that it exploits any potential opportunities it identifies. Officers and staff perceive that the force is innovative and reported that they can suggest new ideas and methods easily.
The force’s understanding of diversity extends beyond protected characteristics such as age, disability, or gender reassignment, and it is working to ensure that it has diverse teams. It acknowledges the way in which diversity of background, experience and skills can strengthen teams. These factors are considered when creating teams throughout the force. It also has a number of significant measures in place to ensure that its practices, such as those for recruitment and selection, are free from bias, and are evidence-based.
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.
West Yorkshire Police has engaged effectively with its workforce to create leadership expectations that are clearly defined at all levels. The force has also taken steps to develop a culture in which officers and staff are encouraged to question the leadership expectations. During our inspection HMIC found that police officers and staff feel that they are able to challenge and question supervisors and leaders.
The force uses a variety of methods to communicate what it expects effective leaders to do. One method is its ‘Leadership Essentials’ development programme. Senior leaders reinforce expectations through road shows, and these are popular with the workforce. We found that those who had neither undertaken the Leadership Essentials programme, nor attended a road show, did not understand leadership expectations as clearly as those who had. We found that at a district level, the knowledge of expectations is also limited, and some police officers and staff believe they are only relevant to people who are seeking promotion. The force is clearly trying to ensure that everyone understands the leadership expectations, but these messages do not always reach frontline officers and staff. For the force to continue to progress, it should consider what more it can do to encourage understanding and commitment to the leadership expectations at all levels and in all locations.
The force uses a variety of techniques to identify and prioritise shortcomings in leadership capability. For example, the force has used a staff survey to improve its knowledge of workforce perceptions at different levels, by team and rank. The force has also used personality profiling and 360-degree feedback for police officers and staff. The workforce appraisal system reviews each person’s individual performance against behavioural competencies and the policing professional framework. Police officers and staff agree personal and organisational development plans, which help the force to identify where an employee’s priorities are in terms of leadership capability. This allows individuals to understand their personality and leadership style, and enables the force to understand leadership at each rank and grade. This information is brought together in a strategic workforce plan, which includes a section for leadership development as well as a workforce modernisation plan. The leadership section includes an analysis of gaps in skills, and identifies the training and development that should be provided. Although the force would benefit from a wider range of methods to gain a more comprehensive understanding, the methods which it is using have given the force a realistic, balanced understanding of its leadership capability.
The force is using this information to inform the way it is developing its workforce, and is helping it to recruit people from outside the force, and from the wider police service, who have the skills the force needs. For example, the force assessed the technical and business skills which were needed to strengthen its information and communication technology team. The force realised that its own employees might not have the diversity of skills which were needed, so it recruited staff who had the required skills directly from universities.
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.
HMIC did not find specific instances where West Yorkshire Police had responded to leadership problems speedily, although it has a number of measures in its leadership development programme which could be used to tackle such problems. These include training programmes, master classes, a strategic leaders’ forum, mentoring and coaching. Some of these are tailored to the individual.
The force has a well-established talent programme that seeks to identify and develop potential leaders of the future. HMIC found that the force has robust selection processes which are designed to attract the widest possible pool of candidates. The scheme is well-advertised, and applications are open to all police officers and staff through their district or department command team. However, HMIC found that some of the workforce have concerns about bias in the talent scheme selection and promotion processes. This suggests that the force could do more to reassure its employees by highlighting the measures which exist to prevent any bias. Like the wider leadership development programmes, the talent programme has a wide range of tailored opportunities. It is encouraging to see that the force expects potential senior leaders to engage in joint leadership development initiatives with external organisations, while working on more complex projects at a regional or national level. To ensure that the talent programme continues to improve, and offers content which is relevant to the development of the people who are taking part, the force reviews the content and considers whether any new areas should be covered. Despite this promising practice, it was not clear to inspectors what evaluation the force has undertaken to determine how its development programmes address any gaps in leadership capability which it has identified. The force should be doing more to ensure that its development programmes clearly address any leadership gaps.
The force also uses a range of opportunities to enhance leadership capabilities through recruitment. An example is the force’s own scheme which identifies constables who have the right skills, and selects them for fast-track promotion to inspector. The force also fully supports and has officers who are in the national high-potential development and Fast Track promotion schemes.
For police staff, the force provides apprenticeships to support and develop young people in both the finance and business support departments. However, although we recognise that the force is recruiting to fill skills gaps, it could do more to ensure there is a clearer link between the leadership capabilities which need to be strengthened, and the way in which the force’s recruitment plans tackle this. In order to do so evaluation of recruitment is essential.
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.
The force actively searches for new ideas and ways of doing things not only in the police service, but also further afield. It has forged strong links with local academic institutions, and regularly evaluates innovations and methods introduced by other police forces to ensure that it exploits any opportunities it is able to identify. When the force undertakes a programme of review or change it incorporates benchmarking and comparative analysis stages to identify relevant practice in other forces, the public sector and academia. This has resulted in the introduction of mobile data handsets for all frontline police officers and police community support officers, as well as the ‘agile working’ project which allows 1,000 police officers and staff to work from remote locations. The force reviewed this project and found it had improved work-life balance, and increased productivity.
The workforce can suggest ideas easily through the force’s intranet. HMIC identified at least one example where a suggestion from a police officer was tested, assessed and then replicated across the district. However, HMIC was also told by some police officers and staff that they had not always received feedback about the ideas which they had suggested. The force should provide feedback consistently to ensure that the whole workforce knows that ideas are valued.
The force’s understanding of diversity extends beyond protected characteristics and takes into account the way in which diversity of background, experience and skills can strengthen its teams. The chief officer team regularly reviews senior leadership teams to evaluate their wider experience, background and skills. Staff and officers are redeployed to ensure that teams are balanced. Each department and policing district mirrors this method, and carries out similar reviews to ensure consistency. The force can do this because it has an extensive database of the skills and experience of officers and staff.
The force also uses staff networks to help it to improve diversity in regard to protected characteristics. Members of networks provide coaching and mentoring for colleagues who are seeking support through development, advice and reflection. The force also supports positive action recruitment seminars, where a senior officer acts as an ‘ambassador’ to support candidates who have protected characteristics. The force’s selection process for officers and staff below chief inspector rank involves applications that are anonymous at the point of review. This is to ensure that selection is free from bias, and that progression to the interview stage is based on evidence. The force adopted this selection process to develop the diversity of its teams and individuals, while balancing protected characteristics with experience, background and skills. The force also assists the development of police staff and officers who have protected characteristics by using bespoke action plans and activities to support their development.