Northamptonshire PEEL 2016
How well has the force performed in our other inspections?
In addition to the three core PEEL pillars, HMICFRS 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.
Northamptonshire Police has engaged with its workforce to create a clear set of leadership expectations that are well recognised and understood across the workforce, although some additional communication is now needed. The force has a number of ways of understanding its leadership capabilities, but it could broaden its use for example by including a greater focus on police staff. The force recognises these gaps and it is looking to address them.
The force has focused its leadership development effort on senior officers, particular groups (such as female officers) and newly promoted officers, and good systems are in place to support them. However, more could be done to offer leadership development to the wider workforce.
The force thinks innovatively about how to identify prospective new leaders and has good mechanisms in place to identify and respond to leadership concerns. However, it has no formal programme to identify talent and because staff are unclear about how to access what leadership development opportunities are available, the force could be preventing strong prospective leaders from reaching their potential.
The force has sought new ideas and working practices from across the police service and has adopted innovative ideas suggested by staff. It is using a variety of media to communicate new approaches across the workforce and is developing a centralised E-services proposal that, if successful, could be very beneficial to the public.
The force’s understanding of diversity extends beyond age, race and gender. The make-up of leadership teams in certain areas is now looked at in terms of personality types and working preferences.
How well does the force understand leadership?
A good understanding of leadership capabilities and expectations is critical to the effective functioning of police 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’ should understand what are 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.
When Northamptonshire Police’s present chief constable arrived in July 2015, he set out a clear set of expectations in a series of one-to-one meetings with all chief inspectors and above, and police staff equivalent. Since then, the force has carried out engagement work to refine and communicate the expectations. They are well recognised and understood across the workforce, although HMIC found some of the workforce were still unaware. The force accepts this and intends to do more to communicate the messages still further.
The force has a number of ways of understanding its leadership capabilities. It carries out staff surveys; uses tools such as Myer Briggs Type Indicators, coaching and 360-degree feedback; and keeps a record of all training undertaken by the workforce. The force could do more however, mainly in terms of scope. Tools are largely used where there are identified problems, but could be used more widely to help avoid concerns developing.
The force’s skills audit encompasses all police officers, but could focus more on police staff and could cover a broader range of skills. Although the coaching model is well thought of, there are not enough coaches for everyone who would like one. However, the force recognises these gaps and it is looking to develop a more sophisticated performance appraisal system that will be better at documenting leadership skill and ability.
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.
Northamptonshire Police has focused its leadership development efforts on senior officers and newly promoted officers, and good systems are in place to support them. The force also runs courses targeted at specific groups, including older officers and women, and has engaged Northampton University to evaluate a specific coaching programme. However, some longer-standing supervisors reported having not had any leadership training at all.
The force is confident that it is identifying the best leaders, but in the absence of a formal programme to identify talent, and because staff are unclear about how to access what leadership development opportunities are available, the force could be preventing strong prospective leaders from reaching their potential. However, the force is thinking innovatively about how to get new leaders, and new approaches to leadership, and has engaged with the national Police Now initiative, which aims to bring more university graduates into policing.
The force has good systems in place to identify and respond to leadership and cultural concerns. The human resources department works closely with the learning and development team to identify any problems, which are then assessed and a response is developed. Many of its leadership tools – coaches, personality profiling and 360-degree feedback – are focused on helping to solve leadership issues, and are highly thought of by the workforce.
Areas for improvement
- Northamptonshire Police should introduce a consistent system of talent management across the workforce.
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.
Northamptonshire Police is open to new ideas and ways of working. It examines and implements best practice from other forces and HMIC found examples of innovation from staff, including a new scheme created by a police constable to divert young people away from crime. Other examples of suggestions for improvement or innovation include ways of improving wellbeing services.
New approaches and working practices are communicated across the workforce via a number of different media, such as Twitter. The force actively and formally shares its ideas across the policing spectrum. An example of this is its centralised e-services proposal that, if fully implemented, will create a single police gateway for partner forces, offering the public a complete range of self-service options across all areas of policing.
The force has an understanding of diversity that extends beyond protected characteristics such as age, race and gender. It has started to look at leadership teams in certain areas in terms of their personality and working style preferences; this allows senior leaders to understand the make-up of their team and to work out how they can get the best from them. The chief constable recognises that there is still work to do to develop diverse leaders and teams across the force.