South Yorkshire 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.
South Yorkshire Police has faced a number of significant challenges over the last year. These include the outcome of the Hillsborough inquests in April 2016; calls for a public inquiry into the police response to the miners’ strike in Orgreave in 1984; and the requirement to implement the recommendations from the 2014 independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham. This inspection examines leadership at every level within the force and does not comment on the individual performance of senior leaders. However, we note that the force has seen a significant number of changes to its senior leadership team over the last year.
South Yorkshire Police has struggled to build or maintain an understanding of the leadership capability within its workforce. The force has developed a set of leadership principles for police officers, and HMIC found evidence that senior officers clearly understand what is expected of them. However, we found that knowledge of these principles among the wider workforce is limited, and the force has not yet produced similar standards for police staff.
The force’s ‘Leading Together’ strategy does provide a plan for leadership development, but to date there has been limited evaluation of the effectiveness of activities the force has undertaken as part of the strategy. The force does not have a systematic approach to identifying and developing potential future leaders through a talent management programme. Although senior officers are aware of leadership support available to them, more junior members of the workforce that HMIC spoke to were either not aware of such opportunities or felt unable to take them because they could not find adequate cover to allow them to be released from their duties.
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 the 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 address any gaps or issues in leadership that are identified.
South Yorkshire Police has introduced a clear set of leadership behavioural expectations through its ‘FIRST’ principles (fairness, integrity, respect, standards and trust). These principles are aligned to the Code of Ethics and have been used for a number of years within the force. The force has published articles on its intranet and run workshops and roadshows to explain these principles, and HMIC found that they were widely recognised across the workforce.
The force has a joint human resources service with Humberside Police which has produced a joint ‘Leading Together’ strategy, which sets out what the force expects from leaders. The strategy was previously led by the chief constable of South Yorkshire Police and managed by the two forces’ joint people board. We found that, although senior leaders clearly understand what is expected of them, knowledge of these principles among the wider workforce is limited, and the force has not yet produced similar standards for police staff.
The force only has a minimal understanding of the capability and capacity of leaders across its workforce. The force does gather some information about leadership capability from performance appraisals, but this is very limited. Senior police officers (chief inspector and above) complete self-assessments, identifying areas for development and their career aspirations. The force does not, however, have a system to review this information against its leadership principles or identify areas for development within teams or the wider organisation. Almost all of the officers and staff that HMIC interviewed felt that the force did nothing as a result of collecting information on leadership capabilities.
The force provides leadership courses for all new sergeants and inspectors and tests all frontline sergeants and inspectors for their use in demanding situations of the national decision model; this helps inform its understanding of leadership. The force’s leadership programmes have always included police staff leaders alongside police officer colleagues. The programmes are not restricted to newly promoted officers but also include police leaders, officers aspiring to promotion and staff leaders. However, access to the training for police staff is sometimes difficult and inconsistent.
Areas for improvement
- South Yorkshire Police should conduct a full leadership audit of the workforce that will allow it to understand leadership capacity and capability at different ranks and grades across the force, in order that it can develop more effective leadership teams in the future.
- South Yorkshire Police should review its processes to make sure that it can identify systematically those with the potential to become senior leaders and then support them to gain the necessary skills and self-development to apply for future leadership roles within the organisation.
- In order to inform future development opportunities and appointment decisions, South Yorkshire Police should ensure that it has an improved understanding of the skills and attributes of leaders across the organisation, which would allow a more systematic identification of leadership gaps.
How well does the force develop leadership?
The way in which a force identifies and develops leadership skills is crucial in making sure it performs 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.
South Yorkshire Police does not have a consistent approach to identifying and tackling leadership issues across the force. The force has demonstrated an ability to respond to individual acute leadership gaps. For example, the force recognised the need to bring in strong leadership for its call management centre as a result of poor performance. However, as a result of problems with its previous change programme, particularly through a poorly managed police staff redundancy process, there are a large number of supervisor vacancies across the force. The force was not able to demonstrate effective succession planning for those officers who were leaving the force, either by transferring out or by retiring.
Since May 2016, the focus of the first interim chief constable and his command team has been to stabilise the force in order to allow it to meet its immediate challenges. This has meant that further reductions in police staff numbers have been stopped and the force has started a recruitment campaign for police officers. However, the disruption caused by previous reductions in numbers, when combined with the difficulties faced from the force’s new operating model, has meant that the force has been severely hampered in its ability to develop the leadership capability of its workforce successfully.
The force does have a number of leadership development initiatives as part of the ‘Leading Together’ strategy described above, but neither the force, nor its human resources partnership with Humberside Police, has evaluated whether the leadership programme is effective. The force does, however, hold quarterly meetings to discuss progress of officers and staff with protected characteristics and try to address any barriers, including a review of temporary promotion processes.
Although senior officers are aware of leadership support available to them, the rest of the workforce is either not aware or feels unable to use it because adequate cover cannot be found to allow officers and staff to spend time taking up these opportunities.
The force was able to provide some examples of developing individual officers and is demonstrating a more open approach to looking externally to improve its leadership capability. The force has two officers on the National High-Potential Development Scheme, and is intending to take part in the national Direct Entry scheme and Police Now graduate recruitment programme. However, it does not have a systematic approach to identifying officers and staff who have the potential to become future leaders. The force’s leadership programmes have always included police staff leaders alongside police officer colleagues. The programmes are not restricted to newly promoted officers but also include police leaders, aspiring officers and staff leaders. However, access to the training for police staff is sometimes difficult and inconsistent. Recent police staff redundancies mean there is insufficient resilience in teams to allow staff to be seconded from their job, even for a short time, in order to undertake development opportunities.
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.
South Yorkshire Police tries to identify best practice from other forces and from working with private sector organisations and local universities; this is a positive step, though many of the examples provided have yet to be completed. The partnership with the University of Sheffield to conduct research into innovative restorative justice practices and how these can be improved to make the most of the chances of reducing re-offending is also a positive step for the force to take.
The force has challenged itself to create more diverse leadership teams. Senior promotion processes now include independent assessors as panel members to encourage diversity and improve confidence of officers and staff in the appointment process. The force carries out personality profiling (Myers and Briggs MBTI) for all police staff and police officer senior leaders as part of the senior leadership learning groups. The leadership groups are cohorts of the same/similar ranks and police staff grades who meet quarterly to develop leadership. However, HMIC found that senior appointments are not always based on a wide breadth of understanding of the experience, background and skills that future leaders will require.
The chief officer team assesses the mix of skills in its management teams. However, HMIC found that the force’s approach to diversity is primarily focused on people with protected characteristics. The force has increased its numbers of female and black, Asian and minority ethnic cadets, and recognises it needs to do more to encourage these cadets to consider becoming police officers.