West Midlands 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.
West Midlands Police is developing its understanding of its leadership. The force has recently introduced a ‘leadership promise’, which clearly defines its expectations of its leaders.
During the extensive consultation which the force undertook in order to define these expectations, the workforce engaged positively, and we found that officers and staff at all ranks and grades understood the ‘leadership promise’. The force recognises that some aspects of leadership are weaker, including the approach to performance appraisal and absence management.
The force is developing its approach to enable a more sophisticated appraisal of the quality of leadership across the force. However, the inconsistent use of performance review is limiting the force’s understanding of leadership capabilities and gaps. Although the force provides a range of leadership development opportunities including secondments, temporary promotions and formal training programmes, it does not have a comprehensive and transparent approach to talent management. In the absence of this, it cannot ensure that it draws the best candidates from the widest possible pool of potential leaders. There is limited evidence that the force evaluates its leadership development programmes. The force could make better use of recruitment opportunities at higher ranks and grades to enhance its overall leadership capability.
The force is proactive at looking outside the police service to search for new ideas and methods. The force uses academics and professional bodies to review its practices, and to provide feedback across a broad range of police activities. By applying the learning to its local context, new approaches have been introduced quickly. We found new ideas and practices being trialled and communicated across the force. The force recognises the need to improve the diversity of its leadership teams but this focuses on progression of the black, Asian and minority ethnic workforce, and on increasing female representation. Beyond this, we found little evidence of how the force is attempting to increase the diversity of its leaders in terms of their skills, experience and background.
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.
Following the appointment of the new chief constable, and after extensive consultation with officers and staff, the force has recently adopted a revised vision and a new set of values. These values reflect the chief constable’s intention that West Midlands Police should be a modern force with traditional values. Alongside its new vision and values, the force has developed a ‘People Deal’ and a ‘Leadership Promise’, which clearly define the expectations of leaders as service improvers, trust builders, inspirational role models, people developers, organisational advocates and performance managers. These were also subject to extensive consultation with the workforce, who engaged positively. Most officers and staff acknowledge that senior leaders are receptive to feedback and challenge.
However, HMIC found that the Leadership Promise is not yet fully in place, nor is it well-understood at all ranks and grades. The force recognises that commitment to some aspects of the leadership promise could be improved, including performance appraisal, change skills and attendance management. The force plans to address this and has arranged more structured training for line managers in autumn 2016.
West Midlands Police is developing its understanding of leadership capability within its workforce. It is aiming to achieve a more sophisticated assessment of the quality of leadership across the force. For example, it has started to conduct cultural audit reviews in local policing teams and departments. These reviews incorporate an assessment of leadership capabilities. There is also an increasing use of leadership assessment tools, such as 360-degree feedback for individuals, and strength deployment inventory (a way of understanding and influencing the motives that drive behaviours), albeit for a limited number of teams. The force is also developing its use of talent grids, although it is mainly concentrating on using these to improve its understanding of operational and technical skills, rather than leadership capabilities. The HR department is planning to conduct a review of spans of responsibility across the force to improve understanding of how leadership affects the workforce. Completion of an electronic development review (eDR) is not mandatory for either police officers or staff within West Midlands Police. The force’s own monitoring suggests that completion of eDRs varies widely. Despite the various methods which are used to improve the understanding of leadership across the force, inevitably the inconsistent use of individual performance review is limiting the force’s understanding of leadership capabilities and gaps.
The force has plans in place to improve leadership capabilities. During the recent consultation to develop the People Deal, the force identified a leadership capability gap among some sergeants, inspectors and police staff equivalents. As a consequence, the force has started to map the workforce’s change skills, and is planning improvements to its leadership development training through a more structured dedicated learning leaders 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 is still developing its understanding of the leadership capabilities of its workforce. This could potentially inhibit the force’s ability to identify leadership problems quickly if they should arise. However, when the recently introduced cultural audits identified a leadership problem within an operational department, the force acted quickly and decisively, and appointed a new leadership team.
During our 2015 PEEL leadership inspection of West Midlands Police, HMIC observed that the force did not have cohesive arrangements for talent management. We advised that this might result in a lack of fairness and that the force might be missing opportunities to identify the most talented individuals. The force does provide a range of leadership development opportunities including secondments, temporary promotions and formal training programmes. Some of these opportunities are geared towards people who have the potential to be leaders in the future. Nevertheless, the force still does not have a comprehensive force-wide and transparent approach to talent management. HMIC understands that the force plans to introduce a new approach to managing talent, including a high potential scheme, in the spring of 2017. This is encouraging, because the introduction of a cohesive, formal and co-ordinated force-wide talent management programme, with transparent selection processes, would enhance the force’s ability to identify and develop senior leaders of the future.
Activity to assess the impact of the force leadership programmes has been limited. The force would also benefit from a review of the various development opportunities it provides as well as a rigorous evaluation of its overall approach to developing leaders. This would enable it to be more effective in the way that it measures its success in achieving the improvements in leadership expectations which are outlined in the leaders’ promise. This limited evaluation, combined with an inconsistent use of e-DR performance reviews, means that the force cannot be confident that it has an accurate understanding of the success of its approach to developing leaders, including potential senior leaders.
West Midlands Police understands the likely gaps in its staffing numbers and the potential loss of specialised skills. However, the force is concentrating on plans to fill specialist operational skills gaps such as those in cyber-crime, firearms and the technical leads for its change programme. There was limited evidence of the force using recruitment, particularly at higher ranks and grades, in order to enhance its overall leadership capabilities. The force is using the national Fast Track scheme and has appointed apprentices in forensic services and shared services. The force is actively planning to increase its use of recruitment methods such as apprenticeships and Police Now. The force would also benefit if it made better use of recruitment opportunities such as the Direct Entry scheme in order to enhance its leadership capabilities and to provide a more effective balance to meet future leadership requirements.
Areas for improvement
- West Midlands Police should introduce a system for consistent talent management across the workforce with appropriate governance and scrutiny arrangements.
- West Midlands Police should evaluate its leadership programme and talent management processes, once they are fully established, to ensure a structured, comprehensive and transparent approach in order to identifying and developing potential leaders.
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 Midlands Police is proactive in the way that it looks outside the police service to discover new ideas, approaches and working practices. Its change programme is based on international research, and is conducted with an external ‘integration and innovation’ partner from the private sector. It routinely uses academics and professional bodies to review its practices, and to provide feedback across a broad range of policing activities. The force is running a five-year project on ‘procedural justice’ which is designed to improve external fairness, and increase public trust. The force can demonstrate the way its approach to innovation consistently results in changes to its working practices. By applying the learning to its local context, new practices have been introduced quickly. For instance, recognising good practice from the World Health Organisation, the force is working with NHS England to develop a more approach to tackling violence using preventative healthcare.
The force has created a culture where innovation is welcomed. We found several examples where the force has been willing to test new ideas, such as a trial of mobile data terminals. These are now being introduced force-wide. Work continues with a private sector firm to develop innovative apps to support enhanced digital communication with the public. We found new ideas and approaches which have been publicised across the West Midlands Police. Examples include a neighbourhood officer’s good practice to engage with parents in order to tackle anti-social behaviour in a school in Coventry. The force plans to disseminate across the police service good practice which has arisen from its change programme, such as the apps which it is developing as part of the citizens’ digital experience project. However, inspectors found a perception among a small section of the workforce, that the force was not agile and flexible enough to adopt new practices which were not part of its current change programme.
The force recognises the need to improve the diversity of its leadership teams and concentrates on progression of the black Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) workforce and increasing female representation. Senior leaders are clear that it is important to make the force more representative of the community. There is an effective positive action process. Officers from a BAME background receive mentoring and support, which has resulted in significant success in recent promotion processes to sergeant and inspector. However, there has been less success in terms of promotion of BAME candidates to more senior posts. In addition, apart from an emphasis on BAME recruitment and progression, there is limited evidence of the ways in which the force is attempting to increase the diversity of its leaders. There is only limited consideration of other diversity matters beyond the protected characteristics such as age, disability, or gender reassignment, including background, experience and skills when making postings in order to increase diversity. Although the force is using recruitment methods such as apprenticeships and Fast Track, and has recruited externally for chief superintendents and chief officers, more effective use could be made of recruitment opportunities to create more diversity at a senior level.