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Greater Manchester 2021/22

People

How well does the fire and rescue service look after its people?

Last updated 15/12/2021
Good

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service is good at looking after its people.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service required improvement in its 2018/19 assessment.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service is good at looking after its staff. It has improved its promotion of the right values and culture. And it has made progress in getting the right people with the right skills. Since our last inspection, it has particularly improved in ensuring fairness and promoting diversity. The service now needs to improve how it manages performance and develops its leaders.

We are pleased to see how much progress the service has made in communicating its values and behaviours. Senior and middle managers are more visibly acting as role models. Staff have expressed confidence in the new leadership team. The service now has more to do in making sure all senior leaders consistently model and maintain its values.

The service continues to have effective health and safety policies and procedures. Most respondents to our staff survey felt their personal welfare is treated seriously at work.

In our previous inspection, we identified a cause for concern about monitoring of staff competence. The service has made much progress in this respect. For instance, it now produces quarterly reports showing competence levels. At the time of our inspection, all staff were assessed to be competent to fulfil their role.

During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the service adapted the ways in which it offers learning and development.

We are pleased that the service has responded to our previous cause for concern about EDI. The service is aware that its promotional processes have changed very little since our last inspection. However, it is making progress and we look forward to seeing the results of this work in future inspections.

The service needs to make sure it manages performance and development consistently for all staff. We note that it has yet to put in place a talent management process to identify, develop and support high-potential staff and aspiring leaders.

Questions for People

1

How well does the FRS promote its values and culture?

Good

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service is good at promoting the right values and culture.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service required improvement in its 2018/19 assessment.

Fire and rescue services should have positive and inclusive cultures, modelled by the behaviours of their senior leaders. Health and safety should be effectively promoted, and staff should have access to a range of wellbeing support that can be tailored to their individual needs.

Areas for improvement

The service should assure itself that senior managers demonstrate service values through their behaviours.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

The service has effectively communicated its values and behaviours to all staff

We were pleased to see how much progress the service has made in communicating its values and behaviours throughout the workforce. In 2018, we highlighted this as an area for improvement. The service has worked with staff to develop its new values and behaviour framework. It now has well-defined values, that staff understand. When we carried out a staff survey, 95.77 percent (294 out of 307) of respondents said they are aware of the service’s statement of values.

In our previous inspection, we identified an area for improvement where the service should assure itself that senior and middle managers visibly act as role models. Since that inspection, the service’s senior leaders have regularly talked to and worked with staff. Staff told us they appreciated the two-way communication that has taken place.

During our latest inspection, we learned that some senior leaders demonstrate the service’s behaviours. Of the respondents to our staff survey, 65 percent said that senior leaders consistently model and maintain the service’s values.

The service has good wellbeing provisions in place

The service continues to have well understood and effective wellbeing policies in place that are available to staff. A significant range of wellbeing support is available to support both physical and mental health, including occupational health services and trauma risk management practitioners.

During our inspection, staff told us that they had positive experiences of the current wellbeing support. Ninety-two percent of respondents to our staff survey (285 of 307) told us that they have had a conversation about their health and wellbeing with their manager.

The service has recruited a fitness adviser to implement a new fitness policy. There will be an annual fitness assessment throughout the service.

Staff understand and have confidence in health and safety policies

The service continues to have effective and well-understood health and safety policies and procedures in place. They are readily available and effectively promoted to all staff.

Our survey showed that 92 percent (283 of 307) of respondents feel their personal safety and welfare is treated seriously at work. Additionally, representative bodies agree that the service manages the health and safety of its staff well. Both staff and representative bodies have confidence in the service’s approach to health and safety.

The service gives health and safety training to all staff as part of their induction. However, there is limited evidence of regular refresher training.

The service has good absence management processes that staff understand

We reviewed some case files to consider how the service manages and supports staff through absence including sickness, parental and special leave.

We found clear processes in place to manage absences for all staff. There are toolkits and guidance for managers, who were confident in the process. The service manages absences well and in accordance with policy.

2

How well trained and skilled are FRS staff?

Good

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service is good at getting the right people with the right skills.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service required improvement in its 2018/19 assessment.

Fire and rescue services should have workforce plans in place that are linked to their integrated risk management plans, set out their current and future skills requirements, and address capability gaps. This should be supplemented by a culture of continuous improvement that includes appropriate learning and development across the service.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

Workforce planning ensures that the required skills and capabilities are available

The FRS has good workforce planning in place. This makes sure skills and capabilities align with what is needed to effectively deliver the IRMP.

In our previous inspection, we identified a cause for concern about controls in place to monitor the competence of staff. We are pleased to see how much progress the service has made. Most staff told us that they could access the training they need to be effective in their role. The service’s training plans make sure they can maintain competence and capability effectively. The service has introduced a competence recording system. Also, the training department does an annual training analysis to understand what it needs to do.

The training department or external suppliers now assess core skills. The service monitors staff competence with quarterly reports showing competence levels. At the time of our inspection, all staff were assessed to be competent to fulfil their role.

It regularly updates its understanding of staff’s skills and risk-critical safety capabilities. The service completes an annual Training Needs Analysis (TNA) to identify the training needs of the service. This approach means the service can identify gaps in workforce capabilities and resilience and can make sound and financially sustainable decisions about current and future needs.

The service has improved its approach to learning and improvement

A culture of continuous improvements is promoted across the service where staff are encouraged to undertake learning and development. The new competence system enables staff to access all learning in one place. The system displays completion rates and outstanding learning.

During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the service adapted the ways in which it offers learning and development to include virtual platforms. However, some staff felt that this wasn’t always the best way to learn and that it was hard to train together virtually as a watch.

62 percent (191 out of 307) of respondents to the staff survey carried out as part of this inspection told us that they were able to access a range of learning and development resources. This allows them to undertake their role effectively.

However, feedback from some staff during our inspection indicates that development opportunities aren’t consistent throughout all staff groups. For example, non-operational staff don’t have access to as much structured learning as their operational colleagues.

3

How well does the FRS ensure fairness and diversity?

Good

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service is good at ensuring fairness and promoting diversity.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service was inadequate in its 2018/19 assessment.

Creating a more representative workforce will provide huge benefits for fire and rescue services. This includes greater access to talent and different ways of thinking, and improved understanding of and engagement with their local communities. Each service should make sure that equality, diversity and inclusion are firmly embedded and understood across the organisation. This includes successfully taking steps to remove inequality and making progress to improve fairness, diversity and inclusion at all levels within the service. It should proactively seek and respond to feedback from staff and make sure any action taken is meaningful.

Innovative practice

The service has introduced a Freedom to Speak Guardian – an initiative used by the NHS – for staff to have an informal way to give feedback to the service.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should review how effective its policy on bullying, harassment and discrimination is in reducing unacceptable behaviour towards its staff.
  • The service should improve staff understanding of the purpose and benefits of positive action.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

The service prioritises EDI and has made good progress

We are pleased to see that the service has responded to the cause of concern identified in our 2018 inspection.

The service has improved its approach to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and is making sure it can offer the right services to its communities and support staff with a protected characteristic(s). For example, the service has written a new strategy and action plan and has appointed a dedicated EDI lead to progress them. The service has made education and training available to all staff through its online learning system.

Representatives from all parts of the service attend the Equality Steering Group. The group meets regularly to review the service’s action plan and monitor progress. It has developed several ways to promote EDI among staff, including having EDI noticeboards and champions at fire stations.

It has developed several ways to engage with staff on EDI. This includes methods to build all staff awareness, as well as targeted engagement to identify issues that affect different staff groups, including to remove disproportionality. Four staff networks work with the steering groups on specific themes. They are:

  • GM Women’s Success and Support Network;
  • Dis-Ability Network;
  • RISE Staff Network; and
  • Rainbow Network.

The service has also appointed a Freedom to Speak guardian. This is an initiative that the NHS uses, and is another way for staff to give feedback to the service in a more informal way. The initiative was launched in April 2020. To date, staff have raised five concerns through it.

The service has an effective process in place for assessing equality impact and taking action.

The service carries out positive action initiatives (such as taster days) to promote roles throughout the service. However, the workforce doesn’t always understand the purpose of the initiatives. Staff would benefit from understanding what positive action is as part of their EDI training.

The promotion process requires some improvement

The service is aware that its promotional processes have changed very little since our last inspection. However, it has initiated a review of the promotion process. And it has formed a working group. In August 2021 it had set out a timeline to implement an improved process. We look forward to seeing the results of this work in future inspections.

We reviewed three recent promotion processes for different operational roles. We found that assessment centres were open and fair. The service keeps a record of how staff perform at the centres and shares this information with them. Staff from human resources support the process and give independent scrutiny. However, as part of our inspection we learned that staff weren’t always clear about what they needed to do; this was because the process keeps changing and wasn’t consistent. According to our staff survey results, only 51 percent of staff said the promotion process in the service is fair.

The service needs to review its bullying, harassment and discrimination policy

The service could go further to improve staff understanding of bullying, harassment and discrimination, including their responsibilities for eliminating it. The service hasn’t updated its bullying and harassment policy for ten years. Through our staff survey, 12 percent of staff told us they had been subject to bullying or harassment, and 17 percent to discrimination over the past 12 months. Of these staff, only two (13 percent) thought their concerns had been properly dealt with.

Staff have limited confidence in the service’s ability to deal effectively with cases of bullying, harassment and discrimination, grievances and discipline. We were told that grievance cases often take a long time to be resolved, and that staff aren’t told the outcomes of different stages of the process.

4

How well does the FRS manage performance and develop leaders?

Requires improvement

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at managing performance and developing leaders.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service required improvement in its 2018/19 assessment.

Fire and rescue services should have robust and meaningful performance management arrangements in place for their staff. All staff should be supported to meet their potential and there should be a focus on developing high-potential staff and improving diversity in leadership roles.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should improve all staff understanding and application of the performance development review process.
  • The service should put in place an open and fair process to identify, develop and support high-potential staff and aspiring leaders.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

The service should ensure that it manages performance and development consistently for all staff

Our previous inspection recommended that the service should ensure it has an effective system in place to manage staff development, performance and productivity. The service has since introduced a new process for performance and development. However, not all staff have had their performance assessed in the last year. Twenty‑one percent (65 of 307) of respondents to our staff survey said that they hadn’t had a personal development review or appraisal in the last 12 months. According to data submitted by the service, completion rates of annual appraisals for non-operational staff are lower (at 33 percent) than those of wholetime staff (88 percent).

The staff survey showed that 63 percent (103 out of 257) of respondents said they find the performance development review useful.

The service needs to invest more in developing leaders

In our previous inspection, we identified an area for improvement: the service should put in place a talent management process to identify, develop and support high-potential staff and aspiring leaders. We are disappointed to find that the service hasn’t progressed this recommendation.

The service still doesn’t have a specific talent management process. However, we were told that it has completed a review of talent management and that although the review has taken longer than anticipated, there is now a plan in place for a related policy and procedure.