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West Yorkshire 2021/22

People

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

Last updated 27/07/2022
Good

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at looking after its people.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment.

During this inspection we were encouraged to hear staff feedback that visibility of and engagement with senior leaders has improved.

The service has effective wellbeing policies in place, and these are clearly understood. However, support could be improved for staff involved in a traumatic incident.

The service has put considerable effort into developing its recruitment campaigns. It employs a positive action champion. And it has adapted recruitment processes to increase the diversity of its assessment panels so that under-represented groups can better identify with the service.

The service has invested in a new system to support staff development and assess individual performance. It now needs to make sure that all staff understand and support its approach.

Questions for People

1

How well does the FRS promote its values and culture?

Good

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at promoting the right values and culture.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service was good 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 promoted effectively, 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 make sure that it has effective arrangements in place to support staff following a traumatic incident.
  • The service should ensure all staff are appropriately trained and up to date in relation to health and safety.

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 well-defined values and staff engagement with senior leaders has improved

The service has well-defined values. Behaviours that reflect service values are shown at all levels of the service. Our staff survey showed that 95 percent of respondents (546 of 573) said they are aware of the service’s statement of values. However, there is some evidence that staff understanding could be improved and the new annual review and promotion processes are now centred around the service’s values. The service has carried out gap analysis to understand what is needed to align with the new national Core Code of Ethics. The service is satisfied that no changes to their current values are necessary.

Senior leaders act as role models. For example, we were encouraged to hear staff feedback that visibility of and engagement with senior leaders has improved. ‘Let’s Talk’ briefings take place quarterly and give staff an opportunity for a two-way conversation with the senior management team. Of those who responded to our staff survey, 66 percent (363 of 573) said that senior leaders consistently model and maintain the service’s values. When thinking about line managers and colleagues, this increases to 86 percent. However, some staff feel that the introduction of Command Leadership Management has reduced the visibility of the station managers.

Staff have access to services that support their mental and physical health

The service has 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. For example, there is an occupational health unit as well as an employee assistance programme and good physical fitness facilities.

There are good provisions in place to promote staff wellbeing. This includes mental health champions and welfare officers. Of those who responded to the survey, 93 percent (532 out of 573) told us they can access services to support their mental wellbeing.

However, only 39 percent of respondents (226 out of 573) told us they have a conversation about their health and wellbeing with their manager at least monthly. Support for staff involved in a traumatic incident could be improved as some staff weren’t clear about what support was available or who to speak to.

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. There are effective processes in place to monitor the health and safety of the workforce and the Health and Safety Committee meets quarterly to review performance and deal with any issues. The service has a comprehensive fitness policy which details the levels of fitness required and action to be taken by managers and staff.

These policies and procedures are readily available and effectively promoted to all staff. Information is available to staff on the intranet, via the Burning Issues newsletter and health and safety bulletins.

Both staff and representative bodies have confidence in the health and safety approach taken by the service. Of those who responded to our survey, 87 percent (501 of 573) feel their personal safety and welfare is treated seriously at work. Representative bodies also tend to agree that the service manages the health and safety of its staff well. All staff receive initial workplace health and safety training. Although there is no regular refresher training for all staff, operational staff access this through other training courses.

The service has processes and systems in place to support absence management

As part of our inspection, we reviewed some case files to consider how the service manages and supports staff through absence including sickness, parental and special leave.

We found there are clear processes in place to manage absences for all staff. There is clear guidance for managers, who are confident in the process. Absences are managed well and in accordance with policy. The service has introduced a new system which provides better absence management information. Absence monitoring is in place and the Human Resources Committee meets quarterly to provide scrutiny and understand any trends.

Overall, the service has seen a decrease in staff absences over the 12 months between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021.

2

How well does the FRS get the right people with the right skills?

Good

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at getting the right people with the right skills.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment.

Fire and rescue services should have a workforce plan in place that is linked to their integrated risk management plans (IRMPs), sets out their current and future skills requirements and addresses capability gaps. They should supplement this with a culture of continuous improvement that includes appropriate learning and development throughout the service.

Areas for improvement

The service should make sure it has an effective, accurate and accessible system for recording and monitoring all staff training.

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 service has good workforce planning in place. This makes sure skills and capabilities align with what is needed to effectively deliver the IRMP. Risk, the workforce and financial plans are the three major demands which shape the direction taken in the three-year IRMP. The workforce plan deals with operational resource requirements. The service is in the process of identifying its ‘key posts’ for non-operational staff as part of a talent management process. This is in its infancy. The service is also moving from having one large firefighter recruitment campaign to more frequent, smaller events.

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. For example, 81 percent (464 of 573) of respondents to the staff survey agreed that they have received enough training to do their job effectively.

The service monitors operational staff competency-based training by using a ‘competency dashboard’ which it has developed. However, non-competency-based training, such as safeguarding, isn’t included on the dashboard. The service also isn’t able to easily access all the training records held for staff and is looking at how to improve this.

The service updates its understanding of staff’s skills and risk-critical safety capabilities in line with the revalidation policies it sets and by using national operational guidance. Annual development reviews with staff are also used to identify training needs. A business case process can be used to request additional training. The service recognises that following the introduction of Command Leadership Management it needed more crew managers. It has put a new development process in place to support crew members’ development before promotion to speed up the promotion process. 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 supports staff with learning and development

A culture of continuous improvements is promoted across the service and staff are encouraged to learn and develop. For example, fire control has developed its own standards which are linked to national occupational standards.

We are pleased to see that the service has a range of resources in place. This includes e-learning, which is available for staff on topics such as computer applications.

Overall, 75 percent of staff who responded to our survey (429 of 573) agree that they are satisfied with the level of learning and development that is available. This allows them to do their job effectively.

3

How well does the FRS ensure fairness and promote diversity?

Good

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at ensuring fairness and promoting diversity.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service was good 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 equality, diversity and inclusion are firmly understood and demonstrated throughout the organisation. This includes successfully taking steps to remove inequality and making progress to improve fairness, diversity and inclusion at all levels of the service. It should proactively seek and respond to feedback from staff and make sure any action taken is meaningful.

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 assure itself that staff are confident using its feedback mechanisms.

Innovative practice

The service is investing in recruitment, including improving diversity through positive action to improve recruitment diversity.

  • It has employed a positive action officer, and the chief fire officer is also the positive action champion.
  • Its engagement style has been adapted and targeted.
  • Recruitment events are localised to increase engagement.
  • Assessment panels are more diverse so that all candidates can better identify with the service, including under-represented groups.

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

The service engages with staff on matters that affect them

There is a positive working culture across the service, with staff engaged in decisions that affect them. The service uses a number of communication methods to share information with staff. This includes the intranet and internal publications such as Burning Issues and Managers’ Matters. However, some staff feel that communications could be better structured and focused, and the service is aware that improvements are needed.

Other actions being taken to address matters raised have been positively received by staff. This includes ‘Let’s Talk’ sessions which give staff the opportunity to ask senior leaders questions. Staff networks, championed by senior leaders in the service, have been developed and are supporting the service in dealing with issues. However, 49 percent of staff (282 of 573) who responded to our survey don’t feel confident in the methods for providing feedback at all levels. Representative bodies and staff associations reported that the service engages with them well, although they feel that the service could involve them earlier when dealing with problems.

The service should continue to review its approach to tackling bullying, harassment, and discrimination

Staff have a good understanding of what bullying, harassment and discrimination are, and the negative effect they have on both colleagues and the organisation.

In this inspection, 11 percent of staff who responded to our survey (65 of 573) told us they had been subject to bullying or harassment and 16 percent (90 of 573) had been subject to discrimination over the past 12 months. Of these staff, 56 percent didn’t report the issue. The main reason given for this was that nothing would happen. Representative bodies don’t feel the service has appropriate processes in place or takes appropriate action to eliminate bullying and harassment.

Most respondents to the staff survey are confident in the service’s approach to tackling bullying, harassment and discrimination, grievances, and disciplinary matters. The bullying and harassment policy has been rewritten and staff networks are being used to get feedback about issues. The service has made sure all staff are trained and clear on what steps they should take if they encounter inappropriate behaviour. Grievance and discipline cases are monitored to understand any impacts for staff with protected characteristics. Further discipline and grievance training is planned for the year ahead. Service leaders have put in place several mechanisms for feedback from staff, and have improved how they act, so that staff, including those from diverse backgrounds and under-represented groups, have a better experience.

The service acts positively to improve diversity within recruitment

There is an open, fair, and honest recruitment process for staff or those wishing to work for the fire and rescue service.

The service has put considerable effort into developing its recruitment processes so they are fair and understood by applicants.

The service employs a positive action officer and the chief fire officer is also the positive action champion. The service has worked with an external media company to help it target recruitment campaigns, looking at how different groups want to engage and by using tailored messages. Recruitment events are more localised to increase engagement. It has also adapted recruitment processes to increase the diversity of its assessment panels so that under-represented groups can better identify with the service.

The recruitment policies are comprehensive and cover opportunities in all roles, other than directors and principal officers which are authority appointments. Recruitment opportunities are advertised externally.

The service has made some improvements in increasing staff diversity at all levels of the organisation. Of the whole workforce, as of 31 March 2021, 5 percent (70) are from ethnic minority backgrounds and 19 percent (270) are women. This is an improvement on five years ago.

As of 31 March 2021, 21 percent (17) of all joiners are women and 4 percent (2) of new joiners self-declared as being from ethnic minority backgrounds. This shows a reduction for both groups when compared to 2019/20. For firefighter recruitment, 10 percent (5) of all new recruits are women and just under 3 percent (1) are from ethnic minority backgrounds. The number of women is unchanged when compared with 2019/20, with recruitment from ethnic minority backgrounds showing a reduction.

The service knows it needs to go further to increase workforce diversity, especially in middle and senior management. The service advises that they currently have staff enrolled on a leadership programme for staff from ethnic minority backgrounds. The service is also working alongside the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) to create talent and coaching mentoring to develop their staff. Priorities for the year ahead include investment in unconscious bias and behavioural interviewing training.

The service has improved its approach to equality, diversity, and inclusion

The service has improved its approach to equality, diversity and inclusion and is making sure it can offer the right services to its communities and support staff with protected characteristics. For example, it is implementing an accessibility project to train staff on how to construct documents and present information to support individuals with neurodiverse conditions. It provides education and training on equality, diversity and inclusion to all staff.

It has developed several ways to engage with staff on equality, diversity, and inclusion. This includes methods to build all-staff awareness, as well as targeted engagement to identify matters that affect different staff groups, including to remove disproportionality. For example, a series of mental health awareness sessions have been introduced and the service provides ‘lunch and learn’ sessions dealing with topics such as International Women’s Day and black history. The service has also introduced an on-call steering group and liaison officer to improve communications and engagement with on-call staff.

The service has an effective process in place for assessing equality impact and taking action. It has been recognised at a national level, receiving a bronze award for the work done in this area. The service recognises that gender appropriate workplace facilities aren’t available or suitable in all buildings. Its approach to equality impact assessment will support the progression of issues more effectively.

4

How well does the FRS manage performance and develop leaders?

Good

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at managing performance and developing leaders.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service was good 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 (annual) review process.

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 improved its management of individuals’ performance

There is a good performance management system in place which allows the service to effectively develop and assess the individual performance of all staff. It has invested in a new system which has improved the staff annual performance review process. The new process also requires staff to provide evidence about how they demonstrate the behaviours associated with the service’s core values. Guidance is provided to staff in relation to carrying out performance and development reviews. Annual reviews are completed for all staff groups. Quality assurance is carried out as the service requires that the manager’s manager revises and countersigns the review document.

Through our staff survey, most respondents reported that they receive regular discussions with their manager. Although some staff told us they don’t always find performance conversations valuable. We also found that some staff don’t have clear targets and objectives.

The service is developing its promotion and progression processes so that they are fair

The service has some succession planning processes in place which allows it to manage the career pathways of staff, including into leadership roles and roles requiring specialist skills. A talent assessment is included as part of an individual’s annual review and is used to support the management of talent and succession planning. At the time of inspection, the service hadn’t fully formalised the talent management structure and expects that it will be in place by April 2022. When this is in place, a talent list will be available for all staff groups to identify and support the development of future leaders. This will also take account of the NFCC’s national talent management process. We are interested to see how effective this is in identifying and supporting all high-potential members of staff.

It has put considerable effort into developing its promotion and progression processes so that they are fair and understood by staff. The service provides a ‘promotion toolkit’ which is available to staff on the intranet. It also has a project in progress to provide development for operational staff before they move to a new role (currently staff ‘develop’ once in role). Interview questions are provided shortly before an interview starts to allow candidates some time to prepare. However, there is evidence that staff feel that more is needed as only 55 percent, (314 of 573), of respondents to our survey agree that promotion processes are fair. The promotion and progression policies are comprehensive and cover opportunities in all roles.

Selection processes are managed consistently. We reviewed recent promotion processes and found these were in line with the service’s policy. Temporary promotions are used appropriately to fill short-term resourcing gaps.

The service supports the development of leadership and high-potential staff

The service has succession planning processes in place which allows it to manage high-potential staff into leadership roles. It is also developing its talent management processes.

There are talent management schemes to develop specific staff. The service has a qualifications and sponsorship policy to support all staff with job specific and personal development training. Apprenticeships are also available to staff. The service has introduced a ‘firefighter safe to command’ role as part of the Command Leadership and Management project. This increases the opportunity for individual development.

The service’s priorities for the year ahead are to invest in unconscious bias, behavioural interviewing, discipline, and grievance training. We look forward to seeing the outcome of these in our next inspection.

The service advertises all talent and leadership opportunities for all staff to consider. Opportunities are shared both internally and externally.

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