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Hampshire 2018/19


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

Last updated 20/12/2018
Requires improvement

Overall, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at looking after its people.

The service does not do enough to promote the right values and culture. Some staff we interviewed talked about a culture of bullying and domineering behaviour from managers. It was not clear how widespread or current these problems were. It would be beneficial to introduce a formal set of expected values and behaviour.

The diversity and inclusion team is doing some excellent work. It aims to make the service more representative of the community by recruiting and retaining minority members of staff. Its work needs to be supported more by the chief officer team so that it extends to the whole organisation. The service has an Inclusion and Diversity strategy and planned work streams and activity, but it has work to do to develop this area further to ensure that the recruitment, retention, development and progression of staff is open and fair to all. It should take immediate steps to improve its standards as this is a cause of concern.

The service has a good intranet site. However, its communication with its staff is limited. Many members of staff do not think that their views will be listened to. It is important that the service addresses concerns raised in the staff surveys. The service provides good wellbeing support but could improve how it manages sickness.

The service understands the skills of its workforce. It trains its staff well and plans to get the right people in the right places. It needs to develop its culture of learning and improvement. It should also make more use of the wider skills of its retained firefighters. There are concerns about the promotion process, which staff feel needs to be more open and fair. The service also needs to review how it uses temporary promotions as this is causing some problems.

We found that the service could do more to develop its future leaders. It does not assess staff performance properly. The service needs to make sure that processes to identify learning and development are consistent. It should also bring in a programme to identify and provide development opportunities for its gifted and talented staff.

Questions for People


How well does the FRS promote its values and culture?

Requires improvement

Areas for improvement

  • The service should ensure its expected values and behaviours are understood and demonstrated at all levels of the organisation and that managers actively promote these standards.
  • The service should assure itself that staff understand and have confidence in the service’s grievance and absence management policies.

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

Workforce wellbeing

The service has an established trauma risk management (TRiM) programme to support staff who have had experiences that have affected them physically or emotionally. Staff spoke positively of this programme. They feel they have easy access to it and it offers a practical means of support to those who need it.

Support networks are also in place for staff who suffer from stress, anxiety or depression. Trained mental health first aiders are available to support colleagues at various locations. These individuals spoke passionately of their responsibilities and frontline staff value their support. It is encouraging that staff can speak openly about mental health without fear of stigma.

Health and safety

Hampshire FRS promotes health and safety with its staff. According to data provided by the service there has been an increase in the number of reported ‘near miss’ events. These are occasions when firefighters have had experiences which could have compromised their personal safety, but no harm actually happened. This is a positive development as it indicates frontline staff have the confidence to report their concerns.

The service’s procedures and policies relating to staff grievances and managing staff sickness are not fully effective. We heard that supervisors are not trained to manage these functions effectively, that grievances take too long to resolve and that staff on sick leave are not given appropriate support. Staff are also concerned about whether the county council’s shared HR services can manage fire and rescue cases properly. They are not confident that the occupational health unit fully understands the needs of the fire and rescue service.

Culture and values

Hampshire FRS’s senior officers told us that they have chosen not to formalise or publish a set of values or behaviours. They prefer to recognise that everyone is different, and that individuals and teams should abide by their own standards. We are not convinced that this approach is working, but recognise that it takes time to embed a relatively new approach.

We found examples of:

  • gender-exclusive language;
  • some staff telling us about a culture of bullying;
  • reports of domineering behaviour by managers; and
  • inconsistencies in promotion processes.

Some female firefighters told us they feel undervalued, partly because of language which they considered divisive which they didn’t consider was tackled sufficiently by senior managers.

Several retained firefighters also stated that they felt undervalued by the service. They told us that wholetime colleagues often comment about their levels of competence and abilities, even though they are all trained to the same level.

Staff told us they have experienced management styles that they considered to be both domineering behaviour and that could lead to a culture of bullying. We also found irregularities in promotion processes. In many of the organisations we inspect, promotion processes are cross-referenced to organisational values. In Hampshire FRS, the person who decides what capabilities will be assessed is the person in charge of selection. Staff lack confidence in the fairness of these processes. The service told us work is underway to improve promotion processes based on staff feedback.

There can be no guarantee that these concerns would be addressed even if chief officers defined the values and behaviours expected of the workforce. However, having an agreed set of standards would be a useful benchmark for members of staff to consider how best to conduct themselves. We recognise the recently appointed senior team’s intention to refocus the organisational culture in the coming months and look forward to this work coming to fruition. It would also help senior leaders to role-model the standards of behaviour they expect.

We discuss our concern again in the section ‘Ensuring fairness and promoting diversity’ and we detail steps the service needs to take.


How well trained and skilled are FRS staff?


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

Workforce planning

Hampshire FRS has mapped out the skills of its workforce and how this plan will be affected by events such as retirements and resignations. The resource management group, chaired by a lead HR professional, oversees this planning and meets frequently. This ensures that the skills and capability of the service are maintained.

We found risk-critical training to be up to date. Accurate records are kept, and the skills and competencies of staff are available for everyone to view. This is important, for example, when fire control staff decide what resources to send to an incident.

On a day-to-day basis, Hampshire FRS maintains a minimum level of four firefighters for each fire engine that’s crewed by wholetime staff. If there is a shortfall in available staff, vacant positions are filled from the ‘bank’. The bank is a facility for firefighters who are willing to be called in when they are on a day off. Staff reported that there are times when some of the specialist appliances are not available because the bank staff did not have the necessary skills to operate them.

Hampshire FRS’s training academy provides some opportunity for retained firefighters to complete training at weekends. However, some retained staff feel that these training requirements are too much of a burden alongside their primary employment commitments and family life. It was also clear to us that the service does not recognise and make use of the skills which these firefighters have acquired as part of their full time employment. These skills may be of use to Hampshire FRS. For example, some firefighters have nationally recognised chainsaw qualifications as part of their work in forestry. It would be a positive step for the service to gather information about all the skills that people in its workforce have.

Learning and improvement

Hampshire FRS maintains the skills and competencies required of operational firefighters. However, it needs to do more to develop a culture of learning and improvement in the service.

The training academy provides positive opportunities for learning. Instructors are allocated to specific fire stations to ensure that skills are up to date. This includes training on road traffic collisions, rescues from a height, and animal rescue, for example. However, the opportunities to address personal development and ‘softer skills’ are less clear. Some managers – notably at Redbridge fire station – take it on themselves to provide mentoring and coaching support for their staff. This is commendable. While the service informed us there is a structured programme of individual development across the service we found its use inconsistent across the service. This issue is especially the case for non-operational staff. There is no structured programme of individual development for non-operational staff.

We found that the use of annual staff appraisals is inconsistent. In some cases they are not completed at all and in others they are described as meaningless. This means that the service is overlooking a valuable opportunity to identify learning and development needs. Non-operational staff in particular told us that their development opportunities were limited.

Hampshire FRS has identified that communication with, and support of, retained firefighters could be improved. Staff feel that the introduction of support officers to enhance lines of communication is a positive step, as it provides an opportunity to assess their developmental needs.


How well does the FRS ensure fairness and diversity?

Requires improvement

Cause of concern

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service doesn’t do enough to be an inclusive employer. We found signs of low morale in the workforce. People have little confidence that they will be treated fairly or that senior leaders have their best interests at heart.


By 30 June 2019, the service should:

  • embed a programme to ensure that inclusion, fairness, equalities and professional development are priorities for the service;
  • ensure that its recruitment activities are open and accessible to all of Hampshire’s communities;
  • treat employees according to their needs so they feel valued;
  • ensure that each person’s potential can be developed so they can perform to their very best;
  • ensure that the chief officer team leads the programme, actively promoting the values of the organisation; and
  • ensure that everyone knows how they contribute to the values.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should assure itself that staff are confident using its feedback mechanisms, so these help the service gather valuable information. It should put in place an action plan to address the concerns raised by staff in the recent staff surveys.

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

Seeking and acting on staff feedback

The service is poor at communicating with its staff. Staff report a culture that does not welcome feedback. We particularly heard that middle managers do not like being challenged.

We recognise as positive practice that the service undertakes staff surveys. It carried out a cultural survey earlier this year. However, less than half the workforce responded, although this is an increase from the previous survey. This suggests that the service could be doing more to communicate with its workforce. More worrying is the fact that many staff told us the service has not yet addressed the matters raised in the 2016 staff survey. This was a reason given for the lack of interest in the recent survey. Hampshire FRS needs to understand why so few respondents take part in staff surveys. It also needs to demonstrate a commitment to positive change by acting on the matters raised.

By contrast, despite some staff telling us they were reluctant to use the service’s intranet site as the information was hard to find and not user-friendly, inspectors found it easy to use with relevant and current information. This includes information about staff wellbeing and access to services, chief officer blogs and service updates with current news and important developments.

Hampshire FRS’s chief officers have a policy of visiting staff at fire stations on a regular scheduled programme. The frontline workforce welcomes this. However, they feel that when they raise something that matters with senior leaders they should be given more of a guaranteed response.


More work needs to be done to make the workforce more representative. As at 31 March 2018, less than 1 percent of firefighters were from a black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) background. Minority population groups form 7 percent of Hampshire’s communities.

Hampshire FRS’s diversity and inclusion team has established several support groups. These form part of a network to address the interests of:

  • women in the workplace (‘fire inspire’);
  • lesbian and gay interests (‘fire out’);
  • staff from ethnic minority backgrounds;
  • disability groups (‘fire able’); and
  • religion, ethnicity and cultural heritage (‘fireReach’).

The diversity and inclusion team and volunteer staff work hard to make the workforce more representative of Hampshire’s communities. We saw several examples of this including:

  • innovative use of social media to launch ‘have a go’ campaigns to boost recruitment;
  • innovative joint working with disability groups to place employees into non-operational posts; and
  • outreach work at Southampton Pride to promote Hampshire FRS as a career.

However, although one of the service’s priorities is to make the workforce more representative, it needs to do more to make this a reality. Too much currently rests with the small diversity and inclusion team and its volunteer networks. We do not feel that the recruitment, retention and progression of minority members of staff is being given strong direction or support from the chief officer team.

We spoke with female firefighters who expressed dissatisfaction with some of Hampshire FRS’s facilities. In some fire stations, dormitories (for rest periods) are for use by both men and women and there are no designated female shower facilities. We were told that some personal protective equipment is ‘one size fits all’ (for example water rescue clothing), which makes things difficult for smaller women. Female firefighters also explained how uniform trousers are only designed for men. The service informed us that it has plans in place to buy additional sizes of water rescue clothing and its new fire kit it is rolling out is gender specific and fully fitted to each individual.

Although female uniform is a challenge for the fire service nationally, firefighters we spoke to felt that Hampshire FRS should do more to support their need for better uniform.

We are particularly concerned at the proportion of staff recorded as leaving the service during the year ending 31 March 2018. The majority of these are firefighters. At present the service is unable to identify why people are leaving the service in such numbers. The service believes that the high number of recorded leavers may be due to the service’s use of fixed term contracts. However, it is not clear if the service fully understands why people are leaving the service in such high numbers. The service needs to research this, and take action to address the findings.

The service should have a diversity strategy to ensure that the recruitment, retention, development and progression of staff is open to all on a fair and equitable basis. The service has much work to do to be an employer of choice when judged by contemporary standards. This is a cause of concern. The service needs to take immediate steps to meet these standards. The momentum needs to come from the top of the organisation and everyone should play a part in making this happen.


How well does the FRS develop leadership and capability?

Requires improvement

Areas for improvement

  • The service should ensure it has an effective system in place to manage staff development, performance, promotion and productivity.
  • The service should put in place an open and fair process to identify, develop and support high-potential staff and aspiring leaders.
  • The service should ensure its selection, development and promotion of staff is open, transparent and fair, including its position on the use and length of temporary promotions.

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

Managing performance

Staff performance reviews do not meet the standards that we would expect of a fire and rescue service. Some staff told us that personal development interviews were available with their managers, but there was no evidence of a structured programme of performance appraisals.

The absence of an effective performance review process linked to an individual’s development is a significant shortcoming. Despite the process being refreshed in 2017, it is seen as being over-complicated and of little value. Its application is inconsistent, and the process is not embraced by the workforce. We were also concerned to find that some managers – for whatever reason – choose not to lead change programmes.

Performance development reviews are designed to stretch people in their current position, identify talent and set people onto career pathways, but this is not currently effective. Attempts to revive an effective process in Hampshire FRS have failed. As an immediate priority, the service should implement a reliable procedure. This is an area we will examine carefully in subsequent inspections.

Developing leaders

Hampshire FRS needs to set out its workforce requirements for the future. All its staff should have access to career development and progression opportunities that support Hampshire FRS achieving its ambitions. However, career progression and succession planning are not a strength of the organisation.

Staff consistently reported significant concerns about the lack of an open and transparent promotion process. They told us that the promotion process is unfair and lacked openness, rather than being a genuine attempt to identify the talent of the future. We found no formal guidance about the operational competencies required for someone seeking promotion. This means that managers are ‘signing off’ applicants as being ready for promotion, without reference to any criteria or standard. Staff told us they were uncertain whether the next promotion process – the first for more than five years – was going to offer fair and open opportunities for all. The service has told us it has plans at an advanced stage to improved promotion processes which it should implement and embed as soon as possible to make sure it offers fair opportunity for everyone.

The number of individuals who have been temporarily promoted for long periods is causing problems. This is something the service needs to address. The situation leaves these individuals uncertain whether they will have to revert to their former position at some point, and it has blocked development opportunities for other members of staff. It has created a shortage of firefighters on the front line which the service has filled using its retained firefighters on short-term contracts. These individuals are keen to become full time employees and gave up their full time jobs to work with Hampshire FRS. Although the service is clear they offered these contracts without any guarantee of permanent employment at the end of their short-term contract, it does not appear this message has been heard consistently across the service.

Hampshire FRS has a ‘pathway to promotion’ process known as P2P. Operational staff do not view this positively though. For example, people temporarily promoted into positions have been told they will not be considered competent for substantive promotion positions as part of P2P. This has created a feeling of uncertainty and mistrust of senior managers by the workforce. P2P is also disliked by retained firefighters. They are required by the service to meet the same safety critical operational assurance processes as full time firefighters and so they do not feel have sufficient study time and their access to practical experience may be limited. The service should review this situation and introduce a programme that will identify and provide development opportunities for its gifted and talented staff.