As industry experts with over twenty years’ experience supporting FRS’s from all over the UK, we understand the ‘People’ issues facing your service.

It is a central theme that has arisen time and time again in HMI Inspection Reports across a wide range of FRS´s, so you’re not alone. We know why they can be difficult to resolve, but there are surprisingly simple solutions available, which are already being used successfully by a number of FRS’s.

Our experience and expertise mean we CAN solve your problems. Our talent management solution is targeted, efficient and user-friendly.

Perceived cost is often cited as a barrier to working with us, however after drilling down to a find a true cost/resource comparison, clients consistently report that use of our services saves them money, to the sum of over £600 per candidate in some cases.

VCA’s Career Progression Gateway (CPG) is a tried and tested method of assessing FRS staff potential for career progression. Designed by Fire Service expert Occupational Psychologist Hannah Vallance, the CPG assesses the NFCC Leadership Qualities in combination with non-technical command behavioural markers. It does this via role relevant simulation exercises, which are a Case Study and a Video Role-play. These are delivered on-line for administrative ease and candidate convenience. The assessors are external Occupational Psychologists. The pass rate is consistent with previous National ADC levels and all exercises are externally reviewed for reliability, fairness and inclusion.

Here is how the CPG meets the needs highlighted in HMI inspections.

HMI Report CommentsHow we resolve this
“..improve promotion opportunities for non-operational staff”The CPG exercises are suitable for use by green as well as grey book staff.
“Needs to do more to make sure it’s promotion processes are fair”The exercises are designed according to British Psychological Society best practice guidelines; they are peer reviewed and evaluated for reliability by an external Psychologist; they are developed in partnership with FRS subject matter experts and designed to reflect current issues within the Service; the exercises are set within a fictious FRS context to ensure fairness to all candidates (including on-call and green book staff); results are consistent across FRS’s indicating validity and reliability. Using an online portal with external assessors removes potential bias; anonymous external marking reassures candidates that the process is fair, addressing the frequently cited candidate perception that selection decisions are subject to favouritism.
“Needs to do more to make sure it’s recruitment processes are fair”As per the CPG for promotions above, the CPG can also be used for Firefighter recruitment. This utilises a Realistic Job preview online screening, an online ‘Community’ exercise (video presentation & roleplay) and a final Behavioural and Motivation Fit interview.
“The service needs to do more to make sure it’s promotion and progression processes are seen as fair by staff”We supply a briefing session for internal teams to deliver to candidates pre-CPG, explaining the process, exercises and expectations in an interactive format. Candidates also have the option to complete a CPG preparation e-learning course prior to the event.
“Promotion and progression processes…can be inconsistently applied”We run promotional CPGs from Crew to Area Manager levels, for on-call and whole-time firefighters and green book staff at comparative levels. For predictability we recommend choosing a specific period where CPG assessments will take place annually e.g. spring, or autumn, this approach also has the benefit of facilitating budget forecasting.
“Overly onerous at lower management levels and for on-call staff”The CPG comprises two exercises; the time commitment for candidates is approximately two hours. All the information to complete the exercises is included within the exercise, eliminating the need for studying/ revising; (assessments that require reference of internal policies and procedures are knowledge-based rather than behavioural, which are known to be a poor measure of future performance and can also be disadvantageous to external candidates). The e-course is completed at the candidates’ own pace; modules can be skipped as required and it is not compulsory.
“…service needs to improve how it manages the career pathways of staff”The CPG sits within a wider process which can also be adopted by FRS’s – the Leadership Succession Gateway (LSG). This includes a Portfolio approach to identify applicant suitability to move forward to the CPG, and Developmental Coaching training to support Line Managers to improve confidence and skills in facilitating ongoing development in a collaborative and consistent way. Many participating FRS’s have suitable developmental options for candidates post CPG depending on results (e.g. red/amber/green rating depending on overall score).

In addition, with a goal of using the opportunity of the promotions process to make a positive impact in development, not simply a pass/fail exercise, the CPG feedback reports for all levels include a page of developmental recommendations, that can be used in conjunction with the Developmental Feedback Sessions with our Psychologists. This process allows candidates to reframe the traditional idea of assessments, instead using it as a springboard to proactively further career development, regardless of assessment outcome.

“Identifying, developing and supporting high-potential staff and aspiring leaders.”With hundreds of results across all levels and different FRS’s we have the data to identify ‘high potential’ candidates for fast-track development. We offer psychometric assessment of leadership, motivation and personality factors with bi-monthly coaching sessions with a Psychologist specialising in leadership to support fast-track development.
“Staff feel frustrated that prospects for developing their career and being promoted are limited.”Using our Leadership Succession Gateway as an alternative to appraisals can be embedded into practice fairly smoothly. Line managers hold a Portfolio Discussion annually where an individual’s Portfolio of evidence of their leadership qualities/ and relevant values and behaviours, is assessed. This discussion will identify career aspiration, development areas and steps to move forward. This can be used to enrich current role or prepare for a career move. The Developmental Coaching sessions are held quarterly to ensure momentum and that an open dialogue is maintained. These sessions are collaborative and supportive. Line managers receive training on a 3-day course to learn Developmental Coaching methods and techniques.
“Most applicants hadn’t been provided with feedback following the promotion process.”CPG candidates receive a comprehensive, personalised feedback report post-assessment, including suggestions for on-going development. They also have the option to have a 45-minute Developmental Feedback Session with one of VCA’s Psychologists.
“Leadership development isn’t available to all staff, and personal development reviews are carried out inconsistently.”The Leadership Succession Gateway, supporting the portfolio and developmental coaching approach standardises personal development reviews and ties it in with promotional activity.
“(FRS)…doesn’t have a clear plan for how it will deal with the large number of staff who are expected to leave the service in the next few years”The CPG is already in use, with 15 different sets of exercises from Crew to Area Manager. Adopting the CPG gives an FRS readiness to evaluate as many or few candidates as required, using a streamlined, efficient existing process which is already benefitting 6 UK FRS’s.

Book an informal conversation with VCA’s Director and Principal Psychologist Hannah Vallance to talk through your needs and options, or book a CPG tour with one of our team so you can see what the systems looks like in practice. Simply send us a message via our ‘Contact Us’ page.