Oxfordshire FRS had an innovative plan and asked VCA Ltd to contribute to its design and delivery.

  • Step 1: Develop an alternative to the standard appraisal approach to assessing suitability for career progression

  • Step 2: Design and deliver support for line managers to be able to effectively evaluate the new application for promotion

  • Step 3: Create a process to allow individuals to explore their career aspirations through a supportive, collaborative, developmental conversation with their line manager

  • Step 4: Continue existing use of the CPG for assessing candidate’s performance against the Leadership Quality (LQ) framework of behaviours

  • Step 5: Outline clear next step pathways for candidates after completion of the CPG, to support their onward and continued progression.

  • Step 6: Propose a mechanism for identifying high potential candidates.

The Project

Portfolio Approach (Step 1)

We worked with the client to develop a Portfolio solution. Oxfordshire FRS created the template and supporting guidance for both line managers and applicants, and VCA developed the questions and standardised scoring criteria. Guidance materials clarified the role of the LQs with examples of how these might be demonstrated in practice.

Completing a Portfolio of evidence aligned to the LQ framework gives applicants time to consider the LQs and their own experience in relation to these; it connects their application for promotion more clearly to the criteria assessed at the CPG; it guides them to understand areas where they should seek more experience; it gives them time to prepare for the CPG as they gather their evidence. It also gives line managers the opportunity to understand where there are gaps in an individual’s experience in relation to the LQs, and where there are strengths which may be utilised more fully.

This Portfolio complements the NFCC career conversation approach but also offers consistency with the CPG by seeking LQ based evidence and rating it using a similar scoring framework. This means that the feedback candidates receive at all stages of assessment is consistent, and scoring is consistent which supports performance tracking and reliability studies. A clear framework for scoring encourages candidates to consider evidence in support of their application for promotion, and supports line manager evaluations through the guidelines linking evidence and scores. It’s a mechanism which protects applicants and line mangers in relation to fairness and objectivity.

The Portfolio gives a clear basis for the conversation between the applicant and the line manager. The applicant will fill in a Portfolio of their in-role evidence- it doesn’t need to be too in depth or like an application form because the bulk of the evaluation will be via the discussion. This is where the line manager will use their skills in evaluation, feedback, coaching and development support to create meaningful, collaborative discussion with the applicant.

The Portfolio ticks both the evaluation and development boxes on the NFCC guidance, and the evidence-based scoring guidelines support a robust and reliable method of assessment. The fact that this is conducted during a discussion session meets the needs for transparency and a partnership approach too.

Consultation was sought from internal stakeholders throughout the development of the Portfolio.

Developmental coaching training for line managers (Step 2 & 3)

The career conversation involves juggling a lot of skills for line managers. The Portfolio supports them with some structure around evaluating performance, and the 2-day Developmental Coaching training course was designed to help them navigate this role. The course involves practical sessions on evidence-based assessment, constructive feedback, approaches to positive challenge, identification and use of strengths, and how to generate collaborative and creative development options.

A Motivations and Work Styles psychometric questionnaire was completed by attendees and a feedback session with a Psychologist was delivered prior to the course. This aimed to help line managers understand their own working styles better, and to gain an appreciation of how their preferred approach may differ from those of their team (and how to work around that).

Following completion of the training course, feedback was sought and reflected on. Planned changes for the next stage of the roll-out would be the provision of pre-reading materials for the course and further opportunities for practice and feedback on all the skills being learnt.

The Career Progression Gateway (Step 4)
Oxfordshire FRs will continue to use the Career Progression Gateway (CPG) online Case Study and video Role-play exercises at various management levels. The CPG can be used with grey and green book staff. Pre-assessment support will be in the form of a CPG Preparation e-course, and Developmental Feedback sessions with one of VCA’s Occupational Psychologist Assessors will be offered to candidates.

Next Step Career Conversation (Step 5)
Candidates who reach the pass mark for the CPG would be recommended for a Development Programme; borderline candidates offered development and then to re-sit the CPG exercises they didn’t meet the required standard on; candidates who were unsuccessful on this occasion return to their line manager for a Career Discussion, focusing on next steps and developmental support. The line managers learning on the Developmental Coaching course will again support this process.

Identifying High Potential Candidates (Step 6)
The fact that the CPG has been used by different FRS’s for the last 4 years means we have a wealth of performance data which we can use to signpost to the organisation candidates who would fall into the high-performance category as a next step in the trial. Further validation studies will be done to track progress of these individuals by VCA in collaboration with contributing FRS’s.

The trial is currently on-going with the CPG stage planned for December 2022.

August 2022 – Development of the Portfolio materials and stakeholder consultation
September 2022 – Delivery of the Developmental Coaching course
October/ November 2022 – ‘Introducing the Portfolio’ one to one discussions; Portfolio completion
November 2022– Portfolio discussions with Line Manager assessor; Portfolio evaluations externally quality assured; candidates complete the e-learning course
December 2022 – Group Manager CPG; results; developmental feedback calls
January 2023 – Evaluation of trial via stakeholder consultation and data review