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Published: 26 Aug 2016

West Midlands Police, Finalist 2016, The Innovation Award

Key features

  • A good example of an individual employee taking the initiative to reform flexible working for their team to ensure a workable service while meeting staff needs.
  • Proper consultation with the staff involved to restore trust and to discuss their preferred ways of working in detail.
  • The development of an approach for the whole team after years of piecemeal flexibility that was hard to manage.
  • The scheme has had excellent feedback and the expectation is that other departments will replicate the approach.

West Midlands Police is experiencing significant change as objectives are reviewed, demand assessed and the organisation plans resourcing to provide the best possible service for the public they serve. The force is finding ways to balance this imperative with the needs and preferences of employees.

The  Forensic Services Manager understood from the start the value of allowing employees to work as flexibly as possible, with everyone having an equal opportunity, supported by a manager who is fair and transparent. She reviewed flexible working for the whole team, with everyone submitting their preferences at the same time. Her objective was to refresh and design a shift pattern that served the business need but did not create issues for staff in respect of impact on their personal lives.

The  Forensic Services Manager reported five drivers for change. The first of these drivers was an operational requirement: the old pattern did not allow service provision that met Forensic Scene Investigator demand in the early evening. Secondly, there were too few investigators on duty each weekend. Thirdly, there were gaps in the pattern where investigators had left and not been replaced. The fourth driver was a requirement to reduce the number of Forensic Scene Investigators from 53 to 48. And the fifth driver was that many of the investigators disliked the old shift pattern, in particular the run of three consecutive nights.

Initially the Forensic Services Manager met with groups that had volunteered to review their shift pattern. She considered all requests for flexible working, reduction in hours, increase in hours, compressed hours, change in start and finish times and different length shifts. Due to the number of changes imposed upon investigators over the past ten years, there was very little trust in the relationship. The Forensic Services Manager knew she had to evidence her commitment to flexible working in order for the staff to believe in her approach. She developed a preferencing form asking investigators to detail the changes they might need in their work pattern.

Once she received all preferencing forms, the Forensic Services Manager looked at allocating times to suit each individual’s requirements. When looking at approving flexible working, she did this for each day requested and ensured that there were still enough investigators on duty to allow 30 per cent of resource to still book annual leave without taking them below minimum staffing. Any days that she felt unable to accommodate, she went back to the individual concerned and worked out something that suited them both.

Engagement from the Forensic Scene Investigators was ‘fantastic’ and exceeded the team leader’s expectations. As she understood personal circumstances, she was able to overcome barriers, ultimately finding she was able to accommodate every request that came through and received lots of positive feedback.  It is hoped that other managers and departments will now go on to adopt a similar approach.