Staff training & development

1. Introduction

It is recognised that the effectiveness and efficiency of any organisation depends, to a large extent, on the skills and competence of its staff resource.  It is therefore prudent for organisations to implement a strategy for staff development which provides training and knowledge to its employees, from recruitment through their career to the end of employment and retirement (Life-long Learning).  A staff development strategy should include elements which detail the policies, procedures and processes designed to enhance the knowledge, skill, competence and attitude of all staff.

The strategy must cover not only the development needs of the individual, but should also recognise the staff resource as a single entity, therefore providing focus on this resource and the management of resilience and succession planning of the workforce.

2. Training and development policy

The training and development policy should define that staff development and training is an integral part of an organisation’s strategic planning.  This is so that all members of staff can perform their current roles effectively and be further developed toward promotion opportunities, in doing so ensuring that the organisation meets its’ strategic objectives.

Samples and templates of training policies are available from various HR companies, and can be used as a basis on which to develop an organisation’s policy.  However, the development of the policy and procedures will benefit from the input of both the management and employee representatives of the organisation.

The main elements of the policy should include:

  • Key objectives
  • Staff appraisals
  • Training plan
  • Management/organisational responsibilities
  • Departmental responsibilities
  • Employee responsibilities
  • Policy Implementation
  • Health and safety
  • Equality and diversity statement
  • Succession planning (if not a separate document)
  • Funding and financial responsibility

3. Recruitment

Provision of a competent and skilled workforce begins at recruitment, if the organisation is to support and develop lifelong learning within its staff, the input from recruitment must be robustly managed.  The example process at ‘Appendix A’ provides one possible format for recruitment. The process conforms to the process module of the EN ISO 9001:2008 Quality Standard and includes the Plan, Do, Check, Act principles.  Each stage of the Training and Development strategy can be broken down into similar processes if required, with the output of each process becoming the input to the next.

The process flow at ‘Appendix A’ is self-explanatory however, key procedures are worthy of note separately:

  • Review of the Job Description and Person Specification for the vacant position.  Due to the ever changing demands and workloads of an organisation, the roles individuals are required to undertaken can differ from their original job description.  Therefore regular reviews and updating of Job descriptions should be undertaken at least every three years, after significant role change and before recruitment. Input into the revision of Job Descriptions and Person Specifications should be gathered from the line manager, the post holder and leaver’s interviews.
  • Leaver’s interviews or exit questionnaires are an important source of information about the job, organisation and efficiency of the operation.  The purpose of the interviews and questionnaires is to identify the reasons why staff leave and discover any issues and problems there may be.  An effective exit interview process will also help to improve staff retention, monitor the recruitment and selection process and identify where improvements can be made.
  • Departmental/organisational structure must be considered when any post is recruited for.  The line responsibilities, grading and job role of one post will have an effect on other posts within the structure.  It is important therefore to ensure that the Job description review of a post is not looked at in isolation. Some considerations in this process will cover; is the post required?  Are line responsibilities appropriate?  Is there resilience in the team?  Are there sufficient transferable skills without excessive duplication?
  • Application short list and selection interviews must follow an auditable process which provides an equitable and fair outcome.  Applications must be assessed by two or more panel members independently and marked against selection criteria.  The independent scores must be correlated to provide a table of applicants showing those most suitable and those less suitable for the post.  An appropriate number of individuals can be interviewed depending on the nature of the position and the resources available.

4. Induction

An effective process of staff induction into an organisation is essential for the effective and efficient application of staff resources.  Every organisation, large or small, should have a well-considered induction programme.  However, planning an appropriate and cost-effective induction package can be a complicated task.  The induction programme has to provide all the information that new employees and others need at an appropriate time without being overwhelming or diverting them from the essential process of integration into a team.

The length and nature of the induction process depends on the complexity of the job and the background of the new employee.  Although there will be common information required for different posts an off the shelf standard induction regime for all employees will not suffice.  The retention of staff and improved integration will be achieved if the induction of each role is considered on an individual basis

The main elements of the induction should include, but not be limited to:

  • Introduction to work environment, facilities, welfare and emergency procedures.
  • Introduction to work colleagues, team colleagues, line managers/supervisors and other departments.
  • Health and safety induction including first aid, COSHH, risk assessments, hazard reporting and site specific issues.
  • Explanation of terms and conditions
  • Employee responsibilities.
  • Sources of assistance and information.
  • Organisational structure, history, direction, values and objectives

5. Training needs

5.1 Analysis and Skills Gap

Each job role within the organisation should have a required competence and skill set detailed as a separate document or as part of the person specification.

For example, a vehicle technician skill set and competence requirement might include:

  • Indentured apprenticeship
  • IRTEC certification
  • Manual handling awareness
  • Manufacturer specific training
  • VOSA vehicle inspection course
  • Diagnostics including vehicle electrical systems

A role may then be split further into specialisms, for example Vehicle technician (aerial ladder) in which case the base technician’s criteria would be extended to include for example:

  • Aerial Ladder Platform (ALP) general service certificate
  • ALP operator’s course
  • ALP Diagnostics course
  • The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) inspection course

An employee’s individual training record and qualification history should be kept on file and updated following new training received or new competence and experience accrued. A process to identify and schedule ongoing certification renewal should be in place. A skills and competence gap analysis can then be carried out at the annual appraisal.

5.2 Staff appraisals

Carrying out annual staff appraisals is essential in order that the staffing resource of the organisation is matched to the organisational objectives and the individual’s development needs.  However, this should not be seen as a tick box exercise, for appraisals to be effective and worthwhile full commitment from managers and staff is required and should be encouraged.  Planning and preparation is therefore essential so that there are no surprises at the discussion, staff should not see the appraisal as a time when they will either hear that they have performed well or they will be reprimanded; appraisals are not part of the disciplinary process.  It is best practice therefore if appraisal of staff performance and training needs are an ongoing process throughout the year with the formal appraisal meeting being an opportunity to discuss training, development, performance and objective setting.

The Human Resources Department will usually have guidance and offer support on the appraisal process including templates for appraisal forms alternatively software packages and forms are available on the internet which provide a scoring or performance rating system as well as data capture and development plan tracking if required.  The main elements of appraisals should include:

  • Preparation by both parties – managers will schedule and structure the process with consideration of the individual’s performance and role requirements and the employee will prepare a list of discussion issues or prepare an appraisal form.
  • Review of the objectives set at the previous appraisal and the outcomes.
  • Successes achieved during the year and what made them so
  • A subjective method of performance rating – this can be difficult to accommodate but must be as simple as possible to enhance understanding and scrutiny.
  • Workloads and responsibilities – have individual’s or organisation’s expectations of the role changed? Is the role aligned to the present needs of the organisation?
  • The working environment and team – the good and not so good, ways of improving
  • Objective setting for the next period and review dates.
  • Training and development planning.
  • Summary and agreement of outcomes.

The outcome of the appraisal must provide value by identifying any required change in role, performance, competence or environment. To complete an appraisal with “no change required” and “see you next year” is ineffective and will not maintain the continuous improvement ethos of the organisation and will at worst de-motivate staff. Employees and Managers should leave the appraisals feeling good and engaged in their own development.

6. Training provision and competence improvement

The ongoing appraisal system, the implementation of new equipment or an asset, and changes to legislation are just a few of the drivers which will inform the training and development needs of the department and or organisation.  Unfortunately in most organisations funding will be a limiting factor on the amount of training that can be undertaken in any one year.  It is essential therefore that a prioritised training plan is prepared, which will provide a fair and equitable plan for the development of all staff within budgetary limitations.

Training provision should provide value for money and lead to improvement of knowledge, but competence will only improve if the training and knowledge obtained is used in the work place.  Therefore having a post training plan and feedback processes will provide a checking mechanism by which to judge the effectiveness of training and training providers.

This can be achieved through various methods dependent on the training provided, examples could be:

  • End of training competence tests or examination
  • Post training interviews
  • Post training evaluation forms and trainer feed back
  • Training review forms at 3 or 6 months after provision
  • Tool box talks
  • Attendee presentations to work colleagues on learning outcomes
  • Objective setting or project pieces
  • Performance monitoring
  • Cost measurement of processes

Where budget or specialism limits the availability of training, enhanced competence of staff and transfer of knowledge can be provided through mentoring, either directly with team members or specialists from other departments, external sources, HR and or training departments will be able to assist with this.

Consideration should be made for incorporating training and product awareness with the procurement of new vehicle or equipment assets

7. Succession planning

The business continuity plans and risk registers of the organisation will identify the need for resilience in the vehicle and equipment repair provider, whether through an in-house facility or external company.  This resilience needs to extend beyond the short and medium terms to provide a plan to continue the effective maintenance and running of the vehicle and equipment fleet into the future.

The skills shortage within the vehicle repair industry has been well documented and is not likely to improve over the coming years as technicians currently employed reach retirement age.  Therefore a strategy for ensuring that skills, knowledge and competence is maintained through all levels of the organisation is essential.  This strategy must include a succession plan (which may be included in the training and development plan) where by each level or role within the structure is assessed for its potential impact on the objectives of the organisation should the post become vacant.  Where the skills required for the post cannot be readily obtained from the market place a risk to resilience exists, any lack of resilience must be addressed.

Good practice to address succession planning will of course include commitment to the retention of staff and the processes detailed in the proceeding paragraphs are all aimed at retaining a loyal and productive staff with a low employee attrition rate.

Commitment to staff development and succession planning are issues addressed in both the EN ISO 9001:2008 Quality Assurance and the Investors in People standards. These two auditable standards can provide the structure and procedures required to ensure that the human resource of the organisation is well managed and resilient.

Areas for consideration in the succession plans include:

  • An organisational structure with clearly defined line responsibilities and hierarchy to show development lines.
  • Job descriptions and person specifications – which provide details of duties, skills and links between roles.
  • Plans for coverage of leave absence, sickness or training in order that potential future candidates for promotion have the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience of future roles
  • Broad job role description to allow for multi skilling of individuals
  • Recruitment, induction and training and development processes
  • Part time or flexible working patterns, including job sharing where appropriate
  • Training of apprentices to key roles
  • Up skilling of staff to incorporate skills and knowledge to the next level of development in preparedness for opportunities which may arise

8. Apprenticeships

NFCC recognised the need for succession planning and the skills shortage and have identified external providers who supply apprenticeship schemes specifically aimed at the fire industry.  Details of current apprenticeship initiatives can be obtained from the CFOA TOG training representative.

Where local commercial vehicle training is provided some Fire and Rescue Services have been able to utilise the local providers for apprentice training and details can be obtain from local FE institutions if required.

9. Qualifications

As detailed in Section 6, the competence, training and professional development of staff have been identified as a key area for future work by CFOA TOG.  Although it would be difficult to provide a one size fits all list of qualifications to suit roles with a fleet maintenance structure the following have been supported and are recommended for vehicle technicians within FRS:

  • NVQ level 3 or above in motor vehicle studies
  • Membership of the Institute of Road Transport Engineers (IRTE) or similar professional body.
  • IRTEC licensing for commercial vehicle technicians
  • Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) Automotive Technician  Accreditation (ATA)  licensing for Light vehicle technicians
  • VOSA Fire service vehicle inspection certificate.
  • Registration with the Engineering Council (EC)

The development and competence of supervisory and management staff is an area which will be further developed by CFOA TOG in liaison with the IRTE/IMI and other appropriate bodies in the near future.  However, it is recommended that the “competent person” in terms of the Fire Fleet operation should have as a minimum:

  • CPC (certificate of professional competence) or equivalent qualification in transport management.
  • Staff management and development
  • Health and safety (managing safely or higher) qualifications.
  • Financial and budgetary.

10. Summary

In summary, it is clear that effective management of the human resource of the organisation is vital to its success and longevity.  It follows therefore that a structured approached to staff development through an individual’s career from recruitment through training to promotion will be beneficial and cost effective and lead to enhanced performance.