AF&RS committed to improving organisational culture

Recognising and improving the culture of Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) has been a priority for the organisation, following the publication of a Statutory Inspection in July 2017 which challenged elements of the governance and senior leadership of the organisation.

In response to that report, AF&RS took positive action and commissioned The Glass Lift to conduct an independent review into the culture of the Service, with the aim of identifying and addressing themes raised by staff.

The independent cultural review is supporting the organisation’s commitment to investing in staff and improving working conditions to make Avon Fire & Rescue Service stronger and our communities safer.

Chief Fire Officer/Chief Executive Mick Crennell said: “It will not have gone unnoticed that Dr Baker’s report identified key areas to be addressed within Avon Fire & Rescue Service, some of which understandably made for uncomfortable reading.

"As the Chief Fire Officer of Avon Fire & Rescue Service, I was very keen to learn how our staff feel about what it is like to work in the Service.

“The cultural review has helped us in unpicking what staff really think about the organisation. I understand there is no quick fix to this and that changing a culture requires compassion, commitment and ultimately time.

"I am under no illusion that it will take considerable investment in order to resolve the concerns raised in the cultural review. I have taken heed of the comments shared in the review and I am committed to leading the organisation on our improvement journey.

“To ensure the best possible response, the review was independent, non-attributable, and anonymous and we committed to publishing the report to staff before seeing it. I am therefore delighted that over 70% of the Service shared their thoughts, which highlights how engaged staff are. 

“Similar to other emergency services and public sector organisations, the very nature of our business means that we are already operating in difficult working conditions; with increasing operational demands and reduced funding from central Government. That’s why it’s more important than ever staff are able to have their say, feel listened to and are supported.

“Our recent inspection from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has reflected the findings from the cultural review and will be challenging in that respect.

"However, I have been out and about, engaging with and listening to all of our staff groups and so the findings in the HMICFRS inspection report are not a surprise.” 

Chair of the Fire Authority, Cllr Donald Davies said: “The cultural review is just one of the positive steps we have taken to address areas of concern raised in last year’s report. On behalf of the Fire Authority, I announced how as a governing body we will hold the Service to account for the action taken in response to the recommendations published.

"The report caused hurt and frustration across the organisation and engaging staff through the cultural review has been a fundamental step in the healing process.

“Since welcoming the Glass Lift in to work with the organisation, Fire Authority Members, myself included, have been meeting directly with staff to talk about the cultural review and subsequently how we will be responding to what they have had to say.

"We very much see this as an evolving journey and are committed to continuing our engagement with staff going forward.

“I have always been clear that I am very proud of our staff and the service they provide to our local communities to ensure they are safe and feel safe. I know those women and men who make up Avon Fire & Rescue Service are wholly dedicated to delivering a service that our communities have come to expect.

"It’s important however that those people who are keeping our communities safe, themselves feel secure and supported by the organisation they work for. I hope staff can see the commitment being made to understand and tackle their concerns.    

“The Glass Lift is now working with Fire Authority Members with the aim of helping us to better understand our dynamic as a scrutiny body and in making continual improvements to the way we hold the Service to account on behalf of local people.”

Diversity, Inclusion, Cohesion and Equality Manager, Alex Kohnert, said: “Following the publication of our cultural review, we have allocated specific resources to developing a plan of action to improve our culture. We know that cultural change takes a long time to be done right and we are not expecting major changes to happen in the short term.

“All our strategies for cultural change will involve both long and short-term actions – and sometimes the little changes make far more impact to people’s experience than the big ones. There is no ‘one size fits all’ for cultural change, so the structure of any plan or actions will be formed using existing best practice and the advice of other organisations.

“The team working on the plan are meeting with as many staff groups as possible to gather their suggestions for change, as these solutions cannot just be top-down led. It is anticipated that our plan for cultural change will be published early in the New Year.”

You can read a summary of the cultural review here.