@wecops – what is it and why is so needed?

I have recently been lucky enough to become involved in @wecops an engagement forum for officers. This is my take on what it is and why it is so vital!

“Employee engagement is a workplace approach designed to ensure that employees are committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success and are able, at the same time, to enhance their own sense of well-being”

@wecops…… what this all about!!!

Austerity, cuts, fiscal climate – the impact on police officers themselves, police numbers, retention, workload and demand has, quite rightly, been wildly debated. Austerity has, however, offered an opportunity for police forces to consider ‘difference’, organisational change, doing things differently, creative working and listening to innovative ideas from the workforce.

BUT… there are some problems – and these are just 3:

1: Historically, the police have not been very good at effective communication with the frontline. There are some fabulous leaders out there that just get this right but there is a wealth of research available to suggest that generally staff engagement is just not that great!

2: There are certain things present and it seems persistent within the police culture that inhibit innovation / ideas / reflection / critical thinking and change. Prescriptive frames and working rules can deter officers from throwing themselves outside of the norm and trying something different. Conformity of what is always done is compounded by this and officers feel restricted to try.

3: Internal staff engagement surveys can reveal interesting and more importantly, actionable findings. So why did I hear all the time from officers when I worked in the MPS as a researcher ‘why do they bother with this survey – they never make any changes based on what we tell them – it doesn’t change anything’. Engagement is not enough – leaders need to listen, involve and include frontline ideas in change and furthermore, value what staff are saying.

Organisational justice literature, which is widely promoted by the College of Policing, is something I have blogged about before. I am a very strong believer in involving staff in reform and change programmes and the positive outcomes of this are widely proven. It seems paradoxical that organisations and leaders are much more likely to have happy staff who support organisational goals if they properly engage with them and yet all the evidence suggests they don’t (or at least not well).

The idea of #oldbillrebuilt was developed by @nathanconstable and @dedicatedpeeler this year. It has successfully offered a space for officers to blog about new ideas and culminated in an incredibly successful TEDX event in Leeds earlier this year. It offered the audience some reasons for why change and listening to staff is critical and indeed positive examples of innovation in the workplace that has promoted change.

@Wecops is a new concept, building on the @wenurses idea, it seeks to crowd source knowledge and ideas and to encourage officers to engage in debate about subject areas of their choice. The purpose being that they offer thoughts, ideas and examples of workplace practice that can be shared to others where relevant. It is early days but so far support seems strong both from frontline staff and a number of senior leaders across the country.

The most important issue for those involved in developing this concept is that this is owned by, contributed to and developed by frontline officers themselves. Hopefully those actually doing the job. The first on line discussion last week was promising and indicated to us viewing it and gathering ideas that there are officers out there that are keen to get involved, offer ideas and try new things. It is just perhaps that they are rarely asked. There are also of course those that remain cynical about the concept – it won’t achieve anything, here we go again and what’s the point are comments that ring true for some.

Do you know what, I am not a cop (and cannot therefore properly say I am a legitimate member of the ‘wecop’ community. But I do care about policing – I am an academic lucky enough to be involved in this learning arena and also lucky enough to be involved in this exciting project. I believe in it, I believe in frontline voice and more importantly I think there is no better place to get ideas about policing, changing practice and the reality of everyday working from those actually doing the job. This is probably why nearly all of the research I have conducted into this fascinating world utilised methods that involve talking to people – real people doing the job. Who else is better placed to tell me about the context of their work. Interestingly the issues of embedding research into operational practice in the context of policing involves very similar issues to those inhibiting change and reform. A brilliant policing academic, Jenny Fleming, discusses this regularly based on her experience of police research. Unless officers are involved in it, their voices heard and considered in both the research itself and the implementation process they are not likely to buy into it – and we all know the issues with implementation failure and why that happens!

So this concept must not just be about chats and debate. The news last week that (for the moment) cuts are held to police budgets, must not stop this opportunity to make changes. It might be good to jump into the vast abyss of unknown chaos. To be bold and try non-conformity for a while. This will involve leaders being brave, trusting their staff and letting them have a stake in these changes. Additionally we, as a team, exploring and developing @wecops for the immediate future, need to properly review the weekly debates, pick up on the right things that officers and others want to discuss and explore the options for trying new ideas. This will include effectively considering how we implement, review and evaluate them in the best way we can. Luckily my university have been forthcoming with offers of help with this and I hope over time others will too.

I hope you will get involved with this concept, spread the word, look at @wenurses and how it works and give it some time. The people giving up their time to try and make it a success need contributions, ideas and discussion from YOU more than anything. It is exciting and innovative in itself to think about this forum having a positive impact on staff engagement, listening and utilising ideas from the frontline – the most important line. Furthermore, the official drive to properly explore the changes impacting on the police and policing at the moment seems limited. If we don’t know about what these changes are and the reality of them it becomes very hard if not impossible to gather information on what is being done about them – what practices are officers trying in an attempt to deal with them? There is only one group of people that can tell us that and that’s them!! Let’s start getting people on board and both hearing and recognising their ‘mastery’!

The next discussion is on Wednesday December 2nd at 9pm on Twitter about mental health and policing – this will feature @mentalhealthcop

Please follow @wecops on Twitter

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