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Data driven: how one force is using apps to inform HR and learning

Avon and Somerset has received a national award for an initiative that uses technology to keep abreast of how the organisation ?ticks.? Gary Mason reports
Published - 20/10/2020 By - Gary Mason

Getting honest and detailed feedback from staff in any big public sector organisation is not straightforward. There may be cultural and hierarchical barriers in place and the results to a set of static questions may not yield a lot of insight for management on how things could be improved.

March’s nationwide lockdown which resulted in large numbers of police force staff working remotely from home has highlighted the importance of the HR and learning and development function in making sure individuals or whole departments are not feeling ‘siloed’ off or disconnected from organisations that have traditionally worked from fixed offices.

Last month Avon and Somerset Police received a CIPD People Management Award for the best digital initiative. CIPD sets professional standards for HR and people development and says it is the only body in the world that can award Chartered status to individual HR and Learning and Development Professionals,

The force lead for the winning project is Sarika Morrison who says it is directly linked to Avon and Somerset’s HR and learning and development functions.

Over the last three years the force’s business analysts have developed up to 40 different Qlik apps for a range of policing and HR functions.

“As an organisation we want to be very data driven both in terms of policing and our services to the public and internally with our own officers and staff,” she told Police Oracle.  

Sarika’s organisational development department conducts an annual survey of officers and staff. But the results of big staff surveys can be fairly static and basic.

So working with the force’s business analysts they developed a specific Qlik app which allows management to dig down into the survey data in a more detailed and meaningful way to find out what makes the organisation ‘tick’ in every department.

“The survey gives every single member of the organisation a chance to say how the last 12 months have gone for them,” she says. The survey is divided into basic themes – leadership, change management, culture and ethics and wellbeing.

Officers and staff are asked to say what has gone well and what could have been done differently and then the app turns that data into meaningful information which enables management to take action and make improvements where problems are identified.

The CIPD judges were impressed by the way the initiative “puts power in the hands of the users” and how end users can “drill down and slice and dice information at speed, joining dots and connecting different data sources”.

The technology allows the survey team to see more than they would if the results were static. This includes comparing results from different departments and the differences between full time and part time staff. Other equality issues are also flagged up in categories that include neuro-diversity, disability and ethnic minorities.

It has allowed the force to identify particular concerns within a department or among those with protected characteristics. “You can spot trends much more easily if people are feeling not as comfortable or well treated as other colleagues,” says Sakira Morrison. “It is then up to my department in organisational development to look into that in more detail and set up some focus groups to help change that.”  

The survey is completely anonymous in order to try and ensure proper engagement with officers and staff and honest feedback.

“The anonymity is one of the key things for us,” says Sarika. “We need people to really tell us what’s happening without the feeling that they know we know who is giving us those answers.

This is the third year that the force has conducted the survey using the app and the response rate averages out at 50 per cent of the total officer and staff strength which the force says in is line with other large public sector organisations.

“We have seen that level of engagement improve as we have been able to work through the results in a much better and clearer way using the app,” Sarika adds.

The results of the survey are displayed in detail within the app at two levels. Within the basic dashboard everyone who works for Avon and Somerset can see the information and compare departments. As a senior leader level there is a full results app which includes verbatim comments from the survey and other information.  

This year the survey has been slightly delayed by the pandemic but there is extra interest in staff welfare as a large proportion of the force at the start of the lockdown was working from home remotely on laptops.

As a result it has held two scaled down force-wide ‘pulse’ surveys with six or eight questions to gauge how people felt in the first three months of lockdown.

“It was important to make sure that we were communicating properly with all out staff given that they were working in very different ways,” says Sarika. “The beauty of the system is we can find out which teams are feeling in a good place and those that are struggling and put something in place very quickly.”  

How Qlik is helping share data

Avon and Somerset Police now has more than 40 Qlik apps covering almost all of its 'business areas' but the whole process started out in August 2016 as a 12-week proof of concept exercise.

The apps are now used by thousands of staff for a range of policing and management functions. Those stretch from internal management applications aimed at supervisors, to mobile apps.

The Qlik development team is now able to change apps or create whole new ones based on specific data and unique needs.

Qlik is device agnostic so can be loaded onto mobile phones, laptops and tablets.

The force deployed Qlik Sense to visualise data – initially through twelve apps created in a few days for information on officer availability, suspect management and officer objectives. The visuals are prominently displayed on screens, giving staff detailed and accurate information on the live jobs coming in. They are also used as the focal point for police officer briefing sessions.

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