Fire Knowledge Network
Fire Knowledge Network
The Fire Knowledge Network is a comprehensive, integrated support network for senior fire professionals. Our network of fire specialists offers expert guidance across the full range of fire sector disciplines, from leadership and governance to cyber-security and risk management.
The executive level leadership consultancy is designed to help fire and rescue services meet performance demands outlined in the recent tranche of HMI reports, deliver a full range of services including pre and post-inspection support, technical guidance and advice, executive leadership development, political leadership development and independent audit and review.
The Fire Knowledge Network is supported by a wider portfolio including FIRE magazine, events and webinars, books and online resources.
Giving back to improve professional practice
Editor Andrew Lynch reports on the Fire Knowledge Network providing expert guidance to fire and rescue services on executive recruitment
“Humanity, humility and humour” was the reflexive response I gave to Firefighter Pete Wakefield when asked “what three components make a great leader?” in one of a series of rapid-fire questions on The Fire Fighters Podcast (thefirefighterspodcast.buzzsprout.com).
The response was instantaneous because I had just been talking about the legacy of CFO Paul Fuller CBE (see obituary on pg 6) and had been discussing his famous attributes for engaging, enthralling and inspiring in equal measure: he projected humanity, humility and humour in abundance. As a close friend and colleague for many years I had the opportunity to learn from his exuberant approach to life and leadership and benefitted from his advice and mentoring across many different forums, including the Fire Sector Federation, The Fire Fighters Charity and of course, the magazine.
Indeed, as Editor of FIRE magazine I have benefitted greatly from advice, support, coaching and mentoring from all areas of the fire sector for decades including from numerous chief officers, union leaders, senior civil servants, government ministers, industry chief executives and, just as crucially, frontline emergency responders. It has been a great privilege to access such insight and knowledge and that in turn has given me the opportunity to give back to the sector through the likes of chairing The Fire Fighters Charity.
It would be therefore somewhat remiss if I did not work towards broadening such opportunities and use the network at the magazine’s disposal. FIRE magazine publisher, Fire Knowledge, is utilisting a mixture of experienced, well-informed directors and serving personnel in contributing to our vision of helping to maintain the UK’s position as a world-leader in the fire and rescue sector. This ethos underpins our mission to make a significant contribution to the body of knowledge and expertise that will keep the UK at the cutting-edge of professional practice in the fire and rescue sector.
We will achieve our mission by:
- Publishing material in FIRE magazine that enables readers to keep abreast of current affairs and leading professional practice in the sector
- Using FIRE magazine to introduce new thinking and ideas into the sector
- Running events that bring stakeholders together to consider topical issues, challenge current thinking, explore new ideas and, in doing so, shape the direction of the sector
- Delivering training courses that support those in the fire and rescue sector to continuously develop their professional practice
- Facilitating access to high-quality consultancy services that will provide the capacity and expertise needed to achieve efficient, effective and sustainable improvement for organisations and in the professional practice of individuals.
It is with this experience and insight that Fire Knowledge is approaching senior recruitment in the fire and rescue sector, as explored by former Chief Fire Officer and Chief Fire and Rescue Advisor, Andy Fry.
Sourcing outstanding leaders in fire and rescue
Fire Knowledge Director Andy Fry reports on the leadership challenge of meeting unprecedented demand with a supply of outstanding leaders
Since leaving Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service four years ago and starting work as a consultant, I have regularly been engaged to assist fire authorities in recruitment processes for senior roles.
During that time, I have seen the executive recruitment market become increasingly difficult – particularly where authority members are keen to attract high quality applicants from other services or sectors beyond fire and rescue.
Whilst it is essential for workforce planning strategies to focus on developing home grown talent to support effective succession planning, it is equally important for senior leadership roles to be competed for by external applicants. Striking an appropriate balance between leadership continuity on the one hand, and the periodic introduction of new and diverse thinking on the other, is a centrally important ingredient in building high-performing senior leadership teams.
So, even with the best will, and most effective internal talent development processes in the world, it will still become necessary at times and, in my view, non-negotiably important for authorities to attract high quality external applicants who can compete on a level playing field when senior vacancies become available. Achieving this, however, has become far from easy and requires genuine commitment, focus and open-mindedness, along with proactive recruitment campaigns and comprehensive selection processes.
From my experience, there are various reasons why this is now the case:
- The sheer number of strategic managers retiring from fire and rescue services is progressively and significantly shrinking the pool of those within the sector who have the necessary knowledge, skills and experience to take on senior roles
- For those who do have the necessary attributes, it has become a candidates’ market, resulting in people being less inclined to pursue opportunities outside their own services, unless they consider them to represent a really strong ‘fit’ – both with professional aspirations and personal circumstances
- High-potential senior officers who are relatively early in their careers are reticent to take on the demands of the most senior roles for fear that doing so will place them in a high-pressure environment for many years, and destabilise their work/life balance
- The financial disincentive associated with significant tax charges being generated for those on the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme, when they receive pay rises on promotion to senior positions
- For potential applicants from outside the sector, a perception that ‘glass walls’ have been erected in the way opportunities are advertised and selection processes constructed.
As a result, if you are serious about opening opportunities up to external candidates, it is no longer a sensible option to simply advertise positions on the NFCC website, expecting that doing so will generate a strong field of candidates. Chief officers and fire authority members are increasingly recognising the need to take a far more sophisticated approach. Whether managing senior recruitment in-house, or engaging the support of independent specialists, this should involve a number of sequential steps:
- Producing a Role Profile and Person Specification that meets the specific needs of the service
- Developing and advertising the employment package such that it presents as an appealing proposition for as diverse-a-group of candidates as possible
- Designing and delivering a selection process that will gather rich evidence about the suitability of candidates in an inclusive way
- People who really understand the fire and rescue landscape proactively identifying and engaging with potentially suitable applicants who may be interested in the post, to enable them to assess the strength of their ‘fit’ from as well-informed-a-position as possible
- Putting in place post-appointment support, to ‘match’ successful candidates with appropriate mentors and/or coaches and other professional development opportunities.
At a time when it is arguably more important than ever to have senior roles occupied by really high-calibre individuals, the fire and rescue sector is wrestling with the challenge of meeting unprecedented demand with a supply of outstanding leaders. In order to meet this challenge and take advantage of opportunities to increase diversity when doing so, an emphasis on attracting talent from beyond organisational and sector boundaries has to become a strategic talent management priority for all fire and rescue services.