Can You Learn to Love the CVF?
“The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, And all the sweet serenity of books.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
If you aim for promotion to a substantive Sergeant or Inspector position in the police service, you’ll need to discover what it is about you that you can mobilise in a leadership context. One important aspect is reading available guidance, especially your force promotion assessment framework. Any evidence you have which supports the case for you to be promoted must relate to specific behaviours. These behaviours are described in your force promotion assessment frameworks.
In this blog, I wanted to share some food for thought around the topic of promotion frameworks and provide some pointers for aspiring candidates. For Police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (PSNI) the College of Policing’s Competency and Values Framework (CVF) is the assessment tool used for promotions, recruitment and other selection processes. I encourage promotion candidates to learn to love the CVF, because in my experience of helping officers achieve promotions, it is not unusual to learn that many who attempt a promotion selection process do so with a very rudimentary understanding of the CVF. This in turn prevents them realising their potential, as they cannot articulate their experience and behaviours in the context to the assessment criteria.
“It’s what you read when you don’t have to, that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” – Oscar Wilde
A Lonely Stranger
“I do desire we may be better strangers.” – William Shakespeare
Unappreciated, misunderstood and with little chance of being liked, the CVF is akin to a lonely stranger. Few candidates want more than a passing acquaintance with it. How do I know this? Well, one of the questions I often ask my coaching clients is: “What do you know about the CVF?” As an invitation to share how much (or little) is known about the framework, it’s a good place to start a conversation and offers a useful snapshot of a candidate’s state of readiness.
After being unsuccessful in promotion selection, officers are understandably disappointed, confused and sometimes angry. When the short-term sting of disappointment has worn off and they slot back into a growth mindset, being asked what they know about the CVF can be a lightbulb moment, albeit not always a welcome one! In an instant, they recognise that despite having prepared for their promotion opportunity, they know very little about how they were going to be assessed. If you haven’t done your homework, it’s hard to talk about the CVF even for just a couple of minutes, recalling the associated competencies or values. Responses to the question often highlight room for improvement and indicate a place to begin again.
This is one of the main reasons I created a FREE digital guide and workbook for police promotion candidates (‘Police Promotion Frameworks Made Easy’), to provide a starting place in translating the behaviours and creating some thinking space to align your experience to the competencies.
“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play them better than anyone else.” – Albert Einstein.
I am generally in agreement that there is no perfect promotion selection process, nor has there ever been. I have encountered particularly fierce advocates who invest their valuable time and energy arguing against whichever promotion selection process is in place in their force. That energy is better channelled into becoming more familiar with the CVF, or more precisely how your force has tailored it locally (yes, it happens). In my experience, successful candidates are those who focus on prevailing within, not fighting against, the incumbent process. For the foreseeable future the CVF is the guidance to work within. Note that Police Scotland use the Policing Professional Framework (PPF), which you can also view in my free guide.
I know that having just passed the NPPF Sergeant or Inspector exam, the last thing candidates want to do is switch into study mode again, especially when the subject matter is a promotion assessment framework. However, a hard-won exam pass is of little value by itself. It’s simply your entry ticket to the next stage, it needs to be converted and the CVF can help.
A Bridge Too Far?
“I love biting off more than I can chew and then figuring it out.” – Jordan Peele
If you have a promotion opportunity ahead, don’t put off the opportunity you have today to download the College of Policing’s CVF guidance to familiarise yourself.
On first impression at a whopping eighteen pages, it may seem that you have bitten off more than you can chew. However, taking time to distil some key points will pay dividends. Learning to love the CVF might be a bridge too far, but the framework and accompanying guidance contain the keys to unlocking your potential in a promotion process. Here are three reasons to learn to love the CVF:
- It is jam packed with golden nuggets of information.
- It describes what ‘good’ looks like and raises your awareness.
- It provides guidance to align your evidence for promotion applications, expressions of interest and interviews.
Interpreting the CVF can easily become over-complicated, so it’s worth reading in bite size chunks. Start from the beginning, make notes and focus on the values and competencies (aka ‘behaviours’) at Level Two. Level Two is what Sergeant to Chief Inspector ranks are assessed at, so review the descriptors for these behaviours and figure out how your evidence aligns to them.
If you want to see how I have translated/interpreted it and want a prompt to help align your evidence, here’s a reminder of that FREE downloadable guide link…
The CVF in a nutshell
“Honey, I shrunk the framework!”- Steve Cooper
Aim to keep things as simple as possible… but no simpler! I encourage candidates to think of and describe the CVF in nutshell first. It helps as a snapshot and to build a quick understanding. There are just 3 ‘Levels’, 6 ‘Competencies’ and 4 ‘Values’.
To develop that closer close relationship with the CVF, here’s some food for thought:
- What is your best example against each competency?
- Which level will you be assessed at?
- How have you demonstrated the 4 values?
The ‘CVF in a nutshell’ is a start, but it’s essential to read all the guidance you can lay your hands on. You can then break it down, think it through, draft any evidence you may have and reflect upon it to make it meaningful to you. However as lots of unsuccessful candidates discover, this critical aspect of effective preparation can take time.
Here’s how things usually go: A promotion selection process is announced. The great majority of aspiring candidates react ‘on the hoof’ to the starting gun; filled with good intentions yet unprepared beyond seeking prior rumours of a board process. Now it has materialised, exciting times! However, a sudden blast of effort to compile a competency-based written application, essentially describing ‘why you should be promoted now’, is unlikely to hit the mark. Estrangement from the CVF equates to an inability to ‘get up to speed’ in the allotted time.
An open goal exists right now for any aspiring promotion candidate who aims to be match-fit. Familiarising yourself with, maybe even learning to love, the CVF now will give you a great head start. It might even prompt you to start writing down and organising your evidence before the next process is announced. That’s it, in a nutshell!
A Deeper Dive
“Go as far as you can see… when you get there you will always be able to see farther.” – Zig Ziglar
Of course the more you work with your assessment framework, the more tends to ‘materialise’ as you develop and clarify your understanding. Here’s a more in-depth visual interpretation of the CVF; a deeper dive if you like. In this image, things are built ‘from the ground up’. You can see the Code of Ethics provides a solid foundation stone.
The four CVF values, transparency, integrity, public service and impartiality, serve as supporting columns. The six CVF competencies (behaviours!) take centre stage as the main structure. In the graphic, you can see that I’ve also linked each CVF behaviour to the closely related ‘personal qualities’ from the PPF used previously, which many officers may be familiar with. I encourage candidates to look at the PPF as part of their promotion preparation to provide a greater depth to competency-based preparation.
Three behaviour groups (referred to by the College as ‘clusters’) have been translated to something more meaningful in the left hand column. These are merely a way the CoP simply groups and themes the more-important competencies together. Finally, the right-hand column summarises guidance for pulling together your draft examples against each behaviour, with a reminder to focus on Level 2. You’ll find this in the free guide alluded to.
So there you have it, if you learn to love the CVF, it may just love you back. At the very least you’ll develop a closer relationship and who knows where things might go from there…
If you found this blog helpful, you can hit the ground running with your promotion preparation. Get your personal digital promotion toolkit, attend my Police Promotion Masterclass or contact me to arrange personal coaching support. If you first want to explore completely free content, I have a bunch of free guides plus free blog content both here on my Rank Success Blog and via my Police Hour articles.