Diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) are becoming exponentially important in UK police promotion interviews and assessments for Sergeant, Inspector and Chief Inspector. In Part 1 of this free series of essays, I explained some of the basic definitions and concepts, discussed why this is important to your police leadership, gave some example interview questions, and outlined the expectations of you as a supervisor and manager. In Part 2, I provided more information on preparatory reading, described some of the controversies, shared further thoughts on inclusive language, and gave more practice interview questions. In this detailed finale, we shall explore the relevance to the CVF, give explanation and examples of reasonable adjustments in promotion, discuss the power of leading by example, and finish with a batch of example DEI interview questions for you to practice and reflect upon.
The CVF: A Supporting Framework for Diversity
“Treating everyone fairly does not mean everyone is treated the same.” – CVF guidance
The College of Policing’s Competency and Values Framework (CVF) can support meaningful and thoughtful preparation. Note that regardless of your force promotion process, Level 2 of the CVF is most often the relevant level for promotion to Sergeant, Inspector and Chief Inspector ranks. However, as I’ve blogged before, Chief Inspector can be seen as the gateway to Superintendent, which in turn is assessed at Level 3.
Effective leadership development includes raising your personal and social awareness, two components of emotional intelligence (EQ), which is a specific CVF competency assessed. Being ‘emotionally aware’ is one indicator of high potential for fast-track candidates. It’s also a highly valued and timeless leadership skill, required to perform effectively in a VUCA policing environment. With that in mind and to paraphrase the College of Policing’s CVF guidance above; Treating people equally, often means supporting them differently.
“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand… then no matter how smart you are, you’re not going to get very far.”– Daniel Goleman
Whilst there are other CVF competencies that could be assessed by DEI-related questions (e.g., ‘We Take Ownership’ or ‘We Are Collaborative’), I believe emotional awareness is generally the best fit… unless of course you have the pleasure of having a bespoke DEI pre-board as Kent Police are trialling! You can see what I mean when you read the CVF behaviour descriptors for yourself. Here are some of them, which is the guidance that interview panels use to assess your interview responses for the competency: ‘We Are Emotionally Aware’…
- Adopting emotionally intelligent behaviours means valuing diversity and difference in approaches to work, in thinking, and in people’s backgrounds.
- We genuinely engage with and listen to others, making efforts to understand needs, perspectives, and concerns. We use these insights to inform our actions and decisions.
- I promote a culture that values diversity and encourages challenge.
- I consider the perspectives of people from a wide range of backgrounds before acting.
- I adapt my style and approach according to the needs of the people I am working with, using my own behaviour to achieve the best outcome.
Of course, you’re not going to simply regurgitate key words or phrases from the descriptors; that could make you sound robotic and unnatural. Instead, you’ll consider carefully exactly how you have demonstrated this behaviour (or would do) as part of meaningful preparation to provide an authentic and enthusiastic response. The descriptors can also be helpful to generate practice interview questions and provoke your thinking and wider reflection, for example:
How have you considered the perspectives of people from different backgrounds when making tough decisions?
Don’t Forget Your Values!
“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” Roy Disney
Whilst the CVF competencies might appear as separate bullet points and even be asked as bespoke questions, it’s helpful to consider them as being intertwined with your force (and your own) ‘values’ which underpin them. The CVF in short, is about values-based promotion and selection. There are massive clues in the behaviour descriptors for promotion candidates looking to prevail in a force promotion selection process. If you treat diversity, equality, and inclusion separately in your preparation for a promotion opportunity, instead of integrating them holistically, it may just come across that way to the panel interviewing you.
Look at the College of Policing’s descriptors and explainer summaries for the 4 CVF values. What you have are solid indicators and expectations of how the organisation wants you to behave as a leader, manager, and supervisor to support and facilitate a healthy culture. Read and reflect on the following, which I’ve picked out (from those for England & Wales and PSNI forces) as some of the most relevant to DEI:
- I am open and responsive to challenge about my actions and words.
- We need to build and maintain confidence with the public, colleagues, and partners if we are to deliver a modern and effective police service
- I enhance the reputation of my organisation and the wider police service through my actions and behaviours
- We are respectful to the needs and concerns of different individuals and groups.
- I seek to understand the needs of others to act in their best interests.
- I tailor my communication to be appropriate and respectful to my audience.
- We are genuine with those we communicate with and endeavour to create trusting relationships.
- I am clear and comprehensive when communicating with others.
- I am open and honest about my areas for development, and I strive to improve.
- I understand that treating everyone fairly does not mean everyone is treated the same.
- I value everyone’s views and opinions by actively listening to understand their perspective.
- We don’t favour one person or group over another, acknowledging that discrimination increases feelings of unfairness and makes our jobs harder to do.
- We must not allow personal feelings, beliefs, or opinions to unfairly influence our actions in any situation.
Police Scotland have tailored the CVF with slightly different values, using instead Integrity, Fairness, Respect, and Human Rights. In the Met Police, it’s different again, with the four CVF values being Integrity, Professionalism, Courage, and Compassion. Whatever variation your force uses, it is important to read the descriptors. The descriptors give clear guidance on the leadership behaviours expected. In this respect, the CVF can clearly support your thinking, especially around potential interview responses and examples of your behaviour, aligned to your ethical leadership…
Reasonable Adjustments for Promotion
“If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” – Proverb
What are ‘Reasonable adjustments’? Often now referred to as ‘workplace adjustments’, these simply refer to changing an aspect of the work environment to help remove or reduce the negative effect of an individual’s protected characteristic. Ultimately, reasonable adjustments are there to remove barriers to people performing at their best.
Reasonable adjustments are most commonly made in relation to disability. They can be put in place to accommodate those with neurodiverse conditions, mental health conditions, or physical disabilities. I recently compiled a video summarising a useful report on workplace adjustments which explains more on some of these issues and facets:
In the context of promotion, it’s not just useful to know about these things as a way you can better lead and support your teams. If there is something you know that can help you perform at your best, why not ask for it? Although employers are legally required to anticipate and consider adjustments for disabilities, the reality is that forces can’t always second guess what might help you. So as the saying goes, if you don’t ask, you don’t get! If you know of something that could help and don’t request this in advance, you may be doing yourself an unnecessary disservice in an already-challenging process. Also bear in mind, you need not have a registered disability to be granted your request.
Here are just some examples of what UK forces have been or may be willing to provide to help promotion candidates perform at their best. Most refer to your interview board, but others can feature in other parts of the assessment process…
Incorporating breaks: This can be particularly helpful for those who might otherwise lose some energy over the course of an arduous assessment or have a neurodiverse condition where some refocusing time would be helpful. It might be a 10-minute break after the initial presentation/briefing, a five-minute break halfway through the interview to help regather your thoughts, or both. Either way, if you know it will help you, then ask!
Interview questions written down: Different people perceive, process and understand the same information differently – all part of our neurodiversity! Some people for example also prefer seeing a question rather than just hearing it (particularly those with hearing impairments). This can help solidify what is being asked in their own mind, while it can also be beneficial if they tend to get into the flow of an answer then forget the question part-way through. And it’s of course very important to answer the question posed!
Interview questions in advance: Some forces are willing to provide the promotion interview questions and/or the briefing scenario a day in advance. This can be a useful adjustment for those who like to think over things and use this to be more mentally prepared
Teams/Zoom or in-person: The government restrictions in response to Covid of 2020 and 2021 have forced more workplace activity online. Whether it’s working from home, the College of Policing moving police recruitment assessments online, and of course many forces holding promotion boards online. However, online interviews don’t suit everyone. It might cause undue anxiety or be a hindrance to those with neurodiverse conditions who rely on social cues. A reasonable adjustment might be allowing the assessment to be face-to-face.
Interpretation: For individuals with hearing impairments, it may be reasonable to request a British Sign Language interpreter. If English is a second language for you, you may find it helpful to request the questions be written down in your first language to better resonate with you and so be better able to answer.
Format of applications: Changes to the format of application forms is a common reasonable adjustment, for example the use of Braille or large print versions for those with visual impairments or changing the background colour of the form to light green/yellow to aid those with dyslexia.
Assessment tests: Assessment tests are often used in the early stages of a promotion process. Conducting the test as a verbal or written exercise may be variations to request as an adjustment. Or you might request a larger font size for computer-based assessments or simply more time to provide your responses.
Time of day: This may seem like a simple request, but people can vary according to when they are at their best and most energetic, in turn therefore will be at their best for an interview or other assessment. Why not ask for a timeslot that suits your daily rhythm?
Ultimately, workplace adjustments must be tailored to meet the needs of each individual. A collaborative approach with your supervisor and/or assessors is often the best way to achieve something bespoke for you. It is also important to request things that will specifically help you, because simply requesting something someone else had for ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out) might not meet your needs, or may even backfire. For example, someone may have received the questions a day in advance to mitigate interview anxiety and ‘question blindness’ in the stressful situation. For others, this approach could be a disaster, causing them to ruminate for hours, worry about what might be meant, or even have a sleepless night overthinking all the different ways they might answer; potentially undoing weeks of preparation and interrupting the ‘on the day’ relaxation and other successful habits for nearer the time.
Will you get what you ask for? The short answer is, if it’s reasonable, it should be granted. Reasonable means that it can be accommodated, it’s not too costly, nor prohibitive to the wider process. Either way, you’ll know that you did all you could to give you the best chance of success. It is of note that forces are currently actively working to make their promotion processes more inclusive, so will in most cases be grateful if they can implement something to help.
There are also things forces can do to be more inclusive in how they run promotion processes more generally. It’s natural that different people will prefer different parts of the process. One example might be ensuring questions are inclusive to those with autistic traits. For example, rather than asking candidates the boobytrap question of “What’s your leadership style?”, ask more specifically what you are really getting at: “How do you adapt your leadership style on a daily basis?”. Independent Advisory Groups and other various staff support groups can all give helpful support and guidance (including to you as a leader!). But these are issues for another blog!Positive action refers to a wider range of measures to help individuals overcome or minimise disadvantages relating to their protected characteristic. They are important for employers and leaders (you) alike, for improving the inclusion and progression of individuals in policing. This notion is covered extensively elsewhere and could be a separate blog, so I will leave it with you to research for yourself. Do not confuse positive action as many do, with the (unlawful) notion of “positive discrimination”. For example, the following ruling where Cheshire Police were found to have discriminated against an individual; there’s nothing positive about it!
“While positive action can be used to boost diversity, it should only be applied to distinguish between candidates who were all equally well qualified for a role.”
If you didn’t know any of this, there’s a great quote by John Wooden that comes to mind:
“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”
Knowing This Stuff Will Get You Higher Scores!
“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” – Verna Myers
DEI is clearly a key strategic focus for UK policing at present. Given this importance to public confidence, wider organisational trust and fairness, DEI questions are often given a higher ‘weighting’ than other interview questions. This is when specific questions attract a potentially higher mark in an interview scoring process, because they have a higher multiplier. For example, a maximum score of 5 for a DEI question can be given a multiplier of 3 (5 x 3 = 15).
Other questions carry the same maximum score of 5 but a multiplier of 2 or 1. Whilst candidates will not know about this or if it is being used, it is helpful to appreciate the concept because it means you must prepare as though all questions are scored equally! Weighting questions also helps panels decide who gets promoted and who doesn’t in cases where more candidates meet the standard than vacancies available, or where a cut off mark or line needs to be drawn.
It is fair to say as an observation from my experience of delivering promotion masterclasses, one to one coach/mentor support and speaking with aspiring promotion candidates that many would benefit significantly from raising their personal awareness around DEI generally and specifically. In other words, it’s a valuable component of effective promotion preparation covered in my bespoke downloadable toolkits. Here’s a testimony from a recent successful Inspector candidate, Zoe, on just how important effective preparation can be around these issues and the support available to help:
“I just wanted to say a big thank you for all your help, guidance and support. Not only did you get me through my Sergeant board 5 years ago, I got the call today to say I passed my Inspector board. Your videos over lockdown and after were brilliant, in setting everything out clearly to me around the CVF. I watched every video more than once. I bought your promotion guides, which again helped settle me and make me believe I could do it. Your phone call to me put me at ease that I was on the right track with my evidence and your advice to calm down speak at half pace worked. No amount of thanks will ever be enough, and I would highly recommend anyone seeking promotion to watch your videos, download all the free products and look at what is good for them. To have that belief in myself, confidence e.g. I was able to remember your ethics video, which supported me in the Diversity, Ethics and Inclusion board as well as the board.”
The SHOCKING Power of Leading by Example…
“Two heads are better than one” is a well-known turn of phrase for effective problem-solving. It alludes to avoiding the singular mindset, which Matthew Syed argues against. The diversity and inclusion of wide-ranging teams is an effective way to collaborate between the variety of views, experiences and ideas that individuals can bring to the table. Think again about the CVF: We Are Collaborative and consider the following ‘rear-facing’ practice promotion question:
“When have you led collaboration with others to help the force overcome a challenge?”
Or maybe consider this ‘forward-facing’ question which could relate to the CVF behaviour, ‘We Deliver, Support and Inspire’:
“How will you build trust with and inspire your team to deliver effective policing?”
The example you set for others may also be more powerful than you think. The Milgram (1963) experiments are well-known studies into the psychology of blind obedience to authority figures. A quick recap of the key findings: 65% of participants would override their personal conscience and give what they believed to be a potentially fatal electric shock to strangers (actors), simply because they were being obedient to the instructions of the experimenter, an ‘authority figure’.
What most people don’t know however is that Milgram ran many variations of this research. One demonstrated that when participants observed another ‘participant’ (stooge) obeying the experimenter’s instructions, their own obedience to provide the maximum voltage increased to 90%. However, when they saw the other ‘participant’ disobey and instead do the right thing by refusing to electrocute the stranger, this reduced to just 10%.
In a policing context, this alludes to the importance of leading by example and a reminder of the shocking power that your personal good example and demonstration of integrity can have on others in your team.
More Example DEI Interview Questions
To finish these essays on diversity, equality and inclusion, I’ll leave you with some practice interview questions to help you start putting these ideas into practice:
- How would you support a team member on maternity leave back to work?
- How will you expect your team to behave in your absence?
- What will you do personally to ensure everyone feels included?
- As an aspiring leader, how important is diversity and inclusion to you?
- What value do you believe diversity offers for policing?
- What will you do to empower your team?
- When have you tackled discrimination or inappropriate behaviour in the workplace?
- What will you do to promote diversity and inclusion as a Sergeant / Inspector / Chief Inspector?
- How are you incorporating diversity, equality and inclusion into your CPD?
To finish this blog series and remaining on the theme of leading by example and integrity, I’ll leave you with this final question:
“How do you want your teams to behave in your absence?”
Kind Regards, Steve
(Update 07/11/21: Video summary of this blog series now available for your enjoyment. Please like and share with others to help bring everyone up to speed on these issues.)
If you found this blog helpful, you can hit the ground running with your promotion preparation. Get your personal digital promotion toolkit, attend or download my Police Promotion Masterclass, or contact me to arrange personal coaching support. If you first want to explore completely free content, I have a collection of videos, eGuides, a podcast, plus free blog content both here and via my Police Hour guest articles.