How do you achieve fast track police promotion? You adopt a fast track mindset. Whether or not you aspire to progress on the College of Policing Fast Track talent management scheme within UK policing (particularly England and Wales forces), I outline in this blog the things that all police promotion candidates can learn from the scheme.

“Exploit your talents, skills and strengths, make the world sit up and take notice. No one can discover you until you do.” – Rob Liano

What is the National Police Fast Track Programme?

Talent management is about identifying, developing and retaining individuals who have high potential for the future, often for senior levels of the organisation. The police Fast Track programme is for serving officers at the rank of Constable in England and Wales forces. It is overseen by the College of Policing (COP) and supports the most talented UK police constables through an accelerated police promotion scheme. The scheme enables and supports successful candidates to progress to the ranks of Sergeant and then Inspector within just two years. The overall aim of Fast Track is to engage and support individuals with leadership potential to reach at least the rank of Superintendent during their service.

Whether or not you aspire to progress on this high-pressure talent management scheme within policing, as a police promotion candidate there is much you can learn from the scheme to advance your chance of promotion success. There’s a detailed overview of the fast track programme available for aspiring officers wanting to start preparing ahead of opportunity. With similar timing each year, the next application window opens in October 2022. The National Fast Track Assessment Centre then takes place in the following March.

In their guidance documentation, the College are specifically looking for talented constables with leadership potential who will:

  • Bring new perspectives, diversity of thought and backgrounds,
  • Support the continuous development of policing, and
  • Have a positive impact on the management and culture of the service
Sergeant promotion toolkit

How do I Apply for Fast Track Police Promotion?

”The only impossible journey is the one you never begin.” – Tony Robbins

So how do you apply for this Fast Track promotion scheme? For those who do apply, selection is tough, robust and competitive. Serving constables interested in applying should first read the candidate guide.

The first formal stage of this fast track programme is the national police application form, which requires candidates to demonstrate evidence of the behaviours aligned with the Competency and Values Framework (CVF). As candidates aspire to at least Superintendent rank, it is slightly different in that you will be assessed at Level 3 of the CVF (feel free to contact me for support and coaching). You will be asked a mix of rear-facing and forward-facing questions. Taking a strategic perspective is imperative for CVF Level 3 assessment. It will also be helpful for you draft a personal statement, since it will be asking questions I pose in my recent personal statement blogs along the lines of, ‘Why you? Why now?’

Candidates will then face local in-force selection tests, for example interviews and a presentation/briefing. This is all before being recommended and put forward by their force to attend the final competitive step, the National Assessment Centre.

Successful candidates from the National Assessment Centre are offered a place on the fast track programme by their force. They will then undertake a two-year intensive leadership development programme, subject to a satisfactory pass at the National Police Promotion Framework (NPPF) Step Two Legal Examination. That’s a massive local and national effort for someone to study for and pass this rigorous selection process! Still interested? Then read on for more insights to your high potential…

What Is High Potential?

“People rarely travel far enough along the path of development to realise their full potential.“ – Sir Tom Whitmore

College High Potential scheme for fast track police promotion
College of Policing ‘Indicators of High Potential’

High potential describes individuals with the innate skills and motivation necessary to help lead an organisation to a better future. High potential individuals aspire to assume more responsibilities and are rigorously absorbed with their work, sharing certain characteristics including aspiration, ability and engagement. Those who possess high potential are sometimes described as ‘rising stars’.

The challenge for policing, as with all other organisations, is to engage, retain, and develop people with high potential, or otherwise risk losing them. The police fast track programme is therefore designed to do just that. Accordingly, the initial focus of the fast track scheme is on potential not performance. And high potential isn’t just limited to those seeking the fast track method, which is why Rank Success exists to support those battling through the mainstream police promotion processes.

The high potential development tool is useful document for all promotion candidates. Particularly so if you are eligible to apply for the fast track programme and have the relevant skills. It is natural to have questions before deciding if the scheme is right for you and these may include:

What is high potential? How do I know if I have it? Where can I get guidance?

Either way, it provides all police promotion candidates a different way of looking at some of the CVF competencies, by indicating the desired leadership skills sought in those with ‘high potential’.

The High Potential Development Tool outlines ‘indicators of high potential’. These include emotional intelligence and broader thinking and awareness. Aspiring promotion candidates to Sergeant, Inspector and beyond can align their skills and abilities against these descriptors as part of a self-assessment exercise. The infographic above is from the fast track high potential development tool. It summarises the criteria of high potential into three areas:

Cognitive Capacity

Leadership and Communication

Personal Drive

The tool now includes space to consider your own strengths and weaknesses. Aligning yourself with these descriptors and completing the development tool as part of your preparation will help you decide whether the fast track programme is for you.

Fast Track Success: Case Studies

”If you aspire to great things, it’s going to be hard. But it’s supposed to be hard.“ – Gary Vaynerchuck

Police officers aspiring to promotion need different levels and methods of support. For example, some may start by downloading a digital promotion toolkit and/or attending or downloading my comprehensive promotion Masterclass, from which they are able to hit the ground running and they can take it from there. Others may seek additional one to one support prior to a promotion opportunity, a deeper dive to explore specific skills and/or to build confidence. I also offer a bespoke fast-track service for those seeking more extensive support over a 3-month period.

My aim in all these is to challenge, support and respectfully provoke your thinking on achieving promotion. The whole topic of promotion and selection can be demystified for police promotion candidates, to the extent that some constables see the fast track programme in a new light! Occasionally that ‘penny drops’ during a masterclass and individuals leave with enhanced ambitions.

”Some people dream of success, while others wake up every morning and work hard at it.“ – Wayne Huizenga

In my experience of helping police officers achieve promotion success,they work hard for it. Those who attempt the fast track process tend to back themselves. In gambling terms, they are ‘all in’. They may not have everything worked out yet or be able to see all the steps ahead, but are happy to work without certainty or guarantees. A growth mindset is usually evident with previous setbacks or failure featuring in their development path. They are not afraid to take a risk, but want to mitigate the risk of failure by seeking support to raise awareness, close knowledge gaps and boost confidence. Paying for support is seen more as an investment in personal growth, development, and the increased salary that comes with promotion.

I am personally inspired by every individual who attempts the fast track programme. It is a significant challenge and comes with no guarantees. I take my hat off to every officer who succeeds. For any officer interested in applying, I thought I would share some feedback below in the form of ‘fast track case studies’. These give you an idea of the depth and breadth of preparation that fast track candidates commit to and an insight into the journey. I also shared some insights around each officer’s success…

Sergeant Inspector promotion guide

Case Study 1: A Strange Beast

Police promotion is a strange beast

”You can act to change your life; the process is its own reward.“ – Amelia Earhart

Client Feedback:

“Police promotion is a strange beast and it doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done, it’s about being able to tackle this beast. Once you’d helped me get my head round that, my approach was my victory. I felt completely different and my mind in a new different place. Your help has been vital to my success. I’m over the moon to report that having dipped the Sergeant interview twice, I’ve only gone and nailed the force fast-track interview! I passed all five competency areas. I also passed the College of Policing fast track process. Just 6 candidates from my force passed… from 165 original applicants! I am incredibly proud of myself and grateful for your support to help me realise my dreams.”  

INSIGHT: After two unsuccessful sergeant boards, this officer attended a promotion masterclass, leaving the class “feeling completely different and with my mind in a new different place”, even with the intent to apply for the fast track scheme! This mindset shift is a good start, but what I encourage every attendee to then do is kick into massive learning mode. Ultimately this means incorporating specific materials, aides and mnemonics to help structure wider preparation. This officer used such tools to develop and implement a plan (part of my bespoke Inspector’s role mnemonic!), then maintained momentum over the following months. We kept in touch via email and phone to discuss progress around the in-force selection process. A one-to-one session over Skype some weeks ahead of the National Assessment Centre supported final refinements to the officer’s approach.

Case Study 2: Working Smarter, Not Harder

”Effort is useful, but focused effort makes the impact.”

Client Feedback:

“I just wanted to say a huge thank you. I heard today I have successfully earned a place on the fast track PC to Inspector scheme. This was wholly due to me working smarter not harder, thanks to the combination of your extremely informative application guides, blogs and excellent promotion workshop. I particularly enjoyed your perseverance blog; I have been there when attempting to progress laterally.

The guides helped clarify what was actually required of me for each rank and to develop my presentation skills – an area of significant dread, but even less than the crippling fear of having nothing to say at my interviews! I will no doubt use your materials and approach again during my challenging programme to achieve promotion to Inspector. Your comments and positive outlook really resonated with me.I am very happy to report successeven though this is my first time applying!”  

INSIGHT: I first met this officer at my Rank Success Promotion Masterclass: What Works. However, the officer had ‘met’ me before! This was through reading my free police promotion blogs and purchasing a digital promotion toolkit. These informed the decision to book onto a Masterclass. It is evident that a lot value and clarity was acquired, which in turn helped in focusing effort around knowledge gaps. Such gaps included the Sergeant and Inspector role, presentation skills, and interview preparation. Clearly, this supported the officer’s wider approach in successfully converting leadership aspiration into fast track success. Understanding exactly where to focus effort, made the difference to succeeding first time.

Promotion support for inspectors and sergeants
Hit the bullseye with this unique product:

Case Study 3: Back to the Drawing Board

”Let’s go invent tomorrow instead of worrying about what happened yesterday.“ – Steve Jobs

Client Feedback:

“For a long time, I struggled with interviews; I didn’t know how to get the right amount of detail in my answers whilst managing my time. Interviews had turned into my nemesis. The more I worried about them the worse I performed. As a result, I failed my Sergeants promotion board. I promised myself that I wouldn’t let it happen again. I went back to the drawing board and targeted my areas for development, I decided to apply for Fast Track to really test my skills and abilities – to be honest I never expected to get through paper sift stage.

I found Steve online and got in touch via email, he was very prompt in his reply and said he was more than happy to help me with my Fast Track development. We agreed what I’d like to get out of the session beforehand. I wanted to be put on the spot, asked some difficult questions and I wanted Steve to be honest with where I was and how I could improve. A week later we had an online coaching session. This was the first time I have done this kind of coaching. We went through introductions and then some Sergeant and Inspector level questions. Steve provided detailed feedback for each response I gave. It was reassuring that I was better than I thought. 

It really helped doing a ‘dry run’ with someone that didn’t know me and could give objective feedback about my strengths and weaknesses. Steve was very knowledgeable, and his experience shone through. After the session he kept in touch and sent me articles and information that would help in my preparation, this was unexpected and showed his commitment. The coaching undoubtedly made the difference as I came out top of the in-force Fast Track assessment centre. I passed a competency-based interview, followed by an interview with Chief Officers. I was selected as one of only two people to attend the College of Policing (COP) for the Fast Track Assessment.”

I then completed the COP assessment… Major difference this time: I felt comfortable and confident going into my interview component. I was reassured I had done the right preparation and targeted the right areas. My responses were detailed, to the point and within the strict time limits. I know that it was my best interview to date, a steady improvement in an area that troubled me for years! Using career coaching is a great way to benchmark yourself and work on sticking points in your development – it has really helped me. Using Steve was a no-brainer because of his skills and experience. Worth every penny and the personal commitment Steve gives goes above and beyond.”

INSIGHT: Two of the hardest things to handle in life are success and failure; both are intrinsic to police promotion. Mindset is a very important element. For those with a growth mindset, it’s no surprise that they want to maximise their potential. The fast track programme offers a fantastic leadership development opportunity, but it is not for the faint hearted. It takes drive, energy, enthusiasm, all of which this individual had. However, confidence starts with insights about your limits. In this case the perceived limitation, the person’s “Nemesis”, was interviews.

Coaches are sometimes described as a ‘thinking partner’. Clarifying that there is no easy way to develop interview skills was important. It takes time and practice to hone ability; so ‘thinking through’ responses, practicing structure, content and timings was our focus. Heightened confidence was the outcome. This was clearly applied at the right time. Being the best that you can be when it matters, is what counts. It worked this time.

Closing Thoughts for Success

Success jumping

“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.“ – William Shakespeare

Though each constable was successful on their first attempt at the National Police Fast Track Programme, each of them alludes to previous setbacks or failures in their previous development attempts. They’ve got grit and I’m personally inspired by what they achieved, just to earn a place on the starting line. They set their sights high and stepped outside their comfort zone, which is where real personal growth happens, then remained there for months with no guarantee of success.

Staying focused on the goal of fast track success meant working around shifts, on days off, or generally when they didn’t feel like it to maintain effort. They deserve the career progression opportunities and rewards that come with achieving success on the fast track programme. Renowned psychologist Angela Duckworth puts it this way:

“Talent counts, but effort counts twice.” – Angela Duckworth

Kind Regards, Steve

Author’s Note: A prior version of this post was first published in May 2020, as part of the additional free written content I provide for cops on the popular police news site, Police Hour.

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. For more completely free, no-strings content, I have a collection of videos, eGuides, a podcast, plus more free blog content via my Police Hour guest articles.

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