Our cultural journey

By Zoe Baker-Powell

Having a positive working environment makes any organisation a happier and more productive place to work.  

When I look back over the 14 years working for Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS), I can see a huge cultural difference from when I joined in 2006 when it was a predominantly white male-dominated workforce with a strong command and control management style.

In 2018, we commissioned an independent cultural review to help us better understand how we work together.  Over 70% of our workforce told us we needed to make some changes.

Analysing the key themes in the cultural review helped us to develop a plan to make AF&RS a better place to work.  There was an immediate commitment from the Chief Fire Officer to give our staff a voice in shaping the future, starting with a new Staff Engagement Network and an invitation to become a ‘cultural advocate’.

I am proud to have been one of the first of over 90 cultural advocates from across the Service and have enjoyed playing my part in moving us forward.  The spirit and commitment shown by my colleagues continue to inspire me.

Organisational values are important because they help inform our thoughts, words and actions and ultimately help how we grow, develop and feel as a Service.

Over the last year, we have been working with colleagues on how to embed a new set of values that had previously been chosen by our staff.

During our conversations, it became apparent that these six words meant different things to different people and we needed to bring them to life somehow.  

After months of staff workshops, we launched a new Values & Behaviour Framework in October 2019 that states what both good and unacceptable behaviour looks like.  

We are currently in the process of redesigning all our work locations and branding so that our staff, visitors and communities understand who we are, what we do and ultimately how we feel as a Service.

The Framework was designed to be the foundation in building our cultural journey and we have further plans that will include:

•    Creating more opportunities for staff from all over the Service to work together
•    Reviewing our recruitment processes
•    Refreshing our policies and processes
•    Investing in our leaders
•    Offering more opportunities for career development
•    Improving our access to mental health and wellbeing support services
•    Bringing in new ways of recognising good work and celebrating success

Cultural change takes time and our journey will continue to evolve.  I am so pleased how far we’ve come together and look forward to the future with much optimism.