Previously, assessment activities for promotion were measured entirely against behavioural competencies, known in the FRS as the PQAs (Personal Skills and Attributes). The PQAs are a list of attitudes/ behaviours/ values which underpin the effective performance of a firefighter.
Some FRS’s have chosen to move away from using the PQAs. However, the underlying concepts are still relevant, so even if the framework now being used is called ‘values’ or ‘national standards’ or ‘competencies’, the concepts will still be much the same. After all, what is takes to be an excellent firefighter hasn’t fundamentally changed!
Along with changes, in some but not all FRS’s, to the PQAs, are changes to the assessment processes. Some FRS’s have turned their back on the use of the term ‘ADC’ (assessment and development centre). However, most FRS’s are still using a number of different tests and exercises to assess personnel for promotion. It’s just that these tests may now include operational scenarios as well as competency-based ones; knowledge-based tests; and other group or role-play type exercises more typical of an ADC.
For ease, we will use PQAs/ competencies when referring to the criteria used to measure firefighter potential for promotion. These competencies are the core values and priorities of the Fire and Rescue Service, the underlying attitudes and behaviours upon which your performance lies. The technical, procedural and operational skills are layered on top of these foundations.
Assessment activities such as an in-basket or written test, an ADC, a behavioural interview or an application form are all designed to examine the potential you have to progress to the next level of management. This is determined by how well your behaviour matches the standards outlined by the PQA’s.
Where the PQA’s came from
The PQA’s were developed through gathering information from individuals who do the job, or work very closely to it. Examples of effective behaviour were sought from hundreds of fire and rescue service personnel across the UK, which were then used to construct the PQAs, the types of behaviours expected within the fire and rescue service. The PQA framework also contains several examples, known as Behavioural Indicators. These are not the only ways of demonstrating those PQAs, but give you some idea of the types of things which might be effective in showing that PQA.
If your FRS is adding to, or changing the PQAs by incorporating their own competencies or values, you should be given a new framework for behaviours and standards for you to become familiar with. Once you can start to see how these behaviours might be demonstrated in the workplace day to day it will be easier to understand what you will need to demonstrate in assessments.
The PQAs at each level
The PQAs vary slightly at each management level. For instance;
Supervisory Manager Level:
Openness to Change – ‘proactively supports change, adjusting approach to meet changing requirements’.
Strategic Manager Level:
Openness to Change – ‘drives and manages the change process, seeking opportunities to create and implement improved organisational effectiveness’
The differences in definition reflect the responsibilities of the management level, i.e. ‘supports’ as opposed to ‘drives and manages’. At Middle Manger level and above there is an additional PQA – Political & Organisational Awareness.
- Commitment to Diversity and Integrity
- Openness to Change
- Confidence and Resilience
- Working with Others
- Effective Communication
- Commitment to Development
- Problem Solving
- Situational Awareness
- Commitment to Excellence
- Planning and Implementing
- Political and Organisational Awareness (applicable to Middle / Strategic Manager).
New frameworks or guidance documents on organisational standards might include terms like ‘teamwork’ ‘leadership’ ‘decision-making’. Don’t be daunted by any changes; whatever the language used, these lists of skills and behaviours are all trying to do the same thing; guiding you to be an effective in your role and any future roles you aspire to.