Chapter 3 – Identifying Learning Needs
98. It is considered standard practice in any business organisation that training or learning and development functions should feed into each other in a cyclical way so that learning needs are being continually considered, addressed and evaluated. The diagram below illustrates this proposition.
99. The key elements are -
1. Establishing the necessary skills, knowledge and attitudes of the workforce or parts of the workforce and how they might be addressed by training and other learning interventions.
2. The design of the packages of training or learning events which will fulfil those requirements.
3. Delivery of the training possibly by a variety of methods - 'blended learning' to meet a variety of individual learning styles.
4. Evaluation to ensure that what was delivered meets the needs of the workforce in terms of timing, content, delivery method and any other relevant aspects.
100. In this chapter the first of these processes - learning needs analysis - is examined.
101. For core areas of operational work the first step in identifying learning needs is ascertaining current skills and knowledge against expected standards of operation or current policy/practice guidance. By their very nature these standards or policies are under constant review and training needs must constantly react to those changes. Vocational training courses should meet the needs identified in this way.
102. For development of staff, particularly in relation to management and leadership roles, identification of generic skills, attitudes, attributes of leaders and managers is required as well as identification of specific knowledge and skills required by managers and leaders in Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. Even where staff show no ambition to progress up the career ladder it is recognised in personnel circles that investment in developing the full potential of staff can bring benefits to an organisation.
103. There are a number of ways in which learning needs could be identified in the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service:
104. In respect of individual training and personal development requirements, staff within the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service are expected to identify their needs in consultation with their managers during the Performance Appraisal interview.
105. These needs or requirements are recorded in a 'Personal Development Plan' ( PDP) which, according to performance appraisal guidance, should be copied to Learning and Development Division.
106. It was evident from our staff questionnaire that not all staff completed a Personal Development Plan. 28 out of the 59 (47%) who responded advised that they had submitted a personal development plan to their line manager. Clearly some people were not aware of this document.
"I had difficulty finding this on the intranet." (Q14, 59)
"I know what I am required to do and plan this out myself." (Q14, 48)
"Have never had one of these. Always discuss at appraisal." (Q14, 26)
"We do have informal chats about training needs." (Q14, 34)
"Just informal discussions as the moment." (Q14, 12)
107. We were advised that there was no system in place to analyse or take action to address issues identified in those Personal Development Plan forms that were completed and forwarded to Learning and Development Division and these were simply filed.
108. The Head of Learning and Development would prefer that instead of individual learning plans being forwarded to Learning and Development these should be combined into a matrix by each Area submitting them so as to provide a clearer view of the needs of the Service. A proposal to this effect was taken to the Corporate Issues Sub Group in April 2010 but has not received agreement at the time of our inspection.
109. The information contained in these forms may be of varying relevance to Learning and Development Division. On one hand if all Personal Development Plans were submitted at a time before budget and planning meetings for Learning and Development took place they could usefully inform Learning and Development of the anticipated needs of the service on a corporate level. The need for a new course/package of measures could also be identified in this way by reference to trends in requests in Personal Development Plans.
110. On the other hand much of the information contained in these Personal Development Plans might be better used by local managers who plan area wide, office wide or team/discipline based training. This information seems to bypass these managers at present in most Areas. Only two Area responses indicated that they referred to personal development plans completed during the annual appraisal process in identifying training needs for their Area. One District Fiscal with responsibility for legal training for his Area told us that he did not see Personal Development Plans for his staff but thought they would be a useful resource for focussed planning for local training events.
Recommendation - That the completion of Personal Development Plans is monitored for compliance and a clear delivery route for such plans is devised so that on completion the information contained in these documents is shared locally and nationally to inform managers and Learning and Development Division of the needs and aspirations of the workforce in a timely way.
111. With a new piece of legislation or a new IT system the training needs will be informed by what is contained in the legislation or what features of the new IT system need to be understood.
112. With regard to new major projects/changes in the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, learning needs should be identified as part of the formal project management process. These learning needs are considered by Learning and Development Division where trainers apply their expertise in producing a learning needs analysis and thereafter designing a package to suit the needs identified.
113. We were told that whilst previously training was perhaps a secondary consideration we have seen in the course of this inspection that training and learning considerations are now being addressed in the very early stages of new projects. The process by which this is carried out is by way of project management by Strategy and Delivery Division with Corporate Issues Sub Group deciding on priorities.
114. We followed the progress of the project for implementing the provisions of the Sexual Offences Act, examining the training needs analysis for this legislation and its translation into a package of training and learning interventions. We also looked at early planning for the Phoenix project. ( Chapter 5)
115. Portfolio Owners play an important part in this process and for new projects have been involved as course sponsors. However some portfolio owners are sponsors of courses offered at Learning and Development Division but this is not the case for all training courses. Many of the core legal courses on offer in the Scottish Prosecution College come within the ambit of various portfolios and it would seem appropriate to use this structure as an additional tool in identifying not only new learning needs but also gaps in current provision.
Recommendation - That Learning and Development engage with portfolio owners (or by liaison at forum level where a forum has been set up to look at the portfolio work processes) to obtain meaningful contributions to review current training course materials and to identify gaps where a new course might be appropriate. Where it is not clear, Learning and Development should clarify the identity of the course sponsor for each course on the prospectus.
Engagement with Stakeholders
116. In each of the 11 geographical Areas of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service there is consideration on an Area basis of what the staff training requirements might be. The Learning and Development Division manager attends regular Area Business Manager meetings to obtain first hand information from Area Business Managers about training needs from areas. The Legal Training Manager (Principal Depute) does not attend Area Fiscal meetings but does confirm ongoing communication on regular basis with Area Fiscals. (Although we have previously stated that the Director of HR does attend Area Procurator Fiscal meetings and cascades relevant information to Learning and Development Division)
117. We sought to obtain an understanding of how each Area identified what training might be appropriate for their own Area to organise and to what extent they used the services of Learning and Development. Some Areas have dedicated area training committees while others prefer to organise themselves in terms of teams and identify training needs on the basis of the work of that team. The responses were very mixed and showed that approach and practices around the country differed considerably. There was a lack of consistency in the way Areas considered their training needs and the extent to which they would address these at local level and the extent to which they looked to central Learning and Development Division to address them.
118. Apart from the geographical areas in the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service we also canvassed from the heads of specialist units in both operational and corporate function spheres details of their own training events. It was clear from the responses we received that learning needs were specialised. Some related to specific Continuing Professional Development or professional body requirements, whilst others related to legislative changes which impacted only on their work, or were in response to recommendations in previous inspections. Whilst Learning and Development Division could offer general training in Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service practices and policies, learning needs were otherwise addressed by courses or events run by external providers or by internal events designed specifically to address those highly specialised needs.
119. In the context of working with stakeholders to identify learning needs, we looked at the role of the Learning and Development Steering Group. This group is chaired by the Head of Learning and Development and its membership comprises representatives of five of the 11 Areas, along with representatives from Crown Office Operations, Information Systems Division ( ISD) and trade unions.
120. We attended one meeting as observers and were given access to the minutes of group meetings from its inception in March 2009. The minutes tend to show that while there was discussion about what was ongoing in Learning and Development there appeared to be little information brought to the group by Area representatives in terms of identifying learning needs. One member conceded that they did not fully understand their role in attending the meeting. One suggestion to us in the course of this inspection was that a representative from the Victim Information and Advice team on the Group might be appropriate and given the commitment to victims in the Strategic Plan this may have some merit.
Recommendation - That membership, remit, aims and objectives of the Learning and Development Division Steering Group are reviewed for effectiveness.
121. As illustrated in the diagram at the start of this chapter the results of evaluation ought to contribute to future identification of learning needs. We describe in greater detail later in this report how evaluation as a process is currently carried out and its shortcomings.
122. The current extent of evaluation of courses comprises a questionnaire to delegates at the end of the course. Such a questionnaire is designed to obtain an instant reaction to the learning experience from the delegate only. Some but not all courses do carry out some check of learning during the course by a range of methods, but there is no follow up to check that the course has resulted in changed behaviour or improved skill at the workplace. The involvement of feedback from both managers and delegates about how they were able to use the training and any matters they consider could usefully have been covered in the course are essential to ongoing review. In this way evaluation can and should be used to identify remaining or newly identified training gaps to be addressed with new courses or revised existing courses.
Recommendation - That results of evaluation of courses are used to inform learning needs analysis for future courses or review of existing materials and that such evaluation is carried out with reference to views from both delegates and line managers during follow up after the course rather than the instant reaction information currently used. (See also Results - Chapter 11.)
Summary Case Audit
123. A new formal process for auditing aspects of core summary legal work was introduced in 2009 although it has been suspended due to other work priorities for some of 2010. The audit covers a range of work by legal and administrative staff carrying out the preparation of summary cases. Although it is for each Area to carry out this monitoring exercise, Strategy and Delivery Division have an overview of this work and sample the findings. We suggest that in carrying out this type of audit training issues will be identified. Some may be local training issues but others may have national implications. Areas and Strategy and Delivery Division should ensure that issues identified as a result of this exercise are communicated to the appropriate portfolio owner who in turn should consider in conjunction with Learning and Development what training adjustments may be required.
Recommendation - That a system should be put in place to ensure where the new summary case audit process highlights training implications this is communicated to portfolio owners and Learning and Development as required.
Independent Inspectorate Reports
124. Since its inception the Inspectorate has published a number of thematic reports as well as District and Area Reports. Many of these contain recommendations concerning provision of training and we found evidence in some course sampling of some of these being implemented.
Views of Staff
125. While there is broad acknowledgement within the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service that Learning and Development Division has increased and continues to increase provision of training on a wide range of topics there remain some gaps in provision. The responses that we obtained during our inspection from individuals and from Area teams indicate that there is some room for improvement.
126. In Chapter 5 we provide an overview of what is available on the prospectus of learning and Development Division. In our questionnaire to staff we asked if there were any topics that staff would like to see covered on the curriculum that do not currently feature. 16 (or 27%) responded in the affirmative. A range of topics were suggested. Some are already covered in courses currently on the prospectus suggesting a lack of awareness of what is offered -
"For new deputes/trainees - charge drafting." (Q8, 49)
"Time management would be of help to some staff." (Q8, 30)
"Dealing with difficult conversations, although, I understand they are looking to provide such a course." (Q8, 33)
127. A number of people suggested topics such as basic health, safety and fire training and IT courses in Word, Excel, and Outlook. Whilst these do not regularly feature on the prospectus the IT courses could be offered by Learning and Development Division given sufficient numbers.
128. One legal manager thought it would be useful to have some short 'how to' sessions on topics like complaints against the police cases, and procedural matters such as -
"Schedule 8 docquets, mental health proofs, civil recovery, extending time bars." (Q8, 25)
129. Another commented -
"There are many topics which could usefully be covered eg in complex areas of crime where specialist knowledge and training would be useful eg e-crime, surveillance/ RIPSA, complex telephony evidence etc but it is appreciated that Learning and Development cannot cover everything and in my view their programme of training has effectively prioritised the most pressing of training needs." (Q8, 16)
130. When asked if the courses on offer met needs in fulfilling their current job responsibilities, 53 (or 90%) out of the 59 who replied thought that they did.
"This has improved greatly over the past year with the introduction of more courses aimed at new Precognition Officers." (Q9, 1)
"There is a wide and varied list of training courses." (Q9, 30)
131. Some of the comments indicating possible gaps:
"Generally courses are too low level and are not sufficiently geared towards stretching and developing experienced staff." (Q9, 47)
"There is a lack of management type courses for more senior managers - this type of learning tends to come from the National School of Government or other external sources." (Q9, 55)
132. Our questionnaire also asked if courses on offer met development needs of staff. 50 (or 85%) out of the 59 agreed that they did.
Again some of the comments indicating possible gaps:
"Would be if there were appropriate courses. (High Court Unit)" (Q10, 41)
"Personally yes, but think most stuff is tailored for legal, precognition or management - not very much for admin/ PA/messenger staff." (Q10, 55)
133. Specific topics raised by Area responses included:
"Problem solving courses for admin staff and more short courses for line managers on how to get the best out of their staff."
"For admin staff, training around key roles such as productions and cashier."
"Staff feel that a specific training package for 'on-call' Deputes would assist."
"More e-learning packages could be provided to cover all aspects of admin work and the processing of a case."
134. One reply from a specialist unit in Crown Office raised some suggestions for topics that would be of interest across the Service -
"Courses on the general aspects of the precognition process and on developments in practice in Sheriff and High Court cases, expert evidence, technical evidence and the use of technology in investigations and presentation of cases would all be relevant and helpful."
135. We learned that when the Scottish Prosecution College first opened the trainers discussed what training gaps there were from the limited prospectus of the former Training Division and set about producing materials to fill these gaps. There is no doubt that the current courses are at least to some extent meeting the needs of the service but due to the lack of meaningful evaluation carried out we cannot be satisfied to what extent the current range of courses and the current content and delivery of course meets the needs of the Service.
136. Part of the aims of the current Learning and Development Strategy is to map learning and development to competency frameworks for defined roles in the Service. This will be dependent on the work being carried out at the moment to define more clearly the career paths for different roles. As a result of this body of work we would expect to see a prospectus with clearer options for those at each level and grade.
137. We have outlined the various means by which the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service tries to identify training needs and develop the required training or other learning options to address these needs.
138. In particular the role of line managers is crucial in ensuring that training needs are properly identified and, if met, are delivered in a timely and effective way. This is especially so in relation to their role in identifying individual training needs and completing (and submitting) Personal Development Plans and in contributing to (higher level) evaluation. Individuals all have a responsibility in this connection also.
139. New corporate training projects have identified course sponsors and this ensures that learning needs are properly identified from an operational viewpoint. This arrangement would be of benefit to all courses and not just new courses in development and would thus ensure continuous operational input in terms of review.
140. The results of case audits and the additional value of external scrutiny by the Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland should not be underestimated in providing further contribution to the assessment of learning needs.