Winners 2023

Best leadership communications

Ask the Chief - Live
Kent Police

With almost 7,000 employees, including 4,200 officers, Kent Police is responsible for policing more than 1,400 square miles that comprise the South East county. But its approach to leadership communications, while innovative at launch, now appeared dated, and required a rethink.

Colleagues formerly emailed a question to the Chief Constable and would receive a response in due course. The answers were also published on the staff intranet in the interests of transparency.

But there was no urgency in this approach. And with new younger colleagues entering the force, who had different expectations of leadership communications, there was a need to shake things up.

The appointment of new chief constable, Tim Smith, in December 2022, which coincided with national surveys suggesting police morale was low, provided a perfect opportunity to launch a new way of doing things.

Using Office 365 technologies and a new Yammer community, which ensured direct and unfiltered contact, the communications team planned its first Ask the Chief – Live broadcast. The initiative was promoted on the intranet, which also offered colleagues, who due to the 24/7 nature of policing would be unable to attend the hour-long broadcast, the chance to submit questions in advance.

Both the chief constable and his deputy, Peter Ayling, who was also new to the role, participated. Questions submitted earlier were tackled first, to both kick off the event and to demonstrate to the audience how the system worked. 

More than 500 colleagues joined the inaugural event and, all told, 24 questions were answered. Fears that the event would be swamped with complaints about an upcoming restructuring of the force proved unwarranted. 

The event has since been viewed more than 1,600 times since it was uploaded to the intranet, and all questions that were not answered in the hour have since received a response.

This transparent approach was also welcomed by colleagues, who had never previously had the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with the chief constable. 

Such was its success, that the event will now be a quarterly fixture in Kent Police’s calendar. 

The judges described it as a ‘thoughtful, more interactive revamp of dialogue between the boss and staff’, adding: ‘It was a great initiative from a force that needed