No one joins the fire service to write reports. But knowing how to draft and present information vital for planning and decision-making is a skill that firefighters need as they progress their careers into management.
It’s rarely a skill that comes naturally, yet for years new managers were expected to know how to do it or just pick it up as they went along, despite not ever having learned it at school or work.
So in response to demand from the managers, WYFRS decided to tackle the situation. They teamed up with Teresa Cook, a trainer specialising in communications and business writing, to provide training in writing reports and business cases.
Since 2011, over one hundred WYRFS employees, including Area, Group, Station and Crew Commanders and Managers and operations support staff have benefited from one and two day writing workshops. The workshops cover essential writing techniques, including how to get started on a report and include all the information you need, avoid waffle, eliminate unnecessary jargon and gobbledegook and write clearly and concisely using Plain English techniques. Participants also had the chance to compare and contrast examples of writing from within the service and published reports such as ‘The Knight Report’. Crucially, Teresa also provided coaching support and feedback when they wrote reports after the course, which helped managers to put the new skills into practice.
There are now also self-study guides and back-up materials and resources on the intranet including a ‘style guide’ with key information for writers, including areas of grammar and punctuation many people are unsure of, such as where exactly you should stick that apostrophe.
Feedback from the training and the return on investment have been excellent. “The most useful management course I’ve ever been on”, said one participant, while many others said it made report writing less stressful and time consuming. Management and media and corporate services staff report less support and editing is needed from them and Fire Authority members get better quality reports. The courses are now run at least once a year for newly promoted managers who have been identified as needing to learn report writing skills during the annual promotion process.
For more info contact Teresa on 0113 268 0487 firstname.lastname@example.org
or Steve Rhodes, ACO or Julie St John, Workforce Development Manager, West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service 01274 473880.