Still no succession plan in fire service

| 07/02/2018 | 44 Comments

(CNS): Two years after the current fire chief was drafted into Cayman from the UK, with the remit of sorting out the succession planning and talent management to pave the way for a local senior fire officer to take over the top job, there is still no succession plan in place. A multitude of problems have been revealed in a review of the Cayman Islands Fire Service, which was conducted by consultants and published Wednesday. Firefighters are still experiencing low morale and are very distrustful of management, where five out of the six senior posts are held by people acting in the job on a rotating basis.

Officials have confirmed that PricewaterhouseCoopers was paid CI$84,000 to conduct the review that included a survey of the firefighters, in which 60% of them took part. The consultants found that the CIFS still does not have any succession planning as part of its human capital strategy.

“The lack of such a strategy is one of the factors inhibiting the current vacancies from being filled,” the review stated. “This will clearly be compounded as the aging workforce issue also comes to fruition. A succession plan is crucial to managing recruitment, retention and engagement in the service, avoiding future gaps and creating a robust training and development framework.”

It is not clear why no progress has been made on such a critical issue in the service, which had caused enormous controversy before the appointment of David Hails – the first non-Caymanian chief fire officer since the 1950s. At the time he was recruited both Premier Alden McLaughlin and Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said that succession planning was the new CFO’s main goal.

But the review by PwC found that not only is there no talent management in place or any succession plans but there are also dozens of important vacancies and the majority of senior jobs are being filled by employees on an acting, rotating basis. This means that firefighters are promoted and demoted into the positions, causing significant problems with morale in one of the most dangerous jobs on the islands.

One critical post which illustrates the continued failure in the service to address the issue of succession planning into the top jobs is the vacancy for a deputy CFO for the domestic arm of the service. According to the consultants, no Caymanian is qualified to fill even that job, and it is not clear if anyone has even begun training for the post, which would be a stepping stone to becoming CFO.

“Whilst several employees would be willing to apply for the role, they need specific coaching and training in order to be effective,” PwC said in the review. “It is the recommendation that an external mentor be bought in to this role on a temporary basis whilst those that apply for the role be screened and put on a specific training and development path into this role.”

In the survey conducted by the consultants to support their review, PwC found that a “large percentage of the responses expressed concern over the lack of succession planning”, though the number was not specified.

Although the service has historically appointed from within, the review found that as standards have increased over the years, the lack of training and development in the service has created a skills and talent gap, with few individuals having the required qualifications needed to progress in a modern fire service.

PwC also said staff raised concerns over time delays, promotion boards, conflicts of interest and favouritism. “Many are asking for a transparent and consistent process combined with a clear development plan,” the review found.

PwC warned that the placement of staff in acting roles was happening too often and for too long.

“They are a ‘band aid’ to a bigger issue and should only be used in short-term situations when absolutely necessary,” the report found, adding that the frequent need to place people in acting positions is another reflection of the failure to implement a succession plan. The consultants said this was leading to discord among officers and allegations of victimization when an officer returns to their normal duties.

The acting positions at the top of the service are held by different members of staff on a rotational basis. “This causes a lack of stability and inconsequential leadership… employees are reporting to different senior members of staff every few months as and when acting roles are rotated,” the consultants explained, noting that this decreases morale and “breeds uncertainty”, a lack of clarity and an excuse for non-adherence to reporting lines.

“Where Fire Service employees are acting at a management level they are aware that they need to
return to their original role after the acting period is over,” the review noted. “Respondents feel this has caused favoritism and preferential treatment to be given to their peers at their original level. Naturally they would be hesitant to discipline staff who were previously, and will again be, their peers once the acting period expires and they return to their original position.”

There are currently 31 vacancies, many of which were described as key positions “imperative to the smooth operation of the service”, and filling the jobs permanently should be a priority, the consultants stated.

The survey also revealed a damning opinion by the firefighters of their bosses. Only 16% of staff participating in the survey said they felt comfortable raising concerns with upper management, while 60% were not confident that management would act in a timely manner on the concerns. Just 2% said grievances are adequately escalated up the chain of command.

“This indicates that there is distrust in management, which does not breed a culture of ‘brotherhood’ within in the service and faith in upper management. To compound this issue, 52% of participants do not feel comfortable raising concerns with upper management,” the survey found.

The chief and deputy chief officers from the home affairs ministry, Dax Basdeo and Kathryn Dinspel-Powell, as well as CFO Hails held a press conference on Wednesday about the review, but the report was not available to members of the media until sometime later. In the absence of the publication of the report, the three officials said they welcomed the review, which would form the basis to enhance the fire services and improve overall effectiveness.

The decision to undertake the review was to help develop an appropriate standard of operations for the domestic division of the CIFS and to reshape the department’s overall organisational structure. An increase in the budget approved by the Legislative Assembly for 2018 and 2019 will also enable the ministry to address the issues identified in the report, the officials said.

“We are committed to supporting the chief fire officer and all fire personnel in the development of premier uniform service,” said Basdeo. “The strategic plan developed as a result of the organisational review will play a vital role in facilitating that process.”

The United Kingdom National Occupational Standards, which is already in use for aerodrome operations, will now be implemented across the domestic service to help build capability, he said.

The officials admitted that the issue of recruitment, succession planning and performance management would take the longest time to fully implement, and so the goal to have Hails replaced by a senior officer before his contract ends in 12 months is extremely unlikely, undermining claims the CFO made at a Finance Committee hearing in June 2016.

Hails stated at today’s press briefing, “We are committed to using these results to build on our strengths and improve our weaknesses in order to achieve the status of a world-class fire service.”

See the full report in the CNS Library here

Tags: , , , , ,

Category: Jobs, Local News

Comments (44)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    sound like a dead end job to me! no upward mobility is not good!!! Bracka.




    4



    0
  2. Anonymous says:

    The Fire Service had class when Chief Fire Officer Nixon was at the helm. Even those who did not like him because he was a disciplinarian had to respect him while he was on duty. Just one of his loud growls and they understood what he meant. Can you imagine that when Mr Nixon arrived to work in the mornings and if there was Firemen out front by the entrance he would be saluted by them. It was perhaps not love but he earned their respect. Mr Nixon saw to it that many of them got a chance to go on training but we have a crab mentality and everyone wants to be Captain. Whether we like it or not some of the worst working atmospheres is amongst our very own Caymanians. It was a respectful sight to watch the Firemen when under the helm of Mr Nixon marching on the Queens birthday celebrations. one could look and see how proud he was of them. However he could not put his head on their shoulders. Most of those guys who had the potential of being the Leader has now left the Service. So please stop blaming and come up with solutions.




    3



    3
    • Anonymous says:

      What a crock of Crap. No one had to salute him, nor did he push for any firefighters to get formal education. Only his buddies at the top could get any, and based on the level of competence, the outcome of any training was poor. It wasn’t until he was almost ready to retire, and following backlash, that he then started ‘allowing’ certain individuals to pursue higher education.

      HE aided the crab mentality. If you do not educate the people around you, THAT is what happens. He is still responsible for the current situation as he sits/was sitting on the board that allows the incompetence to continue.

      When you have crap leadership, you get a crap following. The service is the perfect example of leaders keeping their following dumb, so they can manage them and keep them in check. Just like politicians.




      11



      2
      • Anonymous says:

        Don’t forget that it takes a certain caliber of person to be a Leader. We can dress with the same clothes but we are not going to look alike or be alike. Behaviour is a form of education is is the way forward to good Leadership. Please stop blaming one for your failures. So sad that there has always been a fight for that position.This is a very responsible position that we would like to see being replaced with a good responsible Caymanian. If not then we will have to always have an imported Fire Chief.




        4



        0
  3. Anonymous says:

    So let’s see Kirkland left replaced by Roy Grant . Roy left replaced by Dennon Bodden so there was succession planning of some sort. Ros McLaughlin should have been the next Chief but was injured at a dump fire and needs a wheel chair to move around the airport.

    So 4 Caymanians leave the fire service and we wonder why there is not a 5th Caymanian to take over. Name any organization that can lose 4 of its top leadership in a relatively short period of time and continue to promote from within.

    The crab in the bucket and back stabbing going on at the fire service and the drug use means that it is unlikely we will have a Caymanian chief any time soon.

    Even the Firemen know that they don’t have anyone in the service to do the job.

    I am not impressed with this Report. Which is typical of accounting firms which gives you a report that you want and provides an opportunity for you to give them more work.

    Please get someone who has some fire service experience to do the next review. On wait we did that and was told the fire service is overstaffed.




    7



    2
    • Anonymous says:

      Everyone Knew they were leaving years beforehand. So just stop. They failed.Simple as that. Poor management.




      8



      1
  4. anonymous says:

    Change the PSML, to anyone found doing wrong fire them and they should be made to forfeit their benefits, instead of slapping them on the wrist and awarding for doing wrong with big packages to leave.




    3



    1
  5. Anonymous says:

    Succession planning sounds like a fast route to a mess in a few years time. Why the obsession with local promotion?




    6



    7
    • Anonymous says:

      Actually, that’s a very good question.




      1



      1
      • Anonymous says:

        It’s a visceral gut reaction here in Cayman to appoint Caymanians even if they are poor candidates for a position and likely to fail in the end of the day. No one seriously argues with appointing an able Caymanian (and many have been appointed) but you have to be a brave person to come right out and say no Caymanian who can do this particular job exists so I need to get a foreigner. The likes of Ezzard, Arden and OC and his radio show buddies will shred you for being anti-Caymanian.




        0



        1
  6. Anonymous says:

    This should not be this hard. There’s bound to be people who can do this. Every little town in the US has a functional fire department. Literally thousands and thousands of them. Why is everything here always like a nest of vipers? Always fussing and spitting and looking for favors.




    10



    1
  7. Anonymous says:

    “At the time he was recruited both Premier Alden McLaughlin and Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said that succession planning was the new CFO’s main goal.”

    I can still hear the Deputy Governor from 2 years ago: From this point forward….




    17



    1
  8. Anonymous says:

    Another Eric Bush failure.




    18



    0
  9. Anonymous says:

    Babylon’s burning….Nero fiddles…. and the roof is on fire.




    11



    0
  10. Anonymous says:

    People, I’m a fireman for over 20 years, the issue that we’re having today is because of the aforementioned Kirkland Nixon and Roy Grant, they thought that they were gonna be there forever hence no succession plan was put in place.
    What the department needs is a manager say like Charles Clifford or someone with managerial skills and a sound knowledge of the civil service and its laws. We can still have a chief fire officer (and we can promote from within). But that manager will be the ultimate decision maker.
    That manager will have the task of dealing directly with the ministry (who is also responsible for the fire department issues). it is the ministry of home affairs that have moved the finish line to where a local firefighter cannot be given the chance to lead the department.




    20



    1
    • Anonymous says:

      It’s easy to see why you’re not on the short list.




      4



      10
    • Anonymous says:

      I have been with the Fire Service for over 30 years, worked with the All Caymanians Fire chiefs ( mr Nixon, Grant, Bodden, McLaughlin), and yes they all did things that was upsetting to me at times, but I believe they all had the Service at heart. What changed was the Ministry’s micro management of this Department.
      This action allowed junior officer to go to the Ministry complain about Senior Officers and they made decisions without the knowledge of the Chief or the Senior Officer. This type of behavior was what destroyed the discipline in the service, and trust among us. There is NO succession plan that will fix Fire Service. The Service is a true example of “the crab mentality”. The present Fire Chief cannot do his job for the amount of news backing taking place and sadly the most of this is takes place among those who are in the Acting position. They are constantly fighting among themselves. The truth of the matter am scared to death of my remaining years in the service if either Officer who is now in these Acting positions is allowed to be promoted to Fire Chief/ Deputy Chief Fire Officer. If this happens you will see a largest exit of Officers from the Service.




      16



      1
      • Anonymous says:

        100% Caymanian and they can’t stop bringing their petty childish jealousies and old family and societal feuds to the surface. Same in Customs and Immigration.
        You must be so proud.




        7



        2
  11. Anonymous says:

    Everyone should take the trouble to read the PWC report that CNS has helpfully provided a link to. The situation is really dire and will take a long time and massive effort and consistency to improve.




    11



    0
  12. Anonymous says:

    Certainly the CFO contract should be terminated for bad performance given the results of the report.




    14



    14
    • Anonymous says:

      07:10
      That’s just the sort of bigoted, brain-dead, racist attitude that has led to this fiasco and why there are no staff capable of running the service.
      Grow up, gain an education and lead them out of this mess, rather than posting childish, unconsidered comments about people who have been brought here to help.




      22



      12
  13. Anonymous says:

    Have RCIP announce one of their crackdowns against fire and boom, problem solved!




    4



    0
  14. Anonymous says:

    Why were previous Caymanian CFO’s also unable to identify or train their own replacements?




    15



    1
  15. Anonymous says:

    What incentive does Mr. Hails have to find a replacement for himself. He has it made here in paradise..




    20



    14
  16. Anonymous says:

    Errr, because there isn’t any talent?
    And now, because they have a full time fire service with mainly motor vehicle accidents to attend to, they decide that getting involved with marine rescue is a good idea.
    You couldn’t make this up. Most of them can’t even swim let alone operate a rescue craft of any kind.
    What a joke.




    8



    11
  17. Anonymous says:

    I could have told them the problems within the Service for less than $84000. From before or ever since Kirkland has retired someone from within the Civil Service should have been made to under study that position. They didn’t have to necessarily be from within the Service, but someone with good up bringing ,culture and education. Kirkland once said that during his time he had a guy that was capable to do anything. So all the Chief would have to do is to supervise them and keep them in line like he did. There are quite a few I can think of that could be pulled from the Service. However on another note I am a Caymanian too but it is difficult for some of us to get along. This is our ruination. Jealousy is the big word. So can I suggest that we begin to look for some Firm broad shoulder and disciplinarian Caymanian from within the Civil Service and send him off on some training. I recently met two of the most courteous and professional young men recently from Immigration Enforcement and one was a Mr Scott who seemed to be very Senior from the Brac and the other a Mr Ebanks the son of a Cayman Bracer. Its guys like these that should be made to under study that job at the Fire Department. Enough said.




    6



    3
  18. Anonymous says:

    fire service sums up everything wrong with the civil service and the local workforce generally….




    8



    3
  19. Anonymous says:

    Have you ever met with and spoken to these Caymanian senior fire officers….or junior ones for that matter? Salt of the earth and god bless them for putting out the very occasional fires we have here….but not intellectually strong and not capable of simple management tasks. Kirkland Nixon…..and to a much lesser extent Roy Grant……were exceptions but notice that they were unable to come up with successors who could actually RUN the service as opposed to being a Caymanian name everyone could feel good about simply because it was Caymanian. Anyone remember Rosworth McLaughlin……..?




    28



    7
    • I have met some of them and I completely agree. They are very good people and totally dedicated.




      13



      1
    • Firejoe says:

      Obviously you haven’t spoken to most junior firefighters. I would challenge you, or anyone for that matter to have a chat with Sub Officer Marcus Scott, then tell me that we don’t have intelligent firefighters! I will only mention his name, but there are quite a few more that is capable. When and if they will ever get a chance to prove themselves is a different story.




      16



      8
    • Anonymous says:

      I beg to differ with you. I know quite a few intelligent officers, one being an Elbert McFeild. I am sure there are others who could very successfully train for management posts. Get this succession plan rolling. Why does it exist in other government departments and not in Fire Service?




      14



      7
      • S345 says:

        I agree! I know both Elbert and Mark personally and both have been in the fire service15 years and 20 plus years respectively. Both are well mannered, hardworking and pleasant personalities. Both young men are also very capable and deserving of senior positions and recognition.




        7



        6
      • Anonymous says:

        Embrace your talent, you have to look no further.




        1



        0
    • Anonymous says:

      I am not sure which fire officers you are referring to but I am




      1



      0
    • Anonymous says:

      Joker. Their fault was a lack of trust and delegation to ensure continuity and succession.
      That is the exact destruction of the entire civil service today!




      8



      0
  20. anonymous says:

    What happened to Boojou?




    17



    2

Please include your email address in the form below if you are using your real name. You can use a pseudonym, with or without leaving an email address, or just leave the form blank to be "Anonymous". All comments will be moderated before they are published. Please read the CNS Comment Policy at the top of this page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

See today’s question on
CNS Local Life