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Case studies:

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue: An Outstanding Workplace Culture

The team at People Insight are delighted to recognise DFRS, a values driven organisation, with our Outstanding Workplace Award!

derbyshire fire and rescue, People Insight
“We have partnered with People Insight over six years and their continuous support has helped us not only identify the type of culture we have but how to strengthen it.”

Judi Beresford, Director of Corporate Services, DFRS

Outstanding Workplace

We celebrate DFRS for building a consistently positive workplace culture, acting on employee feedback to spark change and achieving an engagement score in the top quartile across all organisations surveyed by People Insight.

Congratulations DFRS! Find out more about the Outstanding Workplace Awards – People Insight’s award which celebrates organisations with an outstanding workplace culture.

Logo People Insight Outstanding Workplace 2022 Colour 800px

Latest DFRS culture survey results highlights


Response rate

Highest for any FRS ever seen by PI


Engagement score

11 points above benchmark

75% agree

Key driver of engagement

Behaviour at DFRS mostly demonstrates the core values – 15 points above benchmark

The vision at DFRS

DFRS exists to make ‘Derbyshire Safer Together’. Covering an area of 1000 square miles and a population of a million people, their 900-strong workforce includes firefighters, control and support staff.  

Judi Beresford, Director of Corporate Services is responsible for the culture survey programme at DFRS. This case study explores: 

  1. How DFRS are ‘putting people first’ 
  2. How DFRS achieve great engagement, empowerment and wellbeing  
  3. How the employee survey programme supports the workplace culture at DFRS 



What are DFRS doing to put people first?

Two things stand out as people enablers at DFRS. Firstly the living people strategy that sets out the workplace culture, values and guides all people action. Secondly the reporting dashboards, metrics and balanced scorecard that enable communication, trust, and empowerment. 


DFRS developed their vision and values as the basis of their people strategy and they are really lived day to day. The values are evident in: 

  • Induction – from day one, the values are discussed and promoted by the Chief Fire Officer and all leaders throughout the organisation 
  • Appraisals – behaviours aligned to values are discussed and evaluated 
  • Promotions – examples of how individuals have demonstrated the behaviours are requested at every promotion level 

The HMIC inspection rates DFRS as ‘outstanding’ at promoting their values and workplace culture. 

“(DFRS) is outstanding in the way it communicates its values. The staff are proud of the service, its work and their own contribution.” HMICFRS 

The values are not static; when the NFCC launched the national code of ethics, the DFRS team reviewed their values to ensure they fitted with the code. Going forward, the team are looking to provide more stretch in the behavioural descriptors. As Judi said,  

“Respect is described in our values as ‘we value the opinions of our people’, but we do way more than that. We listen, respond and improve aspects of the employee experience accordingly – something to consider as we review the descriptors going forwards.” 

When asked to describe the DFRS culture in the People Insight employee survey, the alignment between the values DFRS aspire to and achieve is clear in the words chosen as illustrated below: 


Further evidence shows that 75% of respondents at DFRS agree that the behaviour of people at DFRS reflects the core values. Not only is this a key driver of the high engagement score the DFRS enjoy, but it’s also 15% higher than the all-sector benchmark. 



Employee engagement is one of the key commitments in DFRS’ people strategy:  

“We will achieve organisational improvement and performance through employee involvement, commitment and contribution.” 

The employee survey, or ‘cultural survey’ is an essential part of employee involvement and contribution. As Judi puts it:

“The cultural survey that we undertake with People Insight is the critical measurement tool for our people strategy. Outcomes from the survey feed into the overall people strategy action plan so our achievements and areas of focus are transparent.”

Throughout the period of the latest survey, there has been a corporate focus to improve on-call staff engagement, with workstreams including recruitment and retention, training and development, championed by well-intended, very committed leaders who have developed positive relationships in their teams. 

Wellbeing at DFRS

This extract from the People Insight Dashboard shows how the overall engagement score, and the themes that make up the overall score are all significantly above the all-sector benchmark which compares the culture survey scores to all other surveys carried out by People Insight.  



Championing health and wellbeing is one of the six people commitments in the people strategy, and was again noted by the HMICFRS;  

“The way the service looks after its staff and their health and wellbeing, including of those who have attended traumatic incidents, is outstanding.” HMICFRS

The wellbeing programme, “Well for Work” includes occupational health, an Employee Assistance Programme, counselling, gym facilities, pro-active health campaigns and advice and a chaplaincy service. 

There’s a focus on training, with all line managers undertaking mental health awareness training and accessing resources through MIND. With this training, managers know how to signpost colleagues to resources and help, using tools like the HSE risk assessment. 

Thanks to the training, managers are capable and confident with an appraisal agenda that starts with the simple question “How are you?” which aims to uncover any wellbeing issues. The question really opens up an honest dialogue and sets the tone for the rest of the conversation. 


77% of culture survey respondents believe that DFRS takes mental health and wellbeing seriously, 12 points above the all-sector benchmark. 

How the employee survey programme supports the workplace culture at DFRS


DFRS have worked with People Insight on their culture survey since 2015, building the question design and reporting to meet their ongoing needs in dialogue with our expert organisational psychologists and project managers. Over that time, they’ve achieved between 10 and 20 point increases in scores across the survey themes. 


The survey is inclusive, capturing hard to reach employees 

It’s frequently hard to ensure non-desk-based staff like the on-call employees are included in initiatives like the culture survey. This is common across organisations who employ non-desk-based workers.  

With DFRS’ focus on inclusion however, it is important to try harder and hear the on-call voice, so People Insight provide QR codes for on-call staff to access the survey via smart phones. DFRS allowed staff to claim their time, doing this activity from home, without having to come into their station.  

Since this accessibility issue was solved, the response rate shot up to 74% the highest we’ve ever seen in a fire and rescue service. This demonstrates that other than the physical access issue, there’s trust in leaders and the process, and staff see the benefit of getting involved in the culture survey. 


The survey results dashboard helps DFRS be open with the data 

DFRS use the iDeck within the survey dashboard to provide results rapidly across the service, in keeping with their value of openness and respect. Said Judi,   

“Using the People Insight survey results dashboard – the iDeck is so powerful! We can supply results presentations in seconds for department managers.” 


Demographic data provides rich insight 

The survey has been planned carefully to include all the demographic data that DFRS need to drive their people strategy action plans. For example, in the agile working workstream, they can explore challenges and preferences, identifying specific groups where focus is needed. 

“The demographic data is so rich – we’re using length of service and age data to show us who to focus on for our agile project, encouraging certain groups in the organisation to get involved.” 


Action planning post survey means transparency and teamwork 

Once the survey results are in, Judi’s team organise workshops to invite any member of staff to get involved in discussing high level actions. They are well attended with around 90 volunteers from across the organisation, rolling their sleeves up and getting involved. They are asked to review the survey results, consider ideas for actions and feedback their thoughts on how to take these forwards. There’s a required representative from each station at the detailed planning stage, but the initial stage is voluntary – and popular!  

What is it like working with People Insight?

“We have partnered with People Insight over six years and their continuous support has helped us not only identify the type of culture we have but how to strengthen it.  

Their expertise in the sector has enabled us to see how we compare with other Fire and Rescue services and their dashboard quickly provides insight and direction to action across the service from wholetime to on-call to support staff.”

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People Insight Learn & Share Webinar | Engaging on-call staff at Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service:

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