Interview with John Robinson, conduct and capability manager at Humberside Police

Developing an effective attendance management process for employees has been a key focus for John Robinson as conduct and capability manager at Humberside Police

John Robinson, conduct and capability manager at Humberside Police, has enjoyed a fruitful career in HR.

In the late 1960s, aged 18, he joined glass manufacturer Pyrex in Sunderland as a work-study engineer, where he saw how reward worked at grass-roots level. At that time, he had an uncomplicated view of being rewarded at work.

“There was no design,” he says. “I was not one of those people who wanted to be an engine driver or an architect when I was a kid. It was just a case of I left school, a job pays me money and money pays me to do other things.”

At Pyrex, Robinson started to learn about putting a value on the tasks employees perform at work. “That value on the task went through to the finance people, who then put a value on it in terms of what it cost for the glass, how long it took to produce it, and what profit was put on the end of it,” he says.

In the early 1970s, Robinson drew on what he had learned at Pyrex when he took up roles in management and personnel for local authorities, including in Sunderland, Norfolk and Humberside. In these roles, he identified, among other things, how much workers should be paid for specific projects.

In 1990, Robinson joined Humberside Police as principal personnel officer. He has held a number of roles with the force, including senior HR manager (strategy and projects).

Outside work, Robinson’s chief passion is gardening, but in his working life, a key area of interest has been attendance management. He has focused on staff health and welfare for much of his career with the police. Since 1995, he has been developing the force’s occupational health service, which won an Employee Benefits Award in 2010 for ‘Most effective sickness absence management strategy’.

Attendance management process

Humberside Police’s attendance management process includes convalescent care, flexible working, recuperative duties, physiotherapy or podiatry, and rehabilitation. The force also offers extra annual leave for staff with clean attendance records. Those who do not take a day off sick all year receive one additional day for that year, and those who achieve this for two consecutive years get three days.

The attendance management policy ties into the force’s occupational health offering, which includes counselling, on-site nurses and two off-site GPs, plus risk assessment-based medical examinations available to staff either once or five times a year, depending on their role.

“Some people in the force deal with some very nasty things day in, day out,” says Robinson. “Even though we put thorough systems in place to support them and spot signs of stress, there are those who may not show it, but because of a good relationship with occupational health, they can ring up for advice.”

Robinson sums up his work philosophy: “You have to work with people to do your job, so that has been my grounding. It is about getting involved with people and understanding their behaviour.”


What is your favourite employee benefit?

If we could continue to offer a final salary pension scheme, to me that is one huge incentive for people, whether you talk to a police officer who pays an 11% contribution into his or her pension, or to someone in police staff who contributes between 6.5% and 7.5%. The benefits are very serious and, as you get older, they become more important to you.

Who is your role model?

It goes back many years when I could not write a report to save my life. My role model was my second line manager, Dennis Dobson, who used to write wonderful reports on efficiency. This guy took time and effort, and he was able to sit down to mentor me.

What are your main responsibilities in your current role?

It is about dealing with all aspects of misconduct. My team does not deal with police officers but we handle police staff, of which there are about 2,000. It could be because a manager has rung us up to say one of their staff has been accessing police information systems for non-police enquiries. We take it all the way to a disciplinary hearing if necessary.

Curriculum vitae: John Robinson

July 2010 to date: senior HR manager (conduct and capability), Humberside Police
2008-2010: senior HR manager (strategy and projects), Humberside Police
1990-1996: principal personnel officer, Humberside Police
1987-1990: employee relations manager, Humberside County Council
1985-1987: HR consultancy manager, Humberside Council
1974-1985: various HR positions, Humberside Council
1969-1974: roles included management services officer, Norfolk County Council; work study officer, Sunderland
Borough Council; industrial engineer, Pyrex Glass

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