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Building an onboarding map for police forces in England and Wales


This project aims to deliver a new onboarding map for new recruits joining the police service. Following the development and design of the map it will be reviewed in a small number of forces for a short user testing period and stakeholders will provide feedback on implementation. The team will then develop an implementation plan and evaluation framework for forces to use when they embed the process locally.


This work, funded by Durham Constabulary, draws on the findings from a previous project CPRL undertook for Uplift exploring the implications of the police of having a younger in service and age workforce. we propose to deliver the work in three stages research, design, and delivery. this would be overseen by a reference group to assist with collaborative design and oversight. This would include key stakeholders from recruitment, learning and development, new recruits, diversity and inclusion leads and organisational development. 

Research phase (November – early January) 

1. Rapid evidence review 

We will complete a rapid evidence review to identify examples of good practice for onboarding in organisations, including learning from organisations wider than the police. Including public, private, and voluntary sectors.  This will include issues of diversity, inclusion, organisational cultures, and different styles / pathways of onboarding for discrete groups of individuals within the workforce. The literature points to the following issues: 

  • The majority of onboarding activities (often in the region of 30 to 50 activities) are administrative rather than being focused on relationship development or cultural immersion  
  • Lots of attention is paid to week one of onboarding (inductions), rather than first 6 months  
  • Often inconsistencies in the application of onboarding models and inconsistent/lacking accountability processes related to the quality of delivery
  • Buddy programmes are shown to boost proficiency in other sectors, this review will need to compare to the context and/or evidence related specifically to policing  
  • Cross-boarding is rarely considered, which involves onboarding internal hires, moves and promotions, which is important in overall considerations of retention. This review could explore new police officer recruits landing from the Special Constabulary and police staff roles. 
  • Role clarity, role expectations and engagement approaches beyond direct line managers related to providing clarity and managing expectations. 

2. Review of current onboarding models in UK policing 

The team will explore current onboarding models in operation in UK policing and whilst they are unlikely to have been formally evaluated, we will explore them in relation to current examples of best practice we find from other sectors. This will be delivered through: 

  •  A short set of questions requesting a description of the onboarding process, to be shared across all 43 forces.  
  • Phone/videocalls to follow up with recruitment, learning and development leads, diversity and inclusion leads and organisational development leads across forces. These will capture information about current models of onboarding and enable participants to share their views about gaps in current models and processes, and their ideas for improvement – identifying key issues or blockers to implementing new approaches. 

3. Consultation 

The research phase will include a mixed-methods consultation with relevant groups across policing. We propose the use of an online survey, to maximise reach and engagement across forces, and 2 focus groups to facilitate in-depth discussions. The key themes for research questions will include: 

  • What works well in current onboarding processes and activities, including assessing those that make the greatest contribution to retention. 
  • Gaps in current processes, including what might be missing from the model and what might be present in the theory, yet, inconsistently delivered in practice. 
  • Weaknesses in current processes, including the quality of delivery, and factors that affect how onboarding activities might be experienced in practice – for example buddy programmes have supporting research evidence for a positive impact.
  • Ideas for improvement of existing models, processes and activities, and ideas for new approaches.

Our approach of a survey will ensure thorough representation across protected characteristics and wider identity characteristics, including for example gender, age groups, ethnicity, race, religion/belief, disability, maternity/paternity status (where related to period of onboarding) and sexuality. The sample would include: 

  • New recruits and officers with 2-3 years service to policing (survey and online focus groups x2). This will explore very recent experiences of onboarding in their forces, sharing insights about both what was delivered in practice (as opposed to the model on paper) and the reality. 

Design phase (January – February)

1. Co-design approach

Using the Reference Group, we would use the evidence from the research phase to co-design an onboarding map with relevant pathways to meet the needs of diverse groups. This Group, involving those in a variety of roles, will facilitate the balance of police force expectations, resources, and practical application, with the expectations of new recruits from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. 

This will involve one face-to-face workshop with the group. Through this research consultation and engagement with officers, we will recruit a small number of participants with ideas for improvement to join the Reference Group and expand their voices and participation in the process. We will ensure these additional recruits increase the diversity of representation of the Reference Group. 

2. Interactive graphic design copy 

A graphic design copy of the map/pathway would be produced and be tested by the Reference Group with a ‘user journey mapping’ exercise. The 24 partners across the CPRL will also be utilised for further review at this stage. 

This will be followed by a short user testing period and provision of feedback to the Reference Group. The research team will consider a set of questions for the pilot forces about the map design itself and the implementation locally. Amendments will be agreed by the Reference Group to ensure balance of voices and fairness in the design process. Agreed amendments will be incorporated and a next version will be produced for the delivery phase. 

Delivery phase (March)

1. Recommendations for introduction of the onboarding map/pathway 

The Reference Group and the CPRL Team will engage key stakeholders across forces via an online workshop, to bring together recommendations for successful introduction of the onboarding process and implementation. To ensure representatives can attend from recruitment, learning and development, workforce planning, organizational development, diversion and inclusion and other related roles we will provide an early date for this event. 

2. Champions 

The Reference Group will act as ‘Champions’ and points of contact for those with questions and queries in following months as they seek to implement. 

3. Produce an evaluation framework for ongoing use 

The CPRL team, working with the Reference Group, will create an evaluation framework to facilitate effective evaluation of the implementation and longer-term efficacy of the onboarding map/pathway. Our extensive experience in delivering, co-designing and facilitating evaluations in police force contexts equips us to produce a framework and approach that is high-quality, user friendly and useful, without being too time-consuming or complex. 

4. Face to face workshop to share the onboarding map, recommendations and the evaluation framework 

A final workshop will be delivered with all relevant key stakeholders, to share the onboarding map, recommendations for implementation and to explore the proposed evaluation framework.