A paper entitled ‘Wellbeing and engagement in policing: the key to unlocking discretionary effort’ written by Dr Ian Hesketh, Prof Cary Cooper and Jonathan Ivy in 2016 looks closely at the relationship between wellbeing and engagement with discretionary effort. Leadership plays a huge role.


In a rapidly changing policing landscape in the UK, this research seeks to test the relationships between wellbeing, engagement, and discretionary effort. Data were garnered from the use of a wellbeing psychometric instrument known as A Short Stress Evaluation Tool, which measures job perceptions, attitudes towards work, and general health. It is also used to construct an engagement metric that draws out behaviours considered congruent with discretionary effort attributes. Regression models show that employees feel that if they have better Control, Job Conditions, and feel more Secure in their job, and that their job does not Change for Changes Sake; that they are more likely to offer up greater levels of discretionary effort. Interestingly, there were significant differences in the categories of Workload and Job Conditions dependent on age. In this study dimensions that had no significant effect on discretionary effort were found to be Resources and Communications, Work Relationships, and having a Balanced Workload. Rather than assume what seems to be the commonly accepted case, this research provides an evidence-base for policing that supports the notion that high levels of discretionary effort are an outcome of successful workplace wellbeing and engagement practices; giving police leaders a valuable insight into what works.

Read the full article

Hesketh, Ian & Cooper, Cary & Ivy, Jonathan. (2016). Well-being and engagement in policing: the key to unlocking discretionary effort. Policing. 10. pp. 1–12