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How the Civil Service Local Academy can help you fulfil your potential

Blog posted by: , 10 January 2019 – Categories: A Brilliant Civil ServiceA great place to workSkilled people.

An animated group of men and women seated and standing around a table while participating in a learning session at the Civil Service Local Academy.

A 'family' group taking part in an assignment at the Civil Service Local Academy

Civil Service Local (CS Local), part of the Cabinet Office, is a cross-departmental team based in locations around the UK. It brings together departments and agencies within localities and offers opportunities that bring the vision of A Brilliant Civil Service to life, encouraging more of us to be part of it. CS Local’s Academy programme is one such opportunity.

At CS Local we believe people can learn the skills they need given the opportunity and that everyone is a leader. To be a brilliant Civil Service we need all our talented people to reach their potential. The CS Local Academy is all about achieving that. What makes it so successful?

Over the last 7 years we have delivered 31 academies, helping more than 1,600 people on their leadership journey, and working with over 30 departments and agencies and 250 facilitators. In 2017/18, 39% of our delegates gained promotion within 12 months, and 43% took on new responsibilities back in their departments. In 2018/19 we are running 9 academies across the UK for delegates in first-line manager and middle-manager roles.

But it isn’t just about the numbers. Delegates work with people they have never met, who do different jobs, in different departments yet face many similar challenges. And that’s the point – developing the skills and behaviours that we all need to be effective collaborative leaders.

Academy 'families'

Delegates are placed in ‘families’ to work on a mix of tasks in the following months. They are challenged to leave their comfort zones, learn new skills and confront anxieties. Each team then pitches to a panel of senior ‘dragons’ its choice of a project to develop over the next 12 months.

To understand the magic of the Academy you need to hear from those who have been there. David McGilloway and Chris Bradshaw were part of the the Jesters family in the Academy, while Nahida Ahmed has been on both sides of the dragons’ den, first as a delegate, then a facilitator and now as a dragon herself. She is proof of how the Academy can re-orientate your career and aspirations if you go for it!

Academy 'dragon'

It isn’t just delegates who benefit from the Academy programme, as Joanne Hopkins, a senior leader with HM Passport Office, and now our CS Local Senior Responsible Officer for Wales, explains:

"When I agreed to be a ‘Dragon’ for the first Civil Service Local Wales Academy, I did so on the basis of learning and development, making a corporate contribution, and supporting an initiative for regionally based staff in Wales. What I had not appreciated was the impact that supporting this Academy would have on me.

“The whole ethos was one of support, encouragement and self-discovery. The teams worked together with coaches and facilitators to deliver a project to present to the dragons, who then chose which family to support. The words I heard as each ‘family’ presented were, ‘inspirational’, ‘humbling’, ‘incredible achievement’, ‘truly made a difference’, ‘emotional’ , ‘phenomenal’. My sense was that I had been part of something truly amazing.

"The impact on me was a realisation of my own leadership style, and the need to be open to fresh ideas. Instead of ‘this will not work’, it was ‘how can I make this work?’ – and a renewed enthusiasm to support talented civil servants and a better sense of how best to do it."

Lisa's story

As well as building confidence and making new contacts, the Academy is about how changed aspirations are turned into tangible results for individuals and their departments, as Lisa Baldock, an Administrative Officer for DWP, and a member of staff with significant hearing loss, discovered.

Attending with her hearing dog Inca, Lisa found the Academy experience both liberating and inspiring. This increased confidence and the encouragement try out new ideas has seen Lisa become a key contributor to embedding the use of Workplace Adjustment Passports in DWP. More specifically, she felt empowered to propose a change for managing telephone conferences, to enable staff with hearing loss to participate using a LYNC instant messaging system. This has already been implemented across four DWP directorates.

Line manager Naeem Rahman says: "Lisa has grown in confidence and is unafraid to offer ideas that can really make a difference in the workplace.”

Lisa has won a temporary promotion and in the 2018 New Year's Honours was awarded an MBE for services to People with Disabilities in Public Service

A woman standing at the top of a staircase, flanked by marble pillars and displaying the insignia of her MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in its case.

Lisa Baldock with her MBE

Inspiration and transformation

Attending an Academy is an investment for the longer term. Graduates continue to inspire colleagues in the workplace. Many are actively involved in transforming their departments, sharing knowledge, embedding the Civil Service vision, and developing new opportunities for colleagues.

In the Midlands, one alumni family has delivered workshops for over 350 civil servants on how to make the most of the end-to-end job application process. In 2018, an Academy family (the Chaffinches) from the East of England, London and South East won a prestigious Civil Service Award for their A-Z of Wellbeing; while graduates from the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber modular Academy celebrated one year of their successful iShadow project.

Sherene Caesar-Johnson, who joined our first Academy as an Executive Officer in 2012, reflects on the experience:

“I was happy in my job at the Department for Education, but my manager saw my potential and suggested I apply. The Academy opened my eyes to the breadth of the Civil Service. I was inspired by what I saw. I wanted to be a part of it. I was in a ‘family’ with people from different departments but we got on really well. For our project we developed a job-shadowing scheme that gave 42 people, 5 days’ experience in a different department. Delivering that project was incredibly empowering. I developed the confidence to try new ideas.

“After the Academy, I secured a new role and was accepted into the Fast Stream. Over the next 4 years I worked in a number of departments in the North West, building my skills and knowledge. I’m now a Grade 7. I’ve joined the CS Local team as project lead for the Northern Middle Managers Academy, because I feel passionately about helping others see their own potential and benefit as I did.”

Finally, in the words of one of our supporters: "Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone, so don't think twice about attending an academy, just do it.”

If you're interested in finding out more, contact the Civil Service Local team in your area.

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