ICO Grow Coaching Culture Whilst Giving Back to the Community

It’s been an exciting and interesting time for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), who now employ approaching 800 members of staff over locations in Wilmslow, London, Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff. With the implications of the use of individuals’ data dominating the news at times during the past year, not to mention the introduction of GDPR in May 2018 and the growth of artificial intelligence and other advancing technologies, the need for the services they provide has never been greater.

For a number of years, the ICO have supported external coaches for senior managers, but more recently they were keen to extend this offering to the whole organisation and to use coaching as a vital tool to develop the culture to one where employees felt empowered to take on more responsibility. Consequently, the creation of a coaching culture has been placed as a central plank within their People Strategy.

Azure were chosen to deliver the ILM Level 5 Certificate in Coaching and Mentoring qualification to employees keen to develop their coaching skills. After having their appetites whet with ‘taster sessions’, experienced Azure coaches and facilitators Sharon Klein, Simon Rogers and Naomi Regan began to train participants in the summer of 2018. The ICO’s commitment was underlined by the attendance of the ICO’s Deputy Chief Executive Paul Arnold, who set the fast pace for learning and is proving to be an excellent sponsor. Paul has been keen to develop coaching within the ICO for a number of years now. His enthusiasm and determination to see this come to fruition has been vital. He said “I was delighted to be part of the ICO’s first coaching cohort. Coaching is a central theme of our People Strategy and the support we provide to help all ICO staff grow and develop in their roles and careers. But there’s a huge difference between wanting to deliver a successful coaching programme and doing so. The support we’ve received from the Azure team has been invaluable and inspirational in equal measure and it’s fantastic to see our cohort of coaches developing and the positive impact they are already having on the development of colleagues across the ICO.”

The first cohort have managed to gain their qualification faster than any other group trained by Azure to date. With 2 further cohorts now being trained and an extensive waiting list already ‘chomping at the bit’ for a 4th programme later this year, the pool of internal coaches is growing fast.

One really impressive aspect to this programme is the way that the ICO has already forged some great links within the community, offering their coaching services to organisations with limited resources such as local charities in Cheshire. As well as providing community benefits, ICO coaches have also learned a lot from this valuable experience using their coaching skills to ‘give something back’ to the local area. Head of Workforce Development and Planning, Emma Titley was keen to develop these community links having been involved in a similar programme at a previous organisation. “This has given our coaches the opportunity to further develop their skills coaching people working in different environments. They have noticed that although the organisational issues may be different, the challenges that people bring to coaching are very similar to the ones they have experienced in their coaching practice at the ICO. The feedback from the organisations we have worked with has been really positive and we are keen to continue these partnerships.”

In addition to delivering the qualification, Azure have helped the organisation to set up some robust internal coaching processes as well as providing supervision and CPD to the qualified coaches on a regular basis. The ICO also has plans to offer a shorter two day coaching skills programme for Managers later this year to encourage them to be using a coaching style on a day to day basis in a more informal way. Azure director Sharon Klein commented, “It’s brilliant to see the enthusiasm and commitment to setting up such an effective coaching provision in a large and growing organisation. Some benefits are being felt immediately, with a huge amount of potential yet to be realised.”

Feedback from people who have received coaching by ICO coaches so far includes:

“Coaching has helped me to overcome some of the hurdles I was creating for myself in relation to progressing my career, and challenge why I don’t have enough confidence in my own abilities.”

“I’m reaching the view that a productive session for me feels a bit like taking a very deep breath, resetting the way I’m looking at things, and much more able to take control of my strategy and day to day work.”

“It really helped me to understand where I was going wrong and helped me find the answers for myself. It’s a great way to look at a problem and help yourself unpick it. I’d never have set aside that time myself which was another great thing about the session.”

March 2019