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Developing Talent with the Border Agency

Providing a range of talent and leadership programmes for the Border Agency to equip them to fulfil challenging succession and talent strategic requirements globally.

uk border agency


The Border Agency is one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the UK, operating nationally and globally in over 130 different countries across the world. With this scale of operation the need to nurture talent and leadership is a perennial issue.

The Border Agency wished to establish a “New Leaders Programme” (NLP) that allowed its talent at grades  EO to SEO/HMI  to explore different elements of the agency across a three year self development programme. The aim being to fulfil their potential and be able to compete for promotion to higher grades with the objective that at the end of this period those who had participated in the programme became G7’s – Assistant Director level.

Those involved would participate in a mix of placement/secondments across different elements of the Border Agency operation and through this develop a level of expertise to inform them of their next step. Ministerial contact would be a theme of their time within these roles. They would embark on professional development through formal qualifications and study to complement their career aspirations. They would take the opportunity to develop contacts within the communities that they operated in with a chance to participate in a voluntary learning project. Finally they would develop a clear career plan for the initial two year period that would inform their next steps once the New Leaders Programme was completed.

A need had been identified that these individuals required an element of reflective practice and career focus throughout this development and Windmills was identified as the supplier of this.


From a previous basis of work with G7 staff in the agency, Windmills worked closely with the Learning and Development team to provide a programme of support. This programme of supported self development aimed to enhance the NLP structure and embed a principle of momentum and personal responsibility to the self development of the candidates. The Windmills input provided a complementary structure to the NLP introducing individuals to a range of resources and activities focused on the whole of their lives and development aiming to help them identify answers to:

three stage cycle 

These questions, throughout the three year programme, were framed around the opportunities of managed postings. Candidates on the programme were required to be flexible in the managed postings they experienced and ensure that they used these opportunities to build their portfolio of experience ready for subsequent promotions they would apply for. Windmills support throughout the three years of the programme would help them to reflect evidence and record these experiences, presenting themselves and what they have to offer to the Agency in a professional and successful format.

Utilising the Windmills approach to Working, Learning, Playing and Giving as the core element of the programme, Windmills staff facilitated workshop delivery every six months with each yearly cohort, thereby managing three separate cohorts of staff covering approx 75 candidates simultaneously. This workshop support was supplemented when necessary by 121 coaching support if required. 

The objectives of this support was to:

  • Identify skills and areas for development as they progressed through their range of placement opportunities
  • Reflect on their experience to identify their ideal role for the future, in line with the Directorates future priorities and focus and then develop both an action plan to get there and the necessary networking skills to influence this
  • Identify and reflect on lessons learned
  • Share best practice and learning amongst the cohort
  • Cascade the learning gained with those members of staff that they had a responsibility for

This final point facilitated the use of Windmills “Talkabout” publication. Click here to find out more about this. Designed to encourage individuals to take a greater level of responsibility and control for the discussion with their line manager at the performance management review. 

The first cohort of “New Leaders” finished their programme in 2009 with subsequent cohorts beginning their programme of support beyond this.


Feedback from attendees of all the programmes was consistently good; with comments including

  • …this was what I needed to motivate myself to push on to the next stage
  • …helped me to refocus on goals
  • …helped me focus on what I need to achieve and set some interim goals

Other “graduates” of the programme, on its completion said:

“Personally I believe that being on this programme requires flexibility and determination. You have to be willing to leave your comfort zone, seize opportunities and be undeterred by obstacles or barriers. The development programme offers the ability to increase your pool of opportunities, the range of experiences on offer and your network of contacts.”

“Windmills gave me invaluable support in making my personal development more structured and focused. They’ve guided me through the process of identifying the core skills necessary for Grade 7 and Senior Civil Service roles and helped me to map my path in attaining these skills.”

“I think this is an excellent programme, but you have to be prepared to make the most of every opportunity, and not be afraid to challenge yourself. I have thoroughly enjoyed the training opportunities within the programme with “windmills” helping me identify skills and career aspirations, as well as developing my own self awareness.

The programme of support was recognized by the Chief Executive of the agency and other senior management as being crucial to the agency’s succession planning needs in meeting the challenging demands of an agency fit for the future.

Take a look at further leadership case studies that Windmills has supported…. click here to find out more (Westinghouse)