Congratulations to staff recognised for putting customers first

I had the pleasure of presenting plaques and certificates at an event to celebrate a further 15 Aberdeen City Council establishments being awarded WorldHost Business Recognition status.

The special ceremony at the Town House was for staff who had taken part in the customer service excellence training, representing the latest Council-run venues to receive the special status.

The latest awards cemented Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire’s status as the largest region in Scotland to secure WorldHost Recognised Destination status – with more than 110 local businesses successfully completing nationally recognised customer service training programmes.

The WorldHost training programmes, which originated in Canada, were first brought to the UK to prepare local businesses in and around London for the influx of international visitors for the 2012 Olympic Games.  The programme proved so successful it was adopted by the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow 2014.

Our Organisational Development team has trained more than 500 front-line staff to complete customer service training to WorldHost standards.

03/05/18 World Host celebration award ceremony for Aberdeen City Council staff

Through our commitment to the WorldHost Recognition Destination initiative we are able to provide customer service training to council employees, which enables them to develop the skills and confidence to match our ambitions as an organisation which puts its customers first.

Thanks to the commitment of our staff we continue to build the Council’s reputation of having staff that are friendly, approachable, knowledgeable and willing to go that extra mile to help.

The 15 establishments to receive the WorldHost Business Recognition status were: Aberdeen Crematorium; Beach Ballroom; Bridge of Don Library; Cornhill Library; Cove Library; Culter Library; Cults Library; Duthie Park; Dyce Library; Ferryhill Library; Hazlehead Park; Kincorth Library; Mastrick Library; Northfield Library; Torry Library.

Previous City Council recipients of WorldHost Business Recognition status include: Aberdeen Maritime Museum; Airyhall Library; Archibald Simpson House; Bucksburn Library; Central Library; Tillydrone Library; Woodside Library.

My congratulations go to all involved in helping Aberdeen City Council to be a WorldHost Destination.

Gardening tips from our green-fingered star of the small screen

If you haven’t already watched our newest star of the small screen in action and you’re seeking some summer inspiration, I’d urge you all to take a look at the Council Gardener video blog.

Daniel Shand, one of our talented and dedicated band of staff, is the man in the spotlight – and he’s proving a natural!

 

 

I loved Daniel’s first post and the May edition has just been published, with more tips and advice.

Well worth a watch and please share with friends and family too – it certainly deserves a good audience and I know the videos are already getting lots of positive feedback.

Thanks and well done to Daniel for agreeing to take part and for his work in pulling together the content and to Norman Adams for his efforts in filming and editing, not to mention the guests who have agreed to take part. I’m looking forward to the June installment,

The sun is shining – the Tour Series must be in town!

When the Tour Series cycling rolled into Aberdeen for the first time last year it was greeted by glorious sunshine. With footage being broadcast around the world, the city really sparkled.

Yesterday the event returned – and once again the weather had read the script.

Local youngsters and amateur cyclists tackled the course before the professionals took centre stage and there was a great response from the public.

As part of our growing Aberdeen 365 events programme, the Tour Series has been a great boost to the city and the region and we’re delighted to have welcomed it once again.

Any event is a partnership and it was fantastic to hear the race director praising Aberdeen and the Council for the way it has embraced elite cycling. When interviewed for a TV preview, Mick Bennett said in 35 years of organising events he had never known a host town or city take a race to its heart so enthusiastically and said the way in which Aberdeen City Council has supported the Tour Series was the best he had experienced in all that time.

That ringing endorsement is fantastic credit to all involved in planning and delivering an action packed day. I echo Mick’s sentiments and my thanks go to the Tour Series team and, most importantly, our own Council staff for their excellent work in bringing the city to life in such a colourful and inspiring way.

Appointments to Chief Officer Finance and Chief Officer Digital and Technology roles

Further to last week’s update on Chief Officer recruitment, I’m delighted to announce we have now concluded the appointment to the Finance role and the Digital and Technology role.

Jonathan Belford has accepted the post of Chief Officer Finance and Andrew Howe  the post of Chief Officer Digital and Technology.  I look forward to working with them both as an important part of our new leadership team.

Jonathan, currently Executive Manager of Finance with Shetland Islands Council, is very familiar with Aberdeen City Council having previously served as Corporate Accounting Manager.

Andrew, currently Head of End User Services at the University of St Andrews brings with him considerable experience of aligning Information Technology to business requirements that will support and drive the digital transformation agenda

They have been appointed following a rigorous selection process and are both looking forward to playing their part in the evolution of the Council and supporting our ambitions for the city and its people.

As highlighted last week, a preferred candidate has also been identified for the Chief Officer Capital role.  I will be in a position to provide further details on this appointment soon.

With the leadership team continuing to take shape, can I once again thank you for the support being shown to Chief Officers, Directors and I during this important period. I know you will join me in extending a warm welcome to Jonathan and Andrew when they join us later in the summer.

Chief Officer recruitment update

I am keen to provide an update on the recruitment process for the remaining Chief Officer vacancies and to inform you of a change to the leadership team.

Preferred candidates have been identified for three roles: Finance; Digital and Technology; Capital.  Subject to normal pre-employment checks, those appointments will be confirmed soon and I will be in a position to provide further details.

Recruitment is ongoing for the Chief Officer role for People and Organisation as well as jointly with NHS Grampian for the Chief Officer’s post with the Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership.

I can also confirm that Bernadette Oxley is moving on from her role as Chief Officer for Integrated Children’s and Family Services to take a new post as Head of Children’s Services, Communities and Families with City of Edinburgh Council.

I must place on record my thanks to Bernadette for her contribution to Aberdeen City Council as a Chief Officer and in her previous capacity as Head of Children’s Social Work and Chief Social Work Officer.

Since joining in 2015 her commitment, knowledge and enthusiasm has been of great value to the organisation and most importantly to all those that she and her teams have protected and supported. Bernadette has introduced evidence based programmes of work that have transformed the model of service delivery.

The role in the capital represents a natural career progression for Bernadette, and the opportunity is one that she is keen to embrace.  I am sure you will join me in wishing her the very best with that new challenge.

In relation to Bernadette’s departure I will provide further updates on recruitment and interim arrangements, which are currently being established, as they become available.

Striving to be the best Corporate Parents we can be

A recent training event helped put in sharp focus the role we all play as employees of a local authority – and underlined some of the most important aspects of the work Aberdeen City Council does day in and day out.

I came away with some very powerful and positive messages from the Corporate Parenting session I attended.

The concept is evolving, but essentially covers our duty as an organisation to work together with partners to meet the needs of looked after children, young people and care leavers.

As a Council our aspirations for those young people should be no different from those as any good parent. We embrace the responsibility and make the needs of the individuals a priority – and every single member of staff should be aware of that duty of care and see it as an opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of young people.

As part of the training, Laura Beveridge’s brilliant TEDx Talk  was used – I’d urge everyone to take 10 minutes out of what I know are busy days to watch this. It’s emotive, incredibly honest and thought provoking.

Laura describes herself as one of the lucky ones, having come through care and built a successful career and life.

Some of the statistics she uses are eye opening. Care experienced people are more likely to go to prison than university, 50% leave care with a mental health issue and care experienced people are 20 times more likely to die before the age of 25.

The questioned posed in the presentation is: Can you imagine if those facts and figures related to your child?

To take that further on a very basic level, can you imagine if your child, grandchild, niece or nephew didn’t receive a card or gift on their birthday? Imagine if they didn’t get the chance to play games or do all the things so many young people would take for granted.

We wouldn’t want that for the children in our lives and nor would we want that for the looked after children, young people and care leavers in our role as Corporate Parents.

I came away from last week’s session with thoughts on how we as a Council can be better Corporate Parents and I’d love to hear your views on that. The Ideas Hub is there as a platform to share suggestions and I’m sure it is a topic that would spark lively debate and discussion.

What could be done in your area of the Council to make a difference?

Great strides are already being made and we are so fortunate to have colleagues with the passion and expertise required to drive forward with improvements. I’m appreciative of the work already done and the plans for the future.

Parents strive to do better every day – and as Corporate Parents we are no different.

 

 

Update on consultation with trade unions and staff

I would like to update you on our progress made since my last message on 17 April 2018.

Those who may be impacted by this workforce change have now had meetings to notify them of the proposals and have received an explanation of the consultation process with the Trade Unions and individual staff.

The Union consultations were originally due to run from 17-30 April with individual consultations over the first two weeks of May, however at the request of our Trade Union colleagues we have extended our consultation period to 11 May.  As a result the second round of meetings with Chief Officers or another manager in your Service, to discuss the rationale behind the proposals, are now scheduled to start two weeks later on 14 May to align with this new consultation timeline.

The Council continues to follow general good practice in respect of consultation and it is important that all employees are given an opportunity to discuss the information they have as soon as possible, bearing in mind some may not be part of a trade union.

The Transformation Zone has further information on our transformation and support available, however if you have any concerns or require any further information or clarity regarding the process you can also speak with your line manager or Chief Officer.

An opportunity to celebrate your success on the national stage

Last week entries opened for the COSLA Excellence Awards and I’m sure the five categories will spark lots of interest within Aberdeen City Council.

I’d encourage everyone to consider where your success stories may sit in the COSLA awards with a view to taking that forward through your line manager and Chief Officer.

Chief Officers will liaise with communications colleagues to ensure a joined-up approach before entries are submitted. As a management team we’re always keen to recognise and celebrate success.

The categories for the 2018 awards are:

  • Service innovation and improvement;
  • Achieving better outcomes in partnership;
  • Tackling inequalities and improving health;
  • Strong and sustainable communities;
  • Local matters, focusing on the unique impact of local services and local democracy.

I know there are many Aberdeen City Council projects that could be strong contenders and it would be fantastic to be represented when the shortlists are announced later in the year. The deadline for entries is June 1.

External awards are a good way of putting our own innovation to the test, with feedback from judging panels always useful, and to showcase the great work being done throughout the Council. Good luck to all who do go ahead with submissions.

The countdown is also continuing to our own Star Awards, which will be presented on June 14 at the Beach Ballroom. The finalists in each of the categories will be announced shortly.

The response has been excellent this year, both in terms of nominations from within the Council but also from the public for the People’s Champion where there have been more entries than ever before.

A touch of tartan is this year’s theme and preparations are well underway for what promises to be great event celebrating achievements of staff over the past year. My thanks go to the team organising the Star Awards for the energy and commitment they have shown.

Tributes to a valued Museums and Galleries colleague

Following the death of Fraser Cowie, we have had further sad news over the past week with the loss of another valued colleague.

Ethel Stewart passed away at the end of last month after a short illness, having served for more than 10 years as an important member of the Museums and Galleries team.

Ethel was a sociable, popular and knowledgeable employee who was committed to her role as a Museum Liaison Officer and to the Council and Aberdeen as a whole. She not only touched the lives of her colleagues, but all of the visitors who benefited from her passion for the city’s museums.

I know Ethel’s loss has been felt deeply by everyone who worked with her and I share in the heartfelt tributes that have been made as well as sending my condolences on behalf of the Council to colleagues, family and friends.

Transition to the Target Operating Model

Earlier this month every employee of the Council received a letter confirming their place in the structure as part of the transition to the Target Operating Model (TOM).

Further to the letter that I issued, the next phase in the move towards the TOM relates to the reduction in posts agreed by the Strategic Transformation Committee in February and in line with the areas for change identified by Directors, Chief Officers and Managers. As communicated previously, the political priority of the Administration is to avoid compulsory redundancies and that underpins the approach to the transition.

Those who may be impacted by this workforce change have been invited to meetings to notify them of the proposals and will receive an explanation of the consultation process with the Trade Unions and individual staff, who will have the opportunity to consider the rationale and make their own representations.

The Union consultations will run from 17-30 April and individual consultations over the first two weeks of May. Taking into account the responses, a formal decision will then be made on each of the affected posts.

Anyone who is displaced from their current post will be assisted in identifying opportunities for redeployment to an alternative role in which existing skills and knowledge can be utilised or in exploring retraining options.

This is a difficult time not only for those affected directly but also for colleagues and Managers. I have made clear my commitment to managing this process in a sensitive, compassionate and respectful manner and appreciate the support of everyone in the Council in ensuring that.

Members of staff being consulted with in relation to post reductions are being given details of the next steps as well as the support on offer to them during meetings taking place today and through the course of the week. There will understandably be many questions arising as well as concerns and it is vital that colleagues affected have access to information and advice.

The change we are going through as an organisation is not easy – but it is essential. As we work towards the aim of building a leaner Council which is more efficient in the way it meets the needs of those it serves and realises our ambitions for the city as a whole, I am very mindful of the duty of care we have to all employees.

Minimising the potential impact on individual members of staff is my priority and this shared by Directors and Chief Officers.