Star Awards 2017

Nominations for the 2017 Star Awards will open on 6 February and I write to encourage everyone to put forward the name of anyone you think deserves an award for the work they do at the Council.

This year sees the introduction of a number of new award categories: Improving Customer Experience; Improving Staff Experience and Improving Use of Resources.  You might recognise these themes…

Award nominations are also sought for great examples of Collaboration and Innovation.  We’ll also find our Shining Star and our Rising Star and a People’s Champion – an unsung hero who deserves recognition. The People’s Champion category is nominated by members of the public, and it’s always great to hear how colleagues go the extra mile for the people of Aberdeen.

This year we’re also looking for nominations for Team of the Year – this is a chance to nominate your team or a team you work with for their outstanding contribution to the work of the Council.

There’s more information about the categories and how to nominate on the Star Awards page on The Zone.

Nominations close on 8 March.  Make this the year that you take the chance recognise the Stars!

Employee Opinion Survey 2016

The report setting out the results of the Employee Opinion Survey we undertook in the autumn last year has now been published and is available through a link on the Zone.

I’m really pleased to see so many more staff completing the survey compared to 2014 – we more than doubled our response rate.

I’m also particularly delighted with the engagement score which shows a significant overall increase from 42% to 49% in the level of staff feeling engaged in the organisation. Whilst a movement from 42% to 49% might not seem a huge remember, of course it’s 49% of the much larger number of staff who replied to the survey this time round.

While we should celebrate the successes set out in the report, at the same time we need to be mindful that there is still work to be done.  Senior managers have met to discuss some of the corporate actions we intend to take and I’ll keep you updated as they develop.  But let’s be honest, all of us have an important role to play in building on the areas where we’re doing well and addressing those which require action.  Together we all work for the Council and together we all have an interest in making it an even better place to work.

You’ll have your own ideas of how we can improve the way we do things and I strongly encourage you to make sure your suggestions are heard.  You can either do this through your line manager or directly onto the Ideas Hub.  Once all the feedback received has been collated you’ll have the opportunity to confirm the proposed actions before they are implemented.

I look forward to working with staff, managers and Trades Unions in continuing to develop a culture which ensures we are best placed to meet the strategic objectives of the Council in serving the people of Aberdeen.

Future blogs will highlight the work that’s going on in relation to the Council’s strategic plan, in the meantime I urge you to read the survey report and provide your feedback on it.

One Team Christmas Charity Donation

I wrote in December about the fundraising effort in support of the 2016 chosen charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK, an effort very ably spearheaded by Jody Edwards in CH&I.  I am delighted to now be able to share the text of a thank you letter Jody has received from the charity:

Dear Jody

Can you please pass on a big thank you to the ACC charity team for organising the Staff Christmas Charity appeal and all the staff who donated to the Aberdeen and Shire Group of  Crohn’s and Colitis UK.

The £1,187.19 that was raised will be used to support people suffering with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in your area.

Recently with the help of people like yourself we have been able to support our local adult and paediatric IBD nursing specialists to attend courses and conferences and purchase mobile devices to allow them access to information and results wherever they are on the ward or in clinic.  We’ve also purchased a dedicated blood pressure monitor for the infusion room on the adult ward. 

In Aberdeen we have some 6o+ young folk who sadly have either Crohn’s or Colitis and need to attend the Aberdeen Children’s Hospital for regular treatment which often takes long periods of ‘waiting’ – we’re currently adding to the games for the young folk as well as some new consoles.

Last year we provided a large sum of money towards the setting up of the local part of the national database for people with IBD – something that was long overdue and donated money to much needed research.

This year so far we are purchasing some anatomical models and wall charts for use in the clinic and wards.

So you can see, the kind donations we receive are put to good use

Yours very sincerely,

Carol Bradley, Link Volunteer, Aberdeen & Shire Group of Crohn’s and Colitis UK



I enjoyed attending the fourth Improvement Training event last week with another cohort of the Council’s Third Tier Managers.  I took the opportunity to remind colleagues about where we were in 2014 in the eyes of Audit Scotland as they undertook their Best Value Audit of the Council –

  • we had no consistent corporate methodology for supporting the organisation to focus on improvement;
  • we couldn’t evidence in a cohesive way our plans to secure improvement on service delivery performance;
  • there was an absence across the whole organisation of an understanding of and skill in the business of improvement;
  • our governance structure of committees very much focused on past performance rather than on plans for improvement; and
  • as an organisation we had no cultural symbols that evidence a focus on improvement.

Reflecting on where we now are, I explained at the event that performance and improvement now sit within the ‘modernisation’ strand of our Shaping Aberdeen How We Do Our Business Programme and since 2014 we have

  • formally adopted an improvement methodology as a Council;
  • formally introduced an improvement methodology into the Local Outcome Improvement Plan of Aberdeen’s Community Planning Partnership as well as into the developing locality plans;
  • created the Ideas Hub which recently celebrated its one year anniversary capturing staff ideas for improvement;
  • deliberately put the word improvement at the heart of our cultural triple aim ambition of improving on customers’ experience of the Council, our staff experience and our use of resources;
  • within the 2016/17 Directorate Service Plans, begun to identify plans for improvement;
  • recognised and celebrated within our internal staff awards improvements in the areas of customer experience, staff experience and the use of resources; and
  • of course, up-skilled Third Tier Managers in improvement through their attendance at a three-day learning event.

So I’d hope you’d agree that a lot of progress has been made.  However, there are a number of things still to be done and I guess, in the spirit of continuous improvement there should always be something else to do!  Immediately on the horizon

  • a thorough review of the plans for improvement to be included in the 2017/18 service plans incorporating evidence gathering to ensure that staff and customer ideas for improvement are being taken on board;
  • the continuation of the roll out of the training; and
  • encouraging even more staff to engage in using the Ideas Hub and getting more pace into the conversion of ideas into developed improvements.

Whilst I’ve described the improvement agenda as a workstream within our modernisation agenda, we have to also remember the transformation strand of How We Do Our Business.  There is no hard and fast line between improvement and transformation.  Improvement to me feels to be about doing what we’re currently doing better.  While transformation seems to be about doing different things.  Of course we have to do both!

I fully recognise that everyone is very busy and probably have more to do than you have time for.  To generate ideas for improvement will take energy and effort beyond the day job and it will mean that we’ll have to have an attitude of saying yes to ideas for improvement or transformation rather than saying no.

So, while we all play our part in running the Council, we must also all play our part in changing it and own the delivery of the changes.

What a way to start the new year…

Never did I imagine that I would be involved in opening the London Stock Exchange!

It was a real privilege to represent the Council at the event on Tuesday morning this week.  The invitation to the Council to open the stock exchange was made to us in recognition of the uniqueness of our issuing a bond.  It’s very easy to get lost in the detail of the bond and all its complexity and you’ll be relieved to know I’m not going to get into that here, but I do think we should take a moment to reflect on the fact that we’ve achieved something special and think about how we might now build on it.

Throughout 2016 as a team we’ve put a great deal of focus on all of us across the whole organisation coming up with ideas for change and the ideas hub has been a fantastic platform for capturing theses suggestions as they come forward.  I don’t doubt that there’s still a healthy North East scepticism among some of the team about whether  or not these ideas are listened to and acted on.  As I stood listening to the Chief Executive of the London Stock Exchange commending us on our innovation, I was remembering the conversation I had with Steve Whyte and Neil Stewart back in March last year where they shared with me their idea for a bond issue.  Ten months’ later and we’re opening the Stock Exchange!  An idea from 2 members of staff that culminated in the Council issuing a bond raised £370m.

So be in no doubt, ideas will be listened to.

Of course, all ideas and innovation are important and not all will be of the scale and significance of the bond, but that doesn’t matter.  If you haven’t used the ideas hub before, why not make it your new year resolution to put an idea forward – you never know where it may land.

I’ve enjoyed watching the bond idea grow and I’ve felt particularly proud about how different parts of the organisation came together to make it work.  Standing at the Stock Exchange I was proud to see finance, legal and economic development colleagues working together on behalf of the city of Aberdeen.  And of course, all this innovation took place whilst business as usual was continuing.  I’d like to put on record my appreciation of the work of those who did the extra shifts on the day-to-day business to allow the project team to work on the bond.

So all this tells me that we do have the ability to innovate (big and small) and that for our ideas to come alive we need colleagues from other parts of the organisation to help us bring them to fruition.  I’m looking forward to the next member of staff who says to me Angela, I’ve got an idea…………

Communities, Housing and Infrastructure

As we begin the new year, I thought it might be helpful to remind ourselves of the new faces who have relatively recently joined the senior management team in the Communities, Housing and Infrastructure service.

Bernadette Marjoram is currently with the Council as Interim Director, Eric Owens is with us as Acting Head of Planning and Sustainable Development and Derek McGowan has now taken up post as Head of Communities and Housing.  They are all playing a very active role alongside Mark Reilly, Richard Sweetnam and John Quinn as ECMT develops budget options for the coming year and works on revising and refreshing the Council’s Strategic and Directorate Plans.

Welcome Back

In the hope that January 9th is not too late to wish everyone a Happy New Year, a short note to mark the fact that today sees the schools return and the start of the first full working week of 2017 for many of us.

The new year will no doubt throw up many challenges and opportunities for the Council and the City.  I’m sure we’ve all returned refreshed after the festive break ready to meet 2017 head on!