Committee endorsement gives a platform to build our workforce of the future

Earlier in the month I highlighted the agenda of this week’s Staff Governance Committee and in particular the report on the Workforce Plan – the vision for our workforce of the future.

You can find out more here about what that means for all of us as part of the Council team.

I’m delighted to say the committee gave its approval to the plan, which includes the new Capability Framework.

With that endorsement from elected members and trade unions, we have real impetus as the approach is embedded throughout the Council.

Thank you again to all involved in creating the plan and framework, which will benefit every employee and help realise our vision for the Council and the city.

An opportunity to hit pause before pressing fast forward

I’ve made mention in the past of the pace of life in a city council, particularly one serving somewhere as dynamic as Aberdeen during a period of really significant transformation. I think we’ll only really appreciate the scale of that change when we look back in years to come at what has been achieved in a short period of time.

There are lots of cogs in our machine and we should all take pride in the way we work together to keep those spinning hour to hour and day to day.

What that machine doesn’t have is a pause button, so taking the time to take a step back and reflect can be difficult.

With that in mind, building review into the day to day business of the council is important and there’s been an important step forward in recent weeks that will have passed under the radar for many colleagues – but it’s important to highlight.

Last month the first in a series of reports on the effectiveness of all of the Council’s committees was published and considered by the Education Operational Delivery Committee.

This is exemplar practice in local government.  It’s an illustration of taking pride in what we do and working together to make things even better – our guiding principles in action!

Given the rhythm of the committee cycle, it would be easy to flow from one meeting to the next and from one year to another. By setting annual reviews on the effectiveness of each committee, we’re embracing our organisational capability of openness, transparency and accountability.

The Education Operational Delivery Committee review highlighted the training and development undertaken by members in the past year, expanding knowledge in areas including early learning as well as on specific projects such as Big Noise Torry, as well as noting the fact the vast majority of committee business was conducted in public session. That bodes well for the future of the committee, but the annual assessment of effectiveness will guard against complacency.

The review of the Operational Delivery Committee pointed to the success over the past year of holding the organisation to account in terms of performance as well as the clear links between the business considered by members and the Local Outcome Improvement Plan’s themes – with a particular emphasis on outcomes relating to place and people. Again, it’s very encouraging to be able to take that objective view on the impact committee reports and decisions are having in our communities.

Those are just a handful of highlights from the effectiveness reports, but give a flavour of the way we’re reviewing the way we work and in turn aiming to make continual improvement.

It’s part of the wider programme to improve our governance, which has delivered on a number of levels in the past 18-months. Notably the Council’s first ever Scheme of Governance has been introduced – with all of our key constitutional documents revised, consolidated and aligned to ensure an outcome focused approach to how we do business. Risk management has been enhanced, a new performance management framework created and the Council Delivery Plan created … the list goes on.

Good governance isn’t an easy topic to bring to life in a few hundred words, given the complexity that goes hand in hand with it, but it does run through everything we do as a Council and give us the platform to make a difference to the people, place and economy.

My thanks go to all involved in the initiatives I’ve touched upon as we strive to embed the governance that is helping to drive positive change in Aberdeen.

City pupils provide the purrfect build-up to the Star Awards

If you have passed through the reception at Marischal College over the past week, you’ll have noticed some very special guests have arrived.

The collection of Kelly’s Cats are on display before they move to the Beach Ballroom on June 20 as part of the Star Awards, where they will be star prizes in a charity fundraising raffle on the night.

The cats, decorated replicas of the traditional cast iron leopards by William Kelly, have become a fixture of the awards – but there’s a twist this year, with 11 Aberdeen schools taking the opportunity to play their part in the creative process.

The end result is fantastic and well worth taking the time to view – the pupils have done us proud!

Final preparations for the Star Awards are in full flow and once again can I thank the dedicated organising team for the time and energy they devote to the event. The organisers deserve to share the spotlight with those who have made the shortlist.

The evening is all about recognising colleagues and teams from across the council for the positive impact they make, making a real difference to the lives of people in Aberdeen. It is always humbling and inspiring to reflect on the achievements of the past year and to look at the big picture of what we deliver – which is certainly worth celebrating.

Now in their eighth year, the Star Awards have attracted entries from every cluster – 236 in total, and just nine short of the record number. It is fantastic to see colleagues keen to acknowledge the efforts of those they work alongside.

There will be far more next week as the envelopes are opened and this year’s winners are revealed.  I’m looking forward to seeing all of our worthy nominees taking centre stage.

New framework to shape the future as one team, one council, one city

The introduction of the Staff Governance Committee has been an important step in putting our workforce at the heart of our plans for the Council.  

If you don’t already follow the business of this committee, I’d recommend keeping up to date with reports. There is some very innovative work being done that will shape the way we all work.  

Next week’s Staff Governance Committee agenda is a very good example of that. A Workforce Plan will be considered by Councillors and trade union colleagues when the committee meets on Tuesday, June 18. Papers have been published and are available online.  

The Workforce Plan describes the vision for our workforce of the future.  A key part of this is the Capability Framework which sets out how we will develop each individual so that, collectively, we are able to deliver the seven organisational capabilities needed for transformation.  This is a significant piece of work that will benefit every employee and my thanks go to Isla Newcombe and her team for the diligent work in bringing this to fruition. 

In simple terms, the Capability Framework lists the skills, knowledge and behaviours that we need from every single employee. The framework is structured into four levels, which reflect increasing levels of responsibility. But while the knowledge and skills required by employees increase with the level of responsibility they hold, the behaviours remain the same at all levels. I’m as responsible for these as you are.


The Capability Framework will give us clarity and direction for our own personal and career development. The results will provide an oversight of the talent held across the organisation, which means we can develop an increasingly agile and flexible approach to managing and moving talent 

Subject to the committee’s endorsement, the framework will also be used to significantly enhance our approach to performance review. We recognise the PR&D system needs to evolve and the creation of the framework will enhance the way we manage performance and foster a culture where behaviour has equal weight to skills and knowledge.   At the same time, revisions have been made to PR&D which remove the link between absence and increment, in line with our new Supporting Attendance policy and our commitment to the health and wellbeing of our workforce  

The wider Workforce Plan will enable us to respond to the existing challenges we face and those coming down the line as the size and shape of the Council continues to evolve. It will be of great benefit as we adapt to better meet the needs of all those we serve whilst ensuring staff have the capability, confidence and capacity to deliver the crucial services we provide to the city.  

The report to the Staff Governance Committee is about far more than words on a screen – it’s about building the Council of the Future and the role we all have to play in that. It’s an exciting time for the organisation and the support we’re seeing from all corners of the Council is playing a huge part in the momentum thats building 

BP, P&J, AFC and ACC … writing the A-Z of partnership goals

We’re incredibly fortunate in Aberdeen to have organisations with big ambitions for the city, aspirations that every resident and every business can share.

From public bodies to the corporate world and through to sports clubs and the third sector, there’s a real determination to make a difference and realise the vision of a place where all people can prosper.

As a Council we’ve got a duty to drive that progress – both socially and economically – but we make no secret of the fact we can’t act alone. Partnership working is crucial and ties back to the guiding principle of one team, one council, one city.

The teamwork within the council every hour of every day is what we’re building our future on, but in recent weeks the bigger picture has been really well demonstrated.

May was a busy but important month, particularly for Richard Sweetnam and his City Growth team. We had the colour and noise of the OVO Energy Tour Series, bringing around 10,000 people into the city centre and showcasing the heart of Aberdeen to a global television audience. It was the third anniversary of our relationship with organisers Sweetspot and we hope that link will continue to evolve and thrive.

Just a week later the attention shifted to two of the most significant capital projects in the cultural story of the city – the Aberdeen Art Gallery refurbishment and the new events complex.

On a single day we saw BP announce a £1million investment in the Gallery and the Press and Journal confirm the naming rights to P&J Live after agreeing a significant sponsorship package. As an events and conference facility, it will be the envy of cities throughout Britain and the World.

To have BP and the P&J, two brands which have been cornerstones of north-east life and the region’s economy for generations, buying in to these landmark projects is a fantastic endorsement for the shift we’re overseeing in the cultural landscape of Aberdeen. Most importantly, it’s a great credit to these two companies that they’ve underlined their commitment to the city in this way.

Aberdeen Football Club is another important institution and we’re proud to work closely with the club and particularly the AFC Community Trust in a number of ways.

The success of the Food and Fun initiative has been well documented and the contribution the Dons have made to that has been a major part of the drive to tackling inequalities by providing free meals and activities in our regeneration areas during holiday periods.

The AFC Community Trust’s projects were in the spotlight last month at the SPFL Trust’s annual awards. I was pleased to attend and to present alongside the trust on the benefits of working hand in hand to deliver better outcomes in our communities. To cap a great day, it was fantastic to see the Alternative Academies project win the community programme the year prize for AFC. As ever the football rivalries were in full flow … with the trust  pipping Rangers and Celtic to the trophy!

It’s heartening to see different partnerships flourishing on so many different levels – but all brought together by the common theme of helping the people and place prosper.

I’m really keen to acknowledge the contributions of our many partners, old and new, and to thank them for playing their part in the massive change we’re seeing all across the city. Here’s to many more collaborations and to a bright future for Aberdeen.