Thank you to our Career Ready mentors – and a final call to get involved

I posted last month about the success of our Career Ready interns and the impact they made during their time with the Council. With that cohort now taking the next steps on their career path, we’re looking forward to welcoming the next intake.

My thanks go to the 12 mentors from across the organisation who have pledged their support to a fantastic programme and to supporting the young people who will join us.

There is still time to get involved as a mentor, with the deadline for registrations falling on Tuesday. Alison Paterson has done a power of work in embedding Career Ready within the Council and would be delighted to hear from you.

The Career Ready programme is a national initiative supported by a growing number of employers in the private and public sector.

It is designed to give secondary pupils, drawn from S5 and S6, an opportunity to raise their aspirations and take the first steps on the path to rewarding futures.

Twelve schools from across the city and Shire took part in the last programme, including our own Harlaw Academy, Hazlehead Academy, Lochside Academy, Northfield Academy, Oldmachar Academy and St Machar Academy.

I can’t emphasise enough how rewarding I have found mentoring to be and I’d highly recommend getting involved.

A role for all to play as EU Settlement Scheme registrations continue

Official statistics released recently show that 1 million resident EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and their family members have secured their rights to stay in the UK after Brexit through the EU Settlement Scheme.

It is an encouraging figure but does mean there are still more than 2m yet to apply. I’m mindful that some of our own colleagues are likely to be among that number.

One of Aberdeen’s great strengths is its diversity and we recognise the huge contribution the many nationalities represented within our own staff and their families make to the city, both economically and culturally. I want to ensure that valued employees from the EU who want to remain in Aberdeen after the exit date do so and I would encourage anyone who intends to register to visit the registration site.

The EU Settlement Scheme provides a simple process for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who want to stay in the UK to get the UK immigration status they need after the UK leaves the European Union and protects the right to work, study and access benefits.  It’s free to apply via a short online process.

The deadline for applying will be 30 June 2021, or 31 December 2020 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

There is more information about the support we are offer as an employer on People Anytime.

I’d ask managers in particular to familiarise themselves with the information available and be mindful that many of our team members don’t have online access during the course of their working day, so may welcome guidance.

If you work with looked after children or care leavers, be conscious that all local authorities in Scotland have a duty to ensure that applications to the Scheme are made on behalf of all looked after children who are EU citizens and for whom they have parental responsibility.

We also have continuing duties to support care leavers up to age 26. Eligible care leavers will be required to make an application to the Scheme. We have a responsibility to ensure that care leavers are made aware of the need to do this and to make applications on behalf of eligible children in our care.

Our role as care professionals, colleagues and friends will vary but there is an important part we can all play in raising awareness and providing support.

Still time to get inquisitive about Appreciative Inquiry

You might recall I trailed the concept of Appreciative Inquiry in June and the work has been continuing behind the scenes to develop that further.

To recap briefly, Appreciative Inquiry works on the simple principle that we grow as individuals and teams by asking questions (and working towards finding the answers). The aim is to shift thinking towards identifying successes and strengths which provide a positive platform to build from, with a structured approach to seeking improvements and solutions.

It’s a way of turning the focus to what we want to create, grounding outcomes in past successes and the new guiding principles, as well as inspiring us all to embrace opportunities. By opening up positive discussion we hope to encourage creativity, increase buy-in and improve morale.

With that in mind a working group is being set up and my thanks to all those who have expressed an interest in getting involved, it promises to be an interesting and rewarding project.

The team are making a final call for anyone keen to take part, with the aim of finalising by the end of August. You can find out more here.

The initial focus for piloting AI will revolve around how we value each other and recognise a job well done, an essential part of the guiding principles and a great starting point for another really positive innovation.

New term, fresh faces thanks to success of early years initiative

Whisper it, but the school holidays are almost at an end. For one group in particular the start of term can’t come quickly enough as they embark on new careers as qualified Early Years Practitioners in our city settings.

All are existing members of Council staff who decided to put themselves forward for retraining and a change in career, successfully completing their traineeships in time for the start of the new academic year.

A celebration event is planned next month to mark their achievements as they head off to put their skills into practice as part of the ongoing expansion of Early Learning and Childcare provision. It’s such an important and rewarding role, giving children the best possible start in life and the chance to be the best they can be.

The response from staff to the opportunity to retrain has been excellent and very welcome as we aim to cater for demand in all of our communities.

A further 30 council employees will form cohort two and begin their traineeship in early years later this month. I wish all well as they start on an exciting new journey.

As part of our new Apprenticeship Scheme we’re also offering Modern Apprenticeships in early years as well a number of other areas of our business. These include care, housing, business administration and customer service, offering a positive destination for young people who are at the stage of choosing their career path.

Three information sessions have been held over the past week and the response was excellent, so we’ll start to see the green shoots very soon from the seeds that have been sown.

There will be lots of activity continuing around early years in particular and it’s a growth area that presents a variety of options. If you’re interested in finding out more, please contact the Talent Acquisition team within People and Organisation and they will be happy to provide information on all the training initiatives we’re developing.

Congratulations to all of our new Early Years Practitioners and best wishes to them and our new trainees for the start of term.

Celebrating the next generation as successful Career Ready partnership continues

Friday was a day of celebration in different corners of the Council as we marked the contribution of a group of young people who have made a fantastic contribution to the organisation over the past four weeks.

Thirteen passionate and talented Career Ready interns have been lending their knowledge and ideas to our work since July 1 and they rounded off their month with us by taking part in activities to round-off their stay.

Each has had a tailored placement, based on their career ambitions, and has also had the opportunity to participate in workshops on subjects including compiling CVs, interview skills and presentation skills.

I must put on record my thanks to those students, who are drawn from S5 and S6, for their efforts during the internship – I’ve no doubt they have learnt from us just as we have learnt from them. It is always of great value to get insight from the next generation and they have been able to look at our services and business through a different lens.

Thanks also to each of the mentors from across Aberdeen City Council who have taken the class of 2019 under their wing. As a mentor myself, I found it incredibly rewarding and I’m hugely proud of the development I have seen in the intern I have partnered – she has really pushed to go outside of her comfort zone and that has been an inspiration to me as it should be to us all.

To give some background, the Career Ready programme is a national initiative supported by a growing range of employers. It is designed to give secondary pupils an opportunity to raise their aspirations and take the first steps on the path to rewarding futures.

Twelve schools from across the city and Shire have taken part in the current programme, including our own Harlaw Academy, Hazlehead Academy, Lochside Academy, Northfield Academy, Oldmachar Academy and St Machar Academy.

Looking ahead to the next wave of Career Ready students, we already have 10 Council mentors who have volunteered to take part and there are opportunities for more to get involved. If you are interested in finding out more, please take the time to talk to Alison Paterson in our People and Organisation team. Alison and the team have done a great job in coordinating our involvement.

From my own experience, I would certainly recommend taking part and I’d encourage everyone to consider mentoring.

The Career Ready initiative is part of the wider focus on the Developing the Young Workforce programme, which we have supported over a number of years now. The aim is to build on our reputation as an employer who engages, supports and enables young people to learn and develop skills, qualities and behaviours and in turn provide meaningful employment experience.

Our vision is for a city where all people can prosper and giving every young person in Aberdeen the opportunity to fulfil their potential is something we all have a part to play in, regardless of what area of the Council we work in. Our young people hold the key to the future of our communities, our city and our region. To be able to shine they have to be given the tools – and Career Ready is one of a number of ways we’re working to do that.

With school exam results just around the corner, it’s an opportune time to underline that fulfilling potential means different things for different people. Academic excellence is to be celebrated and we will always do that – but we should also be shouting just as loudly about positive destinations and the young people who are fulfilling ambitions in so many different ways and walks of life.

Friday’s Career Ready celebrations highlighted the brilliant potential we have here in Aberdeen and after the contribution of our interns I’m confident there’s lots to look forward to.

An invitation to think differently about our future

Members enquiries, committee queries, customer feedback, media requests, Freedom of Information submissions … we deal with a lot of questions as an organisation every minute of every day.

As staff we tend to be well versed in answering questions, but don’t often get the time to ask them.

As an organisation we really want to change that and encourage everyone in all corners of the Council to become more inquisitive, about what we do now and what we can achieve together in the future.

There’s a working group being set up as a first step towards embracing a technique called Appreciative Inquiry, with expressions of interest invited from anyone keen to get involved. I’d encourage you all to find out more and consider taking part.

Appreciative Inquiry works on the simple principle that we grow as individuals and teams by asking questions (and working towards finding the answers). The aim is to shift thinking towards identifying successes and strengths which provide a positive platform to build from, with a structured approach to seeking improvements and solutions.

It’s a way of turning the focus to what we want to create, grounding outcomes in past successes and the new guiding principles, as well as inspiring us all to embrace opportunities. By opening up positive discussion we hope to encourage creativity, increase buy-in and improve morale.

The first working group will be tasked with looking at how we can better value each other and recognise a job well done – an important guiding principle.

It’s particularly relevant following on from the Star Awards last week, and some of the debate we saw in the build-up to the event. Lots of questions were posed about what recognition should and could look like – and I hope there will be many more as part of the Appreciative Inquiry approach.

That approach can be just as vital in areas including recruitment, engagement and our daily work in looking for ways to improve what we deliver on behalf of customers.

We need to think differently and want to support individuals and teams to do that in a collaborative way. If we continue to do the same things and think the same way, we’ll get the same results.

I’m excited to see how we can use Appreciative Inquiry to shape the future and the first of the working groups is a great opportunity to test and learn.

If you haven’t expressed an interest already, please do give some thought to getting involved in what promises to be a really positive and rewarding project.

One (cycling) team, one council, one city!

16/0519 Tour Series 2019A group of intrepid colleagues will be showing the one team principle in a whole new light today when they take to the streets as part of the OVO Energy Tour Series.

Flying the flag for the Council in the corporate race are Sandie Scott, Phil Astley, Janet McRoberts and Barbara Jones – good luck to team ACC!

The city centre is a hive of activity this morning as it’s is transformed into a cycling hub, with activities running from noon right through to the start of the elite races that get underway with the women’s event at 5.30pm.

The corporate competition is part of the support programme, with age group and amateur categories on the 1.3km circuit from noon, and our team will be on the start line at around 2.20pm for anyone who is keen to cheer them on.

They’ll do us proud and will surely come through with fewer bumps and strains than the Council football team that fell to a gallant one goal defeat against Police Scotland counterparts last week. It’s the taking part that counts, at least that’s what the football team tell me!

The Tour Series route this year starts and finishes on Broad Street, showcasing the incredible event space that has been created, and takes riders down Upperkirkgate and onto Schoolhill before looping back through Back Wynd and Belmont Street to head back along Union Street to the home straight past the Town House and Marischal College.

The organisers take the Tour Series to towns and cities across Britain and have been vocal in their praise of the Aberdeen crowds, with thousands turning out over the past two years. Here’s hoping for similar support today and this evening – and more of the sunshine that was a feature of the Aberdeen leg in 2017 and 2018.

Tour Series 2019

Digital skills and numeracy in the spotlight

I’m delighted the Council will be lending its support to Digital Skills Week (May 13-17) and National Numeracy Day (May 15), with lots of opportunities for everyone to get involved.

The programme for the digital week can be found here and includes events, showcases and drop-in sessions.

Digital skills are the foundation the Council of the future is being built upon and this week is a good chance to shine a light on the way we’re all changing and adapting –  I hope every week will be a digital skills week going forward!

National Numeracy Day promotes skills that are also central to so many of the tasks we carry out as a Council day to day. At its heart there’s a challenge to test your ability with a view to learning and developing. You can find out more here, with links to useful resources.

Both Digital Skills Week and National Numeracy Day are part of growing national campaigns and I’d encourage as many people to take some time to explore the resources available and to support these two initiatives.

A lunch invite with a difference!

The Clean Up Aberdeen campaign for 2019 will be launched next week and it’s the perfect opportunity to recognise a fantastic initiative.

Steven Shaw and his team join forces each year with volunteers, community groups, schools and many more organisations and individuals to do exactly what it says on the tin!

Clean Up Aberdeen involves everything from litter picks around schools and parks to beach clean-ups and everything in between and it’s a great example of the Council working together with others to make a difference to the city.

The launch at the Beach Ballroom on March 21 will involve 16 schools, with young people from across the city getting the opportunity to ask important questions of a panel comprising representatives from the Council and other organisations with a litter and recycling theme.

More schools than ever before are taking part in Clean Up Aberdeen, with a range of challenges to choose from.

There will be a clean-up following on from the launch, with the pupils and teachers leading the way.

That’s where Council employees can get involved and join the lunch-time clean-up, starting from the Ballroom. If you’re interested in taking part, the intention is to start at 12.30pm and all are welcome.

Steven is the best point of contact if you’re keen to find out more about Clean Up Aberdeen opportunities through the year. My thanks go to Steven and his dedicated teams for their efforts, not to mention the pupils and volunteers who continue to make it a project to be proud of.

 

Your success matters to me

In these times of significant change, both communication and engagement are important. I hope the various blog posts are helpful in term of keeping everyone informed.

We’re certainly seeing lots of staff engagement at the moment. Whether its staff engaging in the design of the new behaviour framework,  putting cost saving ideas forward for the budget or being involved in one of the many transformation projects – it’s fantastic to see. By being involved and engaged, I believe it will increase our sense of control as we continue through our change journey.

Understandably some colleagues may be questioning the need  for and value  of a new behaviour framework. There’s plenty of evidence that shows that most transformation efforts fail because the organisations have not aligned the organisational culture to the hopes and ambitions of the transformation programmes.

Our transformation programme, has identified seven capabilities that we need to build across the organisation if we are to fully realise the benefits of the target operating model.

The draft behaviour framework is deliberately aligned to these seven organisational capabilities. Work is already underway on developing a capability framework for us as staff and, again, this is being aligned completely to the seven organisational capabilities.

So the work on the behaviour framework is a deliberate attempt to try and influence the culture of our organisation. The alignment between our culture and our transformation, will increase our chances of success in ensuring we are a council fit for the 21st century, living within the financial means afforded to us.

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has shaped the behaviour framework and we’ll certainly be presenting your views to the staff governance committee in March when we ask members for their approval.

Once approved, the behaviour framework will then be a feature of everyone’s personal objectives and performance appraisals. It will be down to us to live up to the principles we adopt.

I regularly read  the ideas put forward by staff on the Ideas Hub and there’s certainly no shortage of them. It’s a great platform and if you haven’t tried it out, I’d encourage you to do so – whether that’s by sharing your own idea or simply liking someone else’s suggestion. Give it a go!

I’ve been reading closely the thread of comments on the Star Awards. I hope the concerns about wasting public resource have been allayed by the confirmation that the event is sponsored.

In my mind, the team of volunteers who drive the star awards are incredibly selfless and are entirely motivated by the act of recognising the contribution our colleagues make to the city.  These colleagues are continuing to deliver their formal day jobs and have volunteered their own time to deliver the awards. I’m sure the comments are not intended to sound ungrateful for the commitment these volunteers continue to show and I’d like to repeat my previous thanks to all those colleagues,  past and present,  who have supported the event.

Having said that, I do have some sympathy with the comments being expressed by colleagues. In these challenging financial times, particularly when we are having to reduce our workforce, I can see why colleagues might be nervous about the appropriateness of and perceptions of us celebrating.

Given the long term financial outlook our sector faces however,  if we align our choices about championing staff success to our financial fortunes, we may never be in the position to celebrate. That sits uncomfortably with me personally but also flies in the face of what staff have said in response to the staff surveys of 2014, 2016 and the current engagement on the behaviour principles – where there has been a resounding message about recognising and appreciating staff.

We must not allow ourselves as a workforce to be defined entirely by our continuing financial pressures or challenges, but instead to be defined by how we are continuing to deliver services within this context.

I think it’s important that we all feel responsible for each other’s success and that we want to be a part of celebrating those achievements. This sense of shared responsibility for the good work we do is critical to creating the culture we need in order to be successful as an organisation.

It is important to hear the views of all those who wish to share an opinion because, of course, there may be different ways to support each other’s success and to celebrate it.  It  takes courage to express views in the way colleagues have on this matter,  so thank you for doing that.  Both disagreement and agreement represent engagement and I appreciate the contributions.

This is an important  issue that we need to navigate together. So I’d like to offer to meet a range of colleagues with different views on the star awards and let’s see what, together, we can agree are ways to support, encourage and celebrate each others success. I’d also like to invite our trade union colleagues to participate in the discussion.

I know the challenge many will face in engaging in a face to face conversation due to work patterns, so I’ll ask Isla Newcombe (Chief Officer for People and Organisation) to arrange a selection of different sessions as well as an online way to engage in discussing a range of alternatives. Details will follow and I look forward to reporting back on the next steps.