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Amy Newnham
Organisational Development Business Partner

About Amy:

Amy Newnham, Organisational Development Business Partner

Welcome to our latest blogger and new mum, Amy Newnham, who is responsible for organisational development within the Councils.

Amy will be writing about the latest thinking on the work place, the work/life balance, new policies to help personal development and how to juggle all that with being a new mum of course.

You can read Amy's current 2018 blog posts on this page below:


8th November 2018: Mental Health First Aiders in the workplace

This week I was involved in a meeting to discuss how we might use Mental Health First Aiders in the workplace.

Those who attended included two of our directors, others who have been trained up in mental health first aid and other people across the organisation who have an interest in the scheme (myself included).

“What are mental health first aiders?”, you might ask. They're people who are trained up in how to support people who are experiencing a moment of poor mental health. In the same way a physical first aider might support someone who breaks a bone or cuts themselves at work, mental health first aiders step in when someone's mental health appears to be suffering. They know how to spot the signs of poor mental health, have the confidence to approach the person and offer support, listen without judgement and give them reassurance and encouragement to any get support needed.

Mental Health First Aid is something that is being welcomed into many organisations across the UK, both in the public sector and by private organisations. The recently published Steveson / Farmer Report on Mental Health and Employers (PDF on the H&S at Work website) outlined that the cost of poor mental health to the UK is between £74 billion and £99 billion per year. This includes the cost of people being off work as well as people being less productive at work because of their poor mental health. I was astounded at the cost! It really outlined to me the importance of us acting and supporting our staff to improve and take care of their wellbeing.

It was a really productive and encouraging session. Everyone agreed that it was important to provide this support for our staff - not just because of the money we could potentially save by supporting people before they get to a crisis point and go off work with stress - but because caring for staff going through a hard time is the right thing to do.

It was brilliant to have some Mental Health First Aiders in the meeting and hear from them about what they've been doing already in supporting those around them. What they shared is that stepping in and supporting someone who is having a period of poor mental health doesn't take much - often just saying: “Are you ok, do you want to come and have a chat with me about how things are?”. This can make the difference between someone suffering in silence and someone getting the help that they need.

So what are we going to do with the Mental Health First Aiders? We're going to publicise who they are and try to get everyone in the organisation aware that these people are around and available to talk if anyone needs it.

I'm really hopeful about the steps that our organisation is taking to support the people who work in it. Talking more about mental health and providing timely support to those who need has the potential to help us thrive as individuals and as an organisation.

2018-11-08 - Mental Health scrabble letters (Pixabay - 2019924)

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1st November 2018: Mindfulness

Last week I went along to a mindfulness session, organised by the Councils’ wellbeing programme ‘well@work’ (it’s a programme headed by fellow blogger, Tammy Waine).

For those of you who don’t know what mindfulness is, it’s about being more present in the moment. Taking notice of small things, like the experience of washing your hands - smelling the soap, feeling it lather up on your skin, appreciating the temperature and sound of the water. Being present in this way can be an antidote to the anxiety and stress we experience when we focus too much on the future or worry too much about things that have happened in the past.

In this session, the facilitator talked about an aspect of living a more positive and present life. She also took us through some mindfulness meditations, like a body scan (if you want to know what a body scan is, you can search for it on YouTube - there are hundreds of body scan meditations on there).

I found the mindfulness meditations quite hard to follow - I almost fell asleep in them (due to tiredness from disturbed nights with my young son no doubt!) but I appreciated the content that the facilitator shared about how to to live a more positive life.

We discussed as a group the power of gratitude and how it can make us happier if we remember all the things we have to be grateful for in life. I shared that I’m grateful for my son, Jenson and the endless cuddles I get with him. Just thinking of him and our cuddles makes me smile and brings a bit of positivity to me.

Why not spend a moment thinking of what you’re grateful for? Your family, your health, the smell of coffee in the morning, cake. Even if things are hard for you right now, there’s always something you can be grateful for and remembering this can make life a little sweeter.

In the session, we also discussed the impact of power posing on feeling more confident. It’s scientifically proven (by a lady called Amy Cuddy, if you’re interested in learning more) that if you stand for two minutes in a ‘power pose’ (think hands on your hips like superman or hands up in the air like the photo below) you’ll feel more confident and are likely to perform better at things like an interview or an important meeting.

I actually ‘power posed’ before going into the interview for the job I’m currently in. I felt a little silly in the toilet cubicle, stood in a superman pose, but after two minutes of standing like this, I felt more confident and walked into the interview with a greater sense of confidence in my own abilities.

These are two things that I’m really glad to have been reminded of through the mindfulness session - the power of gratitude and how power posing can increase your confidence. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about these two things too!

Photo: Be grateful and think positive

2018-11-01 - Amy Pic

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25th October 2018: Work experience

You may not know this but my HR team - or more precisely, Lois, the Learning and Development Coordinator who works alongside me - organises and manages the work experience placements that the Councils offer to students. I've been working with Lois to review this process over the past few months and thought I would spend a bit of time talking about it!

Until recently, our work experience process consisted of students contacting us and, in turn, us reactively contacting different departments to try to place them. It took a lot of time, going back and forward between the student and the teams ... it also didn't feel like we were helping students to prepare for how they'd have to apply for a job in the 'real world'.

So from next week we're going to kick off a new proactive approach!

We've asked departments to commit to having a work experience student over the course of the year. Any student who wants to apply for a placement will need to answer a few questions (as they would in a job application) about what they know about the Councils, what interests them about the placement they're applying for and give a bit of information about what they enjoy doing in their spare time.

This allows us to allocate placements to students who are really interested in a particular area of work, and will also help them to become familiar with how to write a job application - something which will be of use over the course of their life.

I'm really excited about the roles that students will be able to apply for. My very own HR team will be offering a placement, looking at everything we do (from handling employee data, managing employee relations to supporting learning and development in the organisation). We've also got a placement with the team that does housing management for Adur homes - great for anyone who wants to work in property or around the supply of housing. The Digital Team are also offering a placement, which can be tailored to the interests of the student - ranging from digital development, project management to helping people who are having problems with their IT equipment.

There are a wide variety of roles on offer and I'm really looking forward to seeing how this new way of offering work experience placements goes!

See also: Work experience placements (and - coming very soon - how to apply)

2018-10-25 - Woman jumping towards the word JOB (Pixabay - 2697951)

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18th October 2018: How we give feedback

I've written before about a leadership course I'm facilitating for all our people managers in the organisation (my 20th September post if you're interested). Just as a recap, the course is three half-days delivered over over three months and focuses on how our people managers can hold quality 1:1 conversations with the people they manage.

This course was developed when I was on maternity leave, so I'm in the strange position of delivering something that I don't always fully understand or don't know a lot about! Luckily my co-facilitator is brilliant and has such a great wealth of knowledge that she can answer the trickiest question about the content and is more at ease with it!

There's one section I find fascinating from the second day of the course and so I thought I'd share it with you today. It's about how we give feedback and is based on a book called 'Radical Candour' by Kim Scott.

We all have different ways of giving feedback. I definitely shy away from saying anything negative to people. I hate the idea that I might be hurting someone's feelings or upset them by sharing honestly that I often don't quite tell the truth about how bad something was or how something impacted me. And what's the result? I'm left feeling frustrated and the other person doesn't learn fully from the experience.

But there is another way of giving feedback, and that's what we explored in our session together. We looked at an approach called 'radical candour' which is how we can give feedback with a high level of care - not wanting to destroy people by what you're telling them - but also with honesty and the courage to not shy away from the truth.

I've been trying to practice it with people around me and I had the opportunity with some colleagues who were facilitating the common room (a peer-to-peer learning session) last week. The session had generally gone well, but there were some areas that I thought could be improved and here's what I said to them:

“I feel awkward giving you this feedback, because I know how much effort you put into planning the session, but I think there were some things that could have gone better. For example ... [and then I gave my thoughts].”

By saying what was going on for me, I could express that I cared for them but it also allowed me to courageously offer my feedback and as a result we all learned from the experience.

If you shy away from feedback, here are some top tips about how to communicate with radical candour:

Acknowledge what is going on for you - that you're struggling to get the words out or that you're hesitating and holding back. This shows vulnerability and allows the other person to feel more comfortable being vulnerable themselves.

Focus on giving feedback about the things you can see - the words, actions and body language of the other person. This means saying: “I notice you have arrived late to work 5 times this past month” instead of saying “I notice you've become lazy”.

Look at what you can do together to improve the situation - great leadership isn't always about knowing all the answers, it's about being able to support those around you to grow and flourish.

I hope this helps you to improve how you give feedback - it can help you both at home and in work!

2018-10-18 - The word feedback written on a blackboard (Pexels 533425)

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11th October 2018: World Mental Health Day

This week brought with it World Mental Health Day. To mark it, we've got some activities going on here at the councils around mental health in the workplace. The common room, which I've written about before, is talking about how we can better cope with stress, and there's also going to be a tea and cake break too, encouraging people to talk about mental health.

So in the spirit of the week, I thought I would share some reflections on my own mental health. Many people who know me at work would describe me as confident, self-sure and driven, but I don't always feel this way and I haven't always had the level of confidence I have now.

In fact, when I was in my early twenties, I suffered with several eating disorders and needed support from the NHS, as well as personal therapy to help me be at peace with my body. I had to learn how to improve my mental health instead of hiding my struggles by starving myself or pushing my feelings down with food.

My journey to good mental health hasn't stopped there though ... I'm still working on improving it. For example, I sometimes struggle with anxiety - usually when I'm focusing on the future and things that could go wrong instead of staying in the present.

I now realise what I need to have good mental health: close friends I can confide in, enough rest, a healthy diet, therapy (I'm having some life coaching at the moment which is brilliant!), exercise and time and space to be by myself. Some of these are tricky as a new mum - especially the sleep and time for myself - so I've started to going to bed earlier since I'm being woken in the night be Jenson and I make sure I have a few hours to myself at the weekend.

I feel quite vulnerable sharing this with such a large audience of people - some who will be my colleagues and who I want to see me as 'competent' and 'professional'.

But perhaps that is the reason why we don't talk more about mental health in the workplace, because it can feel like an impossibility to be both a 'real person' with challenges and a trusted member of staff.

I could write about why I think this is - there are so many reasons why- but I'm not going to today. I'm going to trust that this blog post of mine can start a dialogue, maybe a shifting of views or perhaps an awareness that you can be an ambitious, driven, professional member of staff and have some struggles with your mental health.

I hope people will start to see by my example that the two are not mutually exclusive.

So happy World Mental Health Day everyone!

2018-10-11 - Person holding up a large smiley face (Pexels - 1282169)

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4th October 2018: People Working Group

This is my tenth blog post for Adur & Worthing Councils - almost three months of blogging! It's sometimes been hard to squeeze in time to write about what I'm up to, but it's been a good way to reflect on my work and I hope you've found it helpful so far.

Today I want to share something about the People Working Group which I lead.

The People Working Group is a group of people from across the organisation who want to make conditions better for those who work for the Councils. Each person commits to giving two hours of their time each month to meet and work on a project which focuses on making improvements for all those who work for Adur & Worthing Councils.

We're a wide and diverse bunch, from gardeners to digital developers, policy makers to administrators - what joins us is our collective desire to make changes and positively impact the organisation.

At the moment, we're focusing on improving how we welcome people to the organisation and how we help newcomers get up-to-speed with everything they need to know to work effectively. We've got some exciting ideas up our sleeves to create a great induction programme which is fun, interesting and full of useful information. Here are a few of our ideas:

Staff Handbook

We're looking to create an interactive online document which gives all the helpful information needed when you start a role - from how to use our financial system to where you can park if the car park is full! It's going to be written in a way that doesn't just provide information but also gives a sense of who we are as an organisation in the way it's written - warm, honest and collaborative.

Treasure Hunt

What do you think when you hear the word 'treasure hunt'? For me, it is a fun and fast paced way of getting out and about. And that's what we're trying to create with our induction treasure hunt - get people out and about in the organisation to form connections and links with each other in a faster way than they usually would. We'll have clues and questions that will provide people with helpful information (i.e. what the Town Hall Porters can help with) but will also help people to make connections across the organisation with people who will be able to help them to be more effective in their roles.

E-learning

At the moment, we have a list of e-learning modules that people have to complete when they start working for the organisation. And quite often people will be given them all to complete in their first week of working for us. Not only will this lead to people not remembering any of the important information (because they're just trying to get through a stack of information as soon as possible), it also doesn't give a great first impression of us as an organisation. Like starting a new relationship and meeting the whole of his/her family in the first week - it's a bit overwhelming! So we're going to organise our e-learning - make sure the information is up-to-date and as engaging as possible and organised so new employees complete e-learning over an extended period of time instead of all at once!

So there you are, a glimpse at the work of the People Working Group. It makes me proud to see all the ideas and work we're generating. And it also makes me proud to be working in an organisation which doesn't just 'do' things to people, but creates and works collaboratively.

Photo: Welcome on board!

2018-10-04 - Person standing next to a welcome on board doormat on a jetty (Pixabay-1846008)

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27th September 2018: Time to reflect on how my return to work has gone

I'm on holiday this week - hurray! I'm spending a week in beautiful Abersoch, North Wales (please cross your fingers for me that it's nice weather!) and enjoying a week with my family and some friends. We'll be climbing Snowdon, playing on the beach and eating lots of yummy meals together. I'm also hoping to slip away to do the things I used to do in my pre-mum days - like sit in a cafe and read a book by myself, go for a jog, or have a few lie-ins!

Since I'm not going to be working, I thought I'd take the time to reflect on how my return to work has gone alongside finding my feet as a mum.

Boundaries

Before I became a mum, I'd often find myself in the office until 6pm. It can often feel like there's an endless list of things that need to be done (or could be done!) But since my little bubba has come into the world, I've put in place some healthy boundaries and leave each afternoon at 4:30pm so I'm home in time to give Jenson a bath and am there when he goes to sleep. It's sometimes been a pull to leave work but I think it has made me more productive - I have to get things done by my deadline or they don't get done! - and this has also made me really grateful for the flexibility that I'm able to have in my role.

Redefined

I feel that I've changed since becoming a mother. Things that mattered to me - progressing in my career, moving into senior management - no longer hold the same sway over me. What is more important is being able to contribute to creating a better world for my boy, and knowing that I've left things in a better state for him. And so I'm looking at how I can contribute to this wider goal in my role - enabling services to get better results, tapping into existing networks to see how we can bring about change (for instance, the place-based management apprenticeships that I blogged about recently). I wrote a little note for myself before I went on maternity leave, saying I had permission to redefine myself when I came back from my time off... and that's what I think I'm doing.

Presence

Since becoming a mum, I feel like I've become more present in the moment - not worrying about the future or dwelling on the past as much as I used to do. When I'm with Jenson it's near-on impossible to think of anything else but the present moment as he wants my whole attention and I delight in being with him (although maybe not so much at 5am when he wakes up and wants to play!) And so I feel like the influence of my little mindfulness guru - as I like to think of him - is also helping me to get better at being present at work. My head is less busy with thoughts and, if I do start to worry or dwell on things, I feel more able to snap out of it than I did before.

So there you have it - a few thoughts about how becoming a mum has changed how I am at work. I'm sure there'll be more changes as Jenson starts nursery in January, and as I take on the challenges that motherhood will bring. What I do know is that I'm really glad to be back working at Adur & Worthing Councils. It's a great place with wonderful people and a hugely supportive environment.

Photo: Amy and her son Jenson

2018-09-27 - Amy with Jenson in a baby carrier backpack

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20th September 2018: Leading Quality Conversations

This week I'm busy prepping for some training I'll been delivering when I get back from a holiday I'm taking with my family to Wales. The course is called 'Leading Quality Conversations' and is aimed at supporting our leaders to have the confidence and skills to support the people they manage.

I thought I'd take some time today to share more details about the course with you, and why I think it's important. First, a bit of background!

Have you ever worked anywhere where you had an annual appraisal? If so, you may have just shuddered with the unpleasant memory of the hefty form you had to fill in, as well as the awkward conversation with your manager about all the things that may have gone a bit wrong over the year. Plus, of course, all of the brilliant things you've done over the past 12 months. You may then have had to think of lots of examples of how you have embodied the organisational 'values' or 'behaviours'. And then, finally, you would have had to create a list of priorities for the coming year ... which invariably would change by the next appraisal (or next month even!) because ... well, life is messy and things change! Projects get binned, priorities shift and new things get picked up.

For some people, an appraisal was a positive experience - it meant time set aside to talk to their manager about how things have been for the past year and define priorities for the year ahead ... but for a lot of people and organisations, it was an uncomfortable, unhelpful experience (see Performance management is broken on the Deloitte website). And so at Adur & Worthing Councils, we've changed how we 'do' appraisals, moving to having more regular open, honest 1:1 conversations about people's performance and development.

For many people, this has been a welcomed move but for others, it has meant a change in how they communicate. And so to help them develop the skills they need, I've put on a course for all our people leaders.

It's not a course where I stand up at the front and tell people how they should do things. Instead, it's more of an exploration of how we can support our people to develop, grow and view each 1:1 as a 'safe space' where they can talk about difficulties they face in their role, discuss their personal aspirations and reflect on how they'd like to do things better. This will hopefully lead to people feeling better supported, able to perform at their best and, in turn, improve the services we provide to you!

The course is made up of three half-day sessions and looks in detail at how people develop and thrive, what great communication looks like and then finally how to hold an effective 1:1 conversation.

The results and feedback so far have been promising - although it has involved people grappling with challenges like how to motivate, develop and support their team to thrive through times of difficulty. It's also been a challenge for me in delivering this content to my best ability when I've sometimes had little sleep (Jenson is teething at the moment!)

I thought I'd share my favourite model from the first session of the course so you know what our people leaders are exploring and, who knows, perhaps you can get some value from it yourself!

The role of trust - taken from a book by Patrick Lencioni.

2018-09-20 - The role of trust (triangle - shared results - accountability - commitment - healthy conflict - trust)

In any high performing team, there has to be a basis of trust and in any low performing team you'll most probably see a lack of trust. Why is trust so important? Well, it allows people to feel safe disagreeing with each other and putting their own views forward (also known as 'healthy conflict'), which can in turn enable people to commit to the actions they need to take to get the job done, stay accountable to their actions and, in the end, enjoy shared results.

In the course so far, we've explored what builds trust in our teams - getting to know each other personally, consistently showing ourselves to be trustworthy with our words and actions, doing what we say we're going to do, respecting the other person ... these are just a few of the ideas that people have come up with.

It's going to be interesting to see what our leaders take away from the second day in October when we look at what great communication looks like.

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13th September 2018: Building emotional intelligence

I'm having a really full week and it's been a bit of a challenge to find the time to write down some reflections about what I've been up with to share with you. But I'm glad I've made the time ... like I'm always glad I make the time to go to the common room.

“What's the common room?”, I hear you ask!

Well, the common room is a monthly meetup open to anyone and everyone working at Adur & Worthing Councils. We spend two hours each month focusing on a common issue faced by people across the Councils. In the past we've looked at time (there's never enough of it!), influencing and negotiating (sometimes tricky for those who aren't in a position of authority), and communication (how we can connect and be more 'in the know'). At our latest meet up yesterday, we met to look at emotional intelligence.

I was really interested to go along to the common room as emotional intelligence really interests me and I wanted to learn more about this topic. I'm glad I did!

For those who don't know, being emotionally intelligent is about how we recognise, understand and manage our own emotions and those of other people. It might manifest as never letting your temper get out of control, being a good listener, staying motivated to achieve what you want in life, being easy to talk to, or being able to manage conflict.

The five areas of emotional intelligence we looked at in the session were:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

All good things, right? In fact, so good that a study has shown that people with a high degree of emotional intelligence make more money and 90% of top performers have high levels of emotional intelligence (on the Forbes website). These are strong reasons to try and work on it!

During my two hours at the common room, we discussed what we thought emotional intelligence was, shared tips on the areas where we felt we had the most amount of emotional intelligence (I talked about I how stay motivated by breaking down big tasks into small manageable chunks so I don't feel overwhelmed), and then identified how we might improve in an area that we thought we were weak in.

From the session, I've decided that I want to get better at self-regulation (something that is not so easy at the moment while I'm tired from waking up three times in the night to feed my son!). When I feel annoyance, anger or frustration, I'm going to let myself feel the feeling and then let it die down instead of suppressing it like I have in the past. It's an idea my colleague, Julie, gave me from a book she recommended called 'The Chimp Paradox'. I'm going to borrow the book from her and perhaps I'll report back on it in a future blog!

I really believe that the learning we do in the common room is important to Adur & Worthing Councils. It's a very different way of learning - not the traditional classroom environment where people learn from an 'expert'. Instead, we all learn together. The sessions are hosted by staff who are passionate about self-development and it's a great use of time as we quickly learn about a topic and decide what actions we can take to make a difference in our working lives. The sessions are attended by people from all the different directorates and this gives us time and space to meet people from across the organisation, which helps us to work together more effectively.

So that's a little about what I've been up to this week!

2018-09-13 - team building - group of staff placing hands together (Pexels-1092373)

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6th September 2018: The power of apprentices

Happy Thursday everyone! It's been a packed week in the HR team so it's nice to take a moment to reflect and share my thoughts with you! In my last blog, I wrote a bit about what I do generally in my role and promised you a bit more detail about what I do ... starting with apprenticeships. So here we go!

Before I started working in my role, I would have guessed that apprenticeships were just young people in their first roles within the organisation or someone doing a manual trade. And while this is the case (like the gardener apprentice we have working in the parks team) apprenticeships are so much more than that! In fact, it takes up quite a lot of my time!

Because we are a large employer we pay into an 'apprenticeship levy'. This means that around £7,500 per month gets taken from us by the government and funnelled into an account that we can only use to pay for apprenticeship courses.

As a public body, we also have a target for 2.7% of our workforce to be completing an apprenticeship at any one time.

Hopefully these stats haven't sent you to sleep ... because although there are some numbers to be considered, I think that apprenticeships are a brilliant option to give our staff new skills!

In fact, did you know that apprenticeships range from GCSE-level qualifications but also go up to Masters level?! And that the sort of studies I am helping new and existing team members sign up for range from surveying, social media and marketing, customer services, horticulture, team leading, professional accountancy and software development?

There are loads of new apprenticeship courses being developed all the time, so I have to keep my ear to the ground and keep track of just what is possible for our staff!

Most of the work I've been doing recently on apprenticeships is to raise awareness of what staff can study. I regularly write articles for our staff newsletter, talk at team meetings about what is possible and when someone confirms they want to do an apprenticeship I have the less fun but vitally important task of getting all the paperwork in place.

That's what I've been busy doing this week, signing up one of the managers in the housing team to complete a 'managing housing maintenance' course which will help him to become more effective in his role. It's great to be able to support him to become more confident and to gain a qualification which will help him both now and in the future.

On top of all that, I've also got some really exciting plans in place around developing a place-based leadership apprenticeship course. What does that mean? Well, instead of sending people off to a college to study, I'm working with public service and third sector organisations who we already have links with - like St Barnabas House for example - to put a leadership apprenticeship programme on in-house.

It means that our leaders will be forming better working relationships by studying alongside each other, can talk about shared issues as part of the course (which will allow us to collectively take action where we can) and ultimately this will lead to better outcomes for all residents of Adur and Worthing.

We'll also be adding some extra content to this course that we think is really important for leaders working in public and third sector services and, who knows, we could also weave some work swaps as part of the course to give people experience of our different organisations. The possibilities are endless and I'm really excited about how this could positively impact how we do things in Adur and Worthing.

So watch this space and if you work for a public or third sector organisation in Adur or Worthing and are interested in getting involved, get in touch with me!

2018-09-06 - Group of people standing, each with one of their hands up in the air (Pexels - 1059120)

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30th August 2018: Welcome to the world of OD

You'll have learnt a bit about me over the course of the 4 blogs that I've written so far ... that I'm a mum of a gorgeous little baby boy, that I work in the HR team and that I'm a passionate advocate for the environment.

But do you know what I do in my role of Organisational Development Business Partner?

I don't think many people would know what that involves and so I thought I'd share with you today a bit about what I do and why this is something that Adur & Worthing Councils invest in.

Organisational development (OD) is part psychology, part people, part business and looks at how the organisation can become more effective through how we develop and support our people.

Well, that's how I'd describe it to someone on the street who asked me what I do. I look at what we can do to make our staff more effective and, in doing so, improve the outcomes that we get for you, our residents.

It might involve looking at how we develop our managers to better support their staff, how we create the right conditions (with our HR policies) for people to thrive or how we improve how we recruit, induct and develop those who choose to work for us ... and if a member of staff leaves, how we learn from them about how we can improve as an organisation.

My job is so varied, which is why I love it! I love that I can be supporting a manager to develop one day and the next be facilitating a group to look at how we can improve our induction process the next.

How I can be advertising apprenticeship opportunities one moment and then be hosting a session discussing how we can become more emotionally intelligent in the workplace.

No one day is the same for me and I get to meet a lot of the people who work for Adur & Worthing Councils - we're a great bunch if I do say so myself!

What I've learnt during my time in this role (and have seen with 'new eyes' since I've returned from maternity leave) is how people in the Councils want to do a great job.

It sounds glib but I've not met a single person who wasn't bothered - everyone is keen to make a difference and do their best.

And I get the pleasure of helping people to make more of a difference and achieve even more than their best with what I do.

So there you are, a whistle-stop explanation of what I do.

Watch this space, over the next few weeks I'm going to dive in a little deeper into some of the things I've been getting involved with, starting with a look at the apprenticeships we offer and that I co-ordinate!

Photo: Amy working her magic in the HR Office in Worthing Town Hall

2018-08-30 - Amy working her magic in the HR Office at Worthing Town Hall

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23rd August 2018: Flexible working

Last week was a tricky one for me as my son became sick. He had a mild case of the norovirus (can norovirus ever be mild!?), caught whilst we were camping with friends. What a delight!

It gave me the first glimpse of the unglamorous side of being a working mum. Not the sunshine and happiness of getting to come to work and then going home to my beaming baby, but juggling the myriad of meetings and responsibilities of my job whilst trying to be as present as possible at home (which involved a trip to A&E and Jenson refusing to take the bottle, only feeding from me).

Photo: Happily camping - and then ending up in A&E

2018-08-23 - Happily camping - and then ending up in A&E

This experience has made me appreciate just how flexible an employer Adur & Worthing Councils are and how brilliant our technology is. I was able to work from home four times last week - coming in to attend the meetings that I couldn't move or postpone - and was just as productive as if I had been in the office.

My work laptop has access to everything I could need to do my job - access to all my files, the ability to 'chat' with colleagues via google hangouts (an instant message function that comes with Google gmail) and the extra desktop screen I have at home (an investment I'm so glad I made!) meant that I could work without having to strain my neck, looking down at my laptop.

Our phone system is really clever too and allowed me to answer phone calls at home. You see, when you call through to Adur & Worthing Councils, your phone call doesn't go to a physical phone. Instead, it comes through on my computer or via an app on my work mobile phone - incredible! Perhaps this is something that fellow blogger, Simon Millier, can explain in one of his digital blogs because to me, it seems a bit like magic! It meant that I could take phone calls from the comfort of my own home where I could be close to Jenson if he needed me.

In fact, working from home meant that I could get loads done. From the quiet of my front room, I ploughed through tasks, organised myself, planned upcoming meetings and had time and space to think about what I should be focusing my efforts on going forward.

It really helped me during a time that could have been really stressful and might have, in the past, resulted in me missing almost a week of work.

I'm lucky that my role allows me to be flexible in a way that someone working in our customer services front-line team or one of our waste collectors can't be since, outside of meetings, a lot of my tasks can be done on the computer wherever and whenever, supported by the great digital set-up we've got. But it's also the mindset of the Councils that helped me - how staff are supported to fit work alongside caring responsibilities as much as possible - which really helped me last week.

Luckily Jenson has bounced back to him usual smiley, happy self and so I'm back in the office for most of this week - it's such a relief to see him better, and it's so nice to reconnect with colleagues! Hopefully this is the last I see of sickness for a while ...

Photo: Working from home

2018-08-23 - Working from home

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16th August 2018: Looking after our environment

Something very close to my heart is the environment. I don't know if it's because I've just had a baby and am thinking about the planet he will grow up in, or my vegan lifestyle, but I try to do my best to reduce my impact on the planet.

2018-08-16 - Bee on a flower blossom (Pexels-416292)

For a number of years I've been hearing about scary environmental issues, like how 'overshoot day' - when we use all the resources the earth can regenerate in a year - was 1st August 2018 this year. How bees, which are crucial to pollination which enables our food to grow, are on a teetering path towards extinction, and how we're one degree away from a planetary domino effect which would render much of our planet, including coastal areas, inhabitable.

Not very cheery stuff, eh?

But I take heart in the fact that Adur and Worthing are investing in becoming more sustainable as an organisation and as places to live.

“What does this have to do with you, Amy?” I hear you cry!

Well, it is intrinsically linked to how we learn and develop as an organisation, which is what my job is all about. Whether it's sourcing nearby learning providers to cut down on our carbon footprint, supporting our strategic sustainability manager, Francesca Iliffe, to put on sustainable learning sessions which can influence our building and project work, sustainability is a part of what I and my team!

It also makes me proud to work for the councils because there is alignment between my core values and the choices and action Adur and Worthing are taking to address sustainability issues.

I love how we're strongly behind the 'refill' campaign to get more people to use refillable bottles and less plastic, single use ones. I think it's amazing how parts of our parks were left wild this year to allow bees and other insects to roam free. I admire how we have solar panels on our main buildings to both cut down our footprint and generate income for the organisation.

Photo: over 100 solar panels installed on the roof of our Portland House building in Worthing

2017-10-25 - over 100 solar panels installed on the roof of our Portland House building

So now that I've got your attention, can I suggest a few small things you could do to be kinder to the planet and our lovely part of the world?

Why not try:

  • going without a car where possible
  • eating less meat and dairy, the second biggest cause of climate change
  • taking off a layer before you put on a fan or air-conditioning
  • not buying food made with unsustainable palm oil which is responsible for mass deforestation of the amazon rainforest - our planet's lungs
  • taking reusable bags to the shops instead of buying new plastic ones
  • buying less 'new' stuff
  • stopping using chemical cleaners and returning to old, kinder methods like vinegar instead of bleach
  • opting to refill your reusable water bottle when you're out and about in Worthing - my young son likes to hold on to one of our reusable bottles! (photo below)

Every little counts! And now I'll get off my environmental high horse and get back to my day job :)

2018-08-16 - Jenson (Amy's son) playing with one of their reusable water bottle

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9th August 2018: Five principles to flourish and improve mental health

Happy Thursday to you all! I'm feeling really buoyant and it's not because the end of the week is drawing close ... it's because of the staff lunchtime choir I attended yesterday which lifted my spirits.

2018-08-09 - Sheet Music (Pexels - 164821)

When I was 11-18 years old I sang in a school choir (we even made it to the Royal Albert Hall!) but over the years I slowly stopped singing. This is until the arrival of my son! Since his birth, I've spent most of my days singing away to him - nursery rhymes, pop songs, lullabies. You name it, I've probably sung it to him and it's made me re-discover just how much I love singing. In fact, most of my maternity leave was spent going to music themed groups, so I was really pleased on my return to work to hear that a volunteer-run lunchtime choir group had been formed.

It started after the Councils kicked off a focus on being well, based on the five principles outlined by the New Economics Foundation as essential for people to flourish and improve their mental health in and out of work. These are:

  • Connect with people around you
  • Be active
  • Take notice of the world around you and what you're feeling
  • Keep learning
  • Give

During this lunchtime break, we introduced ourselves (it was a select, but friendly group of 12 this week) and warmed up our voice before launching into 'London's Burning', 'Wade in the Water' and 'Oh Happy Day'. It was a great time and I could see how it fulfilled a number of the principles above - I connected with colleagues that I would have never met otherwise, got some exercise as I breathed deeply and stood talk for that an hour (surprisingly hard work!), took notice of my breath and the sound around me and re-learnt the skills of harmonising and singing in a round. It was brilliant!

And when I got back to the desk, I had an energy that I didn't have in the lead-up to my lunch break (most probably sleep related - my little pickle of a son had me awake 4 times in the night and had to be taken by my husband to have an hour of play between 4:30am to 5:30am!). I got so much done during that afternoon with my new-found energy and couldn't wait to get home to tell my husband about my great day!

It showed me just how important connecting, being active, taking notice, keeping learning and giving are to us as individuals. It also showed me (if I put my 'HR' hat on) just why an organisation might want to invest time, energy and (dare I say it?) money into providing their staff with experiences like these. Because the benefits for the organisation are limitless! Greater productivity, a boost to team and individual morale, people being more open to learning in their roles as they get more comfortable with learning in general, making contacts across the organisation which might lead to more joint-work being done, decrease sickness as people improve their mental health.

There are more ideas afoot - mindfulness, Pilates sessions and volunteering opportunities and I can't wait to get involved in them all!

Photo: Jenson (Amy's new son) at a recent weather themed music group

2018-08-09 - Jenson (Amy's son) at a recent weather themed music group

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2nd August 2018: It's a bit of a shock to be back in the office

Hello! My name is Amy, I work in the HR team at Adur & Worthing Councils and I am the mum of a beautiful seven month old baby boy called Jenson. I had a great time off work to look after my son - it's a bit of a shock to be back in the office and to have to engage my brain when I'm still being woken up throughout the night by him!

2018-08-02 - Amy with Jenson, her new son enjoying the sun on Brighton beach

I only took six months off work and then I passed the parenting baton to my husband who is currently doing six months of shared parental leave to look after Jenson.

Shared parental leave is a fairly new scheme which allows parents to split the maternity leave as they wish - Gregg and I chose to split the leave 50:50 with each of us taking six months off to care for our son.

It was really important to us as a family that we both had time off with our child and I was really pleased that my manager supported me to take a shorter period off work even though it caused some issues finding short-term cover for my role.

My time off passed in a flash and I can't believe that I'm now back in the office. During the three weeks that I've been back, I've been working on updating the Councils' HR policies. The one I'm currently focusing on is the 'family friendly' policy, which covers an employees entitlement to maternity, shared parental, adoption leave and arrangements if someone needs to take time off to care for a dependant (a child, parent or someone who depends on the person for care).

Since I've been back at work, I've been showing a lot of people photos of my gorgeous son and talking about their children if they have any. It's made me realise just how many people in the Councils have caring responsibilities - whether it's children or elderly parents - so I'm aware that this policy will impact a lot of people.

I think that this policy is one of the key selling points of working for the Councils. Many people choose to work for us because of the family friendly benefits we provide - flexibility to work different hours where possible, support to take time off at short notice if a child or dependant is sick, generous maternity leave pay.

It's an important policy for the organisation to attract people to work for us and to support our current employees to have a good work-life balance.

As a new mum, I'm aware that I'll be using this policy in the future - to have time off at short notice if my son suddenly comes down with a bug and to know my leave entitlement if we decide to have another baby in the future (definitely not anytime soon - one baby is enough for the moment!). I'm pleased that we have good provision for people with caring responsibilities.

So that's a little insight into what I've been doing in my first few weeks back at work. Even though I miss my son during the day, it's nice to be getting back into the world of work!

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