OD Superstar - Denise Bolger


30 / 6 / 2014 11.36am

July's OD Superstar is the fabulous Denise Bolger who is Head of Equality and Organisational Development at Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust.

Denise is fairly new in her role and indeed to the NHS as an organisation; her portfolio includes *big breath* OD, Health and Wellbeing, Equality and Diversity, Employee Engagement, Leadership Development and providing OD support to the Integrated Dental Services project.

In her nine month stint so far, along with her fantastic team, Denise has contributed to improvements in the organisation's Staff Survey results as well as the overall response rate. She has also introduced the following:
  • a Leaders' Code and Staff Charter,
  • facilitated the opportunity to reassess and improve on their Investors in People assessment from Bronze to Silver,
  • submitted the trust’s ‘Join the Journey’  staff engagement programme for the HPMA Excellence in Human Resource Management Awards 2014  - this has been shortlisted
  • secure a ‘compliance plus’ judgment for the trust's Staff Engagement Think Tank in the recent Customer Service Excellence Assessment. 
As I am sure you can all agree, a Superstar at its best!

1. How would you describe your role in the organisation? 

I joined Birmingham Community Healthcare (BCHC) Trust in October 2013 having previously worked in a number of public sector organisations including West Midlands Police and Fire services, Local Government and the voluntary sector. Leading the Equality and Organisational Development Team for BCHC, I ensure, as a trust, we maintain a national perspective by advising the Chief Executive, trust board and colleagues across the organisation on issues relating to equality, diversity and human rights, Organisational Development; leadership development; staff engagement and health and wellbeing.  I am also responsible for the Mediation and Bullying and Harassment services. 
The work of the Equality and Organisational Development team contributes to the overall mission of creating a positive culture at BCHC and as a trust we invest heavily in Staff Engagement. I encourage and actively seek out innovative solutions to organisational development, looking closely at what other top-performing organisations do to develop their workforce.I believe my whole career within public sector organisations demonstrates a real commitment to public service and in every role I have always focused on what matters to the public to ensure what I do best serves their interests.

 2. What does OD mean to you?  

OD for me is about bringing a number of key elements together, encouraging a culture of self-belief with the aim of getting the best out of people. It’s about thinking positive, owning the future, being ambitious and taking action to create mutually desired results together. It’s about being prepared to listen to staff with the intention of understanding what matters to them, what it is they need to be successful at what they do and making sure they feel they have a voice.
3. What OD projects are you most proud of? 

I am proud to work for the NHS and proud of everything we are doing here at BCHC, particularly in respect of organisational development and investing in our employees. Earlier this year we reviewed our Investors in People accreditation and whilst securing a Bronze last year I felt we had made significant progress and arranged for a further visit from our assessors and I am proud to say, as a result of this follow up assessment we achieved Silver status within a year of securing Bronze.
Furthermore, I am even more proud of our ‘Join the Journey’ programme of Staff Engagement initiatives to ensure implementation of the trust’s vision for improved patient care. Through this programme, staff are ‘invited’ to join the organisation’s journey of change by way of active leadership development, team coaching, values based staff compacts, creative thinking forums and inventive information sharing events, aimed at creating a positive impact on staff morale. We are currently embedding our Leaders Code and Staff Charter, which alongside our Values toolkit provide a framework for a ‘values based’ approach to everything we do and we were recently shortlisted for the HPMA Award for Staff Engagement - another reason to be proud! 
The Engagement Think Tank is one of our developing initiatives, aiming to create an inclusive, creative ‘thinking’ space where all BCHC staff members can come together to explore, shape and develop engagement strategies and other opportunities for improvement across the trust. Bringing together staff from a variety of services, roles and settings, the Engagement Think Tank offers a great forum for individual staff to ‘bring and share’ resources, network with colleagues, collectively problem solve and gather feedback and secure future involvement of others in their own approaches to continuous improvement. The monthly meetings are scheduled well in advance to allow staff to plan meeting times into their commitments and in the true spirit of employee engagement we take our ‘Think Tank’ out on the road and meet with our staff in their own working environment and this was cited as ‘compliance plus’ in our recent Customer Service Excellence assessment as it was considered that by taking this approach we were valuing our colleagues as internal customers. 

4. What would you like to learn more about? 

I would like to learn more about understanding the impact of organisational development. Working at a corporate level, I like to study indicators of staff culture, such as the staff survey, in order to identify themes so that, as a trust we can respond through appropriate initiatives and interventions however I feel there is so much more rich data out there that we could use to really make that cultural shift we are all striving for. I have always encouraged colleagues to evaluate the impact of their work but this has now been put into sharp focus by the current economic crisis and I am always on the lookout for opportunities to demonstrate how OD interventions have achieved the desired end results for the organisation as we attempt to align strategy, people and processes. 
Organisational development initiatives, interventions and training incur costs to both the individual and the organisation in terms of time and money. When staff take a day out of their working lives to attend an event, it’s important that they return to the workplace with something useful from it. It sounds obvious but too often it doesn’t happen. I’m currently exploring the potential of ‘action learning sets’ to give colleagues an opportunity to review their training or participation with their peers and maybe gain inspiration, support and encourage a focus on realistic outcomes.

5. Who inspires you most? 

I get my inspiration from a number of sources and a number of role models, which changes on a regular basis because I read a lot. I am currently fascinated and very inspired by the ‘aggregation of marginal gains’ approach utilised by Sir David Brailsford and I find him very inspiring for the successes he secured for British cycling in 2012. As a Performance Director and Leader he is extraordinary and very inspirational in his ultra motivated approach to goal setting and getting the best from his team through a meticulous attention to detail.

6. What’s your one 'must read' book / article / website on OD? 

I have two ‘go to’ books which I always recommend. One is ‘How to win friends and influence people’ by Dale Carnegie. Well known and well worn but full of universal truths about how to get the best from people whilst maintaining a productive and positive relationship with them at all times. A book for all occasions! I also like Steven Covey’s ‘Seven Habits of Highly Successful People’ for ideas, tools and models, which can be utilised and applied to OD.

7. What would you like to achieve in 2014? 

I would like to secure a 65 per cent response rates for our staff survey because research indicates that this would be a clear indication that are staff are ‘with us’. In 2013 we improved by 8 per cent securing a 53 per cent response rate at the final count and we saw significant improvements in a number of results including a massive 13 per cent increase in the number of staff who said they would recommend our trust as a place to work. In 2014 I am hoping to build on the successes of last year and secure even further improvements in both our response rate and our results.
I would also like to see the attendance at our Engagement Think Tank grow exponentially throughout the year and for the Think Tank to be responsible for some key improvements that make a difference to the working lives of colleagues across the Trust.
I’m also keen to develop and widen the use of our Strategy Deployment model across the trust, using the matrix tool and collaborative discussions to understand progress, inter-connectivity and the performance of all of our OD initiatives, measuring both the pace and delivery of the desired outcomes and assessing impact in an accessible format.

8. What would your motto be? 

One of my favourite mantras is the inspirational quote of Nelson Mandela: ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done’.
It keeps me going when I find myself on the verge of giving in and helps me to keep going when it’s something I truly believe in. Another favourite is ‘If you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right!’. NLP in a nutshell!

9. What advice would you give to a budding OD professional? 

Read everything you can; look for the new ideas and unusual approaches. Dare to be different, don’t just go for the tried and tested methods, try something new and if it doesn't work the first time,  don’t abandon it completely - take the time to understand why because you maybe so close and a little tweak here and there could make the difference you need.
Collect evidence and study what the data is telling you. Don’t knee jerk but really think about how you respond and work with your colleagues to build capability and capacity across your organisation, don’t try and do it all yourself. Build relationships and build your networks. Go and talk to people, don’t rely on emails to get things done, face to face is always the best approach.

10. What is your favourite sandwich? 

My perfect sandwich is the BLT, which is rather odd coming from a vegetarian! That’s me; never like to conform to what’s expected!
When it’s made just right a vegetarian BLT has everything going for it: it’s a healthy, low fat lunch option with its crispy, salty, smoky, rich, surprisingly tempting, streaky bacon style quorn strips; sweet, bright, juicy tomatoes; crunchy lettuce and tangy mayo to set the flavours. I am not only a heretic on the meat but also on the bread. I love it in a bagel, something chewy to complete the symphony that is the VBLT, a perfect vegetarian alternative to a popular traditional sandwich. It is the taste of summer; it is fleeting sweetness captured at the instant of sunny skies and green grass…….well, you did ask!! 

If you have any questions about Denise and their work, then please feel free to connect with her on 

Twitter: @DbolgerDenise
Email: denise.bolger@bhamcommunity.nhs.uk
LinkedIn: Denise Bolger

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