Brian Trainor performing li

Brian Trainor performing live at the Be Our Inspiration event at the Helix

Many of us harbour dreams of playing a musical instrument or performing on stage but never get a chance to realise them. Not so for a group of Bank of Ireland’s staff members who took part in its ‘Be Our Inspiration’ project, which culminated in two performances in the Helix in Dublin last October in front of an audience of 2,000 people.

Part of the bank’s ‘Be At Your Best’ workplace wellbeing programme, Be Our Inspiration was the brainchild of a Bank of Ireland staff committee tasked with developing a project that would demonstrate that with the right support and dedication anything is possible.

The programme involved a full year’s sponsored tuition with professional instructors to develop musical, acting or other performance skills, leading to the showcase event at the Helix.

Experienced musical director, performance coach and pianist Ivan McKenna was appointed overall musical director for the initiative. Over the 12-month period he brought all the participants together at regular intervals to learn about musical theory, how to harmonise and ultimately perform as a group.

At these sessions participants could share their journeys and empathise with each other in terms of overcoming hurdles such as stage fright. There was also a psychotherapist on call, Isobel Mahon, to help them to deal with their fears about performing.

“We know Ivan [McKenna] well having worked with him on various projects over the past couple of years. He has been the fulcrum of the programme and brings a unique skill-set to the table as he has a HR background and has worked in all of Ireland’s major theatres on some of the country’s most successful productions including Riverdance,” says Audrey Nolan, head of CSR & Reporting at Bank of Ireland.

“He is very much approaching things from a staff engagement perspective and understands what motivates people in an organisation such as Bank of Ireland. He was involved from the auditions through to the stage performance and made sure to find the right mentors and coaches for the individuals taking part.”

More than 100 employees auditioned when the project was launched in October 2014. This was narrowed down to 17 acts comprising 27 staff members from various parts of the organisation.

In terms of staff engagement Be Our Inspiration influenced and involved a lot more people than that however, according to Nolan.

One of the reasons for this was participants were asked to raise funds for one of the bank’s flagship charity partners Barnardos, which meant each person rallied their colleagues for support on their journey.

In addition to hundreds of local fundraising events, the participants came together as a group to record and launch a charity CD, ‘Wonder Child’, with the help of X Factor’s Mary Byrne. Driven by a huge internal push across the bank, the single reached number 5 in the iTunes download chart, with all proceeds going to Barnardos.

“We believe Be Our Inspiration enhances employee engagement because it creates a different conversation and sparks the imagination. It has a ripple effect. The fundraising aspect and diversity of the participants maximises its reach across the organisation,” says Nolan.

“A lot of people worked in collaboration on the fundraising side and there were 40 others working behind the scenes for the showcase event. All of our 11,000 people across many sites were also kept up to speed on the initiative through all of our internal communications channels including the bank’s intranet, group email, Yammer, video and posters.”

The matinee and evening performances on 3 October at the Helix were actively marketed across the group using these channels and the audiences included colleagues, friends and family.

Be our Inspiration 2 has already been launched and promises to be bigger and better than last year’s programme. “We have been quite struck by the fact that it has become a lot more diverse in terms of artistic disciplines sought as a result of the success of the first one. Some very senior people are taking the step this time too and the group is truly representative of different divisions and levels within the organisation,” says Nolan.

In a survey conducted across the bank, employees selected the Be Our Inspiration finale as one of the top ten key moments that made a difference in 2015. “The journey our 17 acts began in 2014 has been not only transformative for their personal development and self belief, but is also a source of lasting inspiration for their colleagues,” says Nolan.

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