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Brilliant People, Amazing Culture – All About People

Date: Jun 10 2014

On Thursday 5 and Friday 6 June a group of like-minded people gathered in a seafront hotel in Bournemouth for the All About People conference. I find the culture of organisations and the shift to people focussed business fascinating, so I joined the event and I’ll share some of the insights from the two days here. Andy Swann, the creator of the event first wanted to just bring a few people together to share ideas and have some fun, but it soon grew into the All About People event. In Andy’s words from his welcome: “I’m not going to tell you want to expect from #aapcon14, the opportunity is there to create your own experience. Informal yes, idealistic maybe, human certainly.” And that nicely sums up exactly what the event turned out to be.

@Chirp_song in action - we're all singing too..

@Chirp_Song in action – we’re all singing too..

We kicked off day one with singing with @Chirp_Song – I was nervous, I definitely cannot sing and I felt very self-conscious doing it. But then I wasn’t the only one who felt that way, and together we all sounded pretty good. But the point was, it was a great start to the day, breaking the ice, filling our lungs with air and our bodies with energy. There was a great buzz in the room during and after as we all (I think) were pretty pleased with ourselves. And to follow the singing came Head of Amazing (what a brilliant title), Lorraine Makepeace @LozMakepeace from The Chemistry Group to share what makes their culture brilliant and amazing.


The Chemistry Group five box model

The Chemistry Group five box model

Against a backdrop of £24bn being lost each year on managing poor performance, it’s clear that finding and recruiting the right people for the job in the first place is a logical step. But first you need to know what ‘good’ look likes in your organisation and have very clear and real values that reflect the business.

According to Lorraine: “Intellect, values and motivations are better predictors of a person’s potential than past experience and behaviour” and so you need to look at your candidates and assess them against these factors and understand how they will fit with your culture.

So often organisations advertise their roles asking for x number of years in relevant experience and candidates will try to fit with that job’s specification, but this isn’t the best measure and unlikely to provide a great match for the business. The Chemistry Group uses a five box model to get hiring right along with a mix of various verbal and numerical reasoning tests.


But of course building a successful career and delivering strong business performance doesn’t stop at the recruitment process, it continues throughout a person’s career. So rather than use the traditional appraisal approach to ‘managing development’ which both people and managers loathe, at The Chemistry Group they give their people ownership of their own development with a tool box of development programmes, workshops and learning opportunities.

They work on these themselves and there’s always someone else working on the same skill too so they join forces, share ideas and discuss challenges and support each other. Interestingly they use Google + to share their development progress and share thoughts. From an internal communication perspective this is a great demonstration of freeing the control of development and communication from managers and putting the power of influence in the hands of their people. Everyone has a mentor, or coach to guide and support them in their career at The Chemistry Group, not a manager in the traditional sense of managing their development and task outputs.


The emphasis on people comes through everything they do, even when it comes to the budget. At the budget time of year, The Chemistry Group prioritises on its ‘energy’ budget. This is how much they are going to set aside for having fun together as company to keep the team energised and includes things like annual trips, picnics, family sports days and more. This takes priority over the IT budget! How does your organisation prioritise its budgets? Do you have a budget for fun?

Fun at Chemistry

Fun at Chemistry


Graphic of the first morning's sessions courtesy of @TobyPestridge

Graphic of the first morning’s sessions courtesy of @TobyPestridge

They also invest in the nutrition for their people, paying for everyone’s food at work, providing healthy and tasty food that provides the right nutrition. And if people are showing signs of being below par they can talk to the nutritionist who visits once a month. They take a regular pulse survey to see how everyone is feeling and out put the results in to a traffic light system. The nutritionist can advise in groups or on a one-to-one basis and really personalise the support they provide to help get an individual back on track with their health and wellbeing.

It’s was clear from Lorraine’s passion and the work she talked about at The Chemistry Group that the company puts its people first and there may be some inspiration to be taken to share at your organisation.

There’s a storify of the tweets here.

 Image Credit

Thanks to Toby Pestridge for the great graphic notes of the day.