Why a people culture is at the heart of Chamber’s vision

North East England Chamber of Commerce people and performance manager, Martin Potts, explains to Mark Lane how people issues can have a huge impact on morale, performance and organisational culture

Think about the many services offered by the North East England Chamber of Commerce, and at their heart are people. Bright people, enthusiastic people, people with great knowledge and a passion for helping businesses – these are necessary qualities in any top class advisory organisation.

The Chamber places a huge emphasis on these areas, and spearheading efforts on this front is Martin Potts, its people and performance manager.

Martin is responsible for all things people-related across the Chamber, whether that be performance management, employee engagement, coaching and training, recruitment, and all manner of other HR issues which crop up on a day to day basis.

He initially joined the organisation as a graduate HR administrator back in 2010 after doing a degree in business and human resource management. He left for a period in 2014 to work for the charity arm of Sunderland Football Club, before returning just under a year later to take up the role of HR manager – an opportunity he felt was too good to miss.

“After a number of years learning my trade, working in various HR roles with differing levels of responsibility, I felt it was the right time in my career to move into a senior HR position, one which would provide a challenge and fulfil my ambitions as a HR professional,” he says.

Elaborating on his role, he adds: “I work in a standalone role and manage all aspects of the people cycle. My role is to lead the organisation’s people-focused strategies with a strong focus on employee engagement to help the Chamber achieve its goals through its people.

“We have made a conscious effort in recent years to create a positive culture, one which motivates and encourages people so they can perform and be the best they can be.”

Martin has added a Masters degree in HR management to his qualifications and is working towards an MBA in senior leadership on a part-time basis at Northumbria University. Talking to him, his passion and enthusiasm for his work at the Chamber stands out. Moreover, he is clearly determined to be at the forefront of the latest thinking on people management and development so that he can better support staff within the Chamber to develop their careers.

His thoughts on such issues are interesting and applicable to all organisations which the Chamber works with. He says: “Even in my relatively short career, I have witnessed the shift in HR which has been changing for some time. There was a shift from Personnel to Human Resources to acknowledge the value of employees as a resource and now we are seeing a further shift and, in my opinion, for the better.

“Employee expectations are also changing which means organisations must adapt and support things like work life balance and mental health awareness. We’ve worked hard on these agendas in the past couple of years and we can see positive results.”

Finally, I asked his advice for the region’s businesses where the management of employees is concerned. Martin replies: “People are the reason for your success and should feel valued and appreciated when they’ve done a good job, but of course it also works the other way.”

He adds: “If there are any underlying people issues it cannot be underestimated how much of a negative impact that can have on morale, performance and organisational culture. Acting in a timely matter to resolve such issues is so important, even if some difficult discussions must take place.

“Taking time to understand your workforce, as individuals rather than a number and treating them in the right way by giving them the tools and equipment to carry out their role and rewarding them reduces the chances of people issues arising.”

He concludes: “People feel a loyalty and want to do a good job when they enjoy where they work and feel like they are respected. You’ve got to enjoy what you do and thankfully working for the Chamber my experience of dealing with negative people issues are quite limited and I’d like to keep it that way!”