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Sowing the seeds of success

The weather may have cooled slightly since last week’s heatwave, but in the 44 office things are hotting up as our Red-Hot Chilli Challenge continues. Channelling her inner Alan Titchmarsh, 44’s Sarah Woods explores the links between growing plants and developing people.

When 44 Project Manager Rob Jones suggested adding a bit of colour and some friendly(ish) competition to our new office with a chilli growing competition, we didn’t realise quite how much it would kick off.

44’s Sarah Woods.

Forget Love Island, daily discussions about the variation of light, and the position and wellbeing of our plants quickly became a regular feature around the office.

As someone whose house is filled with plastic plants and whose horticultural knowledge extends to knowing cacti is the plural of cactus, this didn’t seem like the challenge for me. But my prime desk position by the window meant that my chilli plant was off to a good start. Perhaps I could care for non-plastic plants after all…

Growing for gold

We started off with the same chilli seeds (supplied by Rob), in identical pots – but just a few weeks in and the difference in the size and success of the plants was obvious.

We all know the basic things that a plant needs: water, light, air, space to grow… and other stuff I should probably remember from GCSE Biology. But it didn’t take long for my once-thriving chilli to start to wilt.

But why? Was I over-watering it, under-watering it? Did it need to be moved to the shade? I was already out of my depth.

And it got me thinking: whether we’re talking about plants or people, how much they thrive is rooted in the care they receive and the environment they are surrounded by.

Then, a few weeks in, and the 44 office was hit by Chilligate.

Eddie was disqualified for taking his plant home, repotting it, adding a stake for support and plying it with plant food. His claims that he was just “taking care of his plant” were drowned out by angry allegations of cheating. And while Eddie may have been out of the running, he definitely had the right idea.

So, here are four tips for growing both plants and people…

44’s Ellie Hanson.
1) For goodness stake

I have it on good authority (Googled it) that certain plants, such as perennials, benefit from adding a stake for support to keep them upright and help protect them. While we definitely don’t recommend fastening a stake to your employees, the same principle applies. Employees that have the support of a mentor or another more experienced team member will not sag under the weight of responsibility; they will thrive.

And this is true of all employees: it’s not just in the early stages of people’s careers or for new starters. Care, support and guidance are important throughout an employee’s career.

2) Putting the ‘pot’ in potential

Seeds may start out in small pots, but before long they will need larger containers to allow enough room for the roots to grow. Without repotting, the roots become overcrowded which can lead plants to become stunted and even die.

In the workplace, it’s good for people to get a broad experience and be given opportunities. Opportunities for training, development and cross-team working benefit both the individual and the organisation. As long as they have the support they need, giving your employees space to grow in other areas can only lead to a more rounded employee.

3) Variety is the spice of life

If plants had personalities, you know the sunflower would be a friendly sort with a cheery outlook on the world, and that the rose would be a sensitive and romantic type, but occasionally thorny. While plants may not have different personalities, they will have different preferences.

In the workplace, people can be as varied as plants. The great thing about a diverse team is that you’ll get a broad range of knowledge, skills and experience – just be aware that these personalities that bring so much to your organisation are unlikely to react the same in every situation. The more you understand about your team, the better you can communicate with them. Personality tests can help you work out what they respond well to and why something might not be working.

4) Sage advice

There’s a reason that Gardener’s World has been running for over 50 years – it’s a much-loved institution. And like the Antiques Roadshow, it makes sense that people with a passion for gardening and antiques are interested in expert opinions and want to learn as much as they can about the subject.

Even the most experienced gardeners can learn something new or discover a different way of working. And it’s the same with employee comms. If it’s an area of interest for you, then it follows that you’d want to learn more about it.

We may not be the most green-fingered bunch, but we know our stuff when it comes to employee engagement and people development. So, don’t leaf it chance – give us a call…

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