Birmingham business expands with VR acquisition

Birmingham business expands with VR acquisition

Birmingham-based business, the Martin James Network, has expanded its portfolio further with the acquisition of VR company, VR Simulation Systems.

Headquartered in Edgbaston, and employing over 1,200 people globally, the Martin James Network is formed from a variety of organisations ranging from start-ups to well-established brands that have been in business for over 15 years.

The network has gone from strength-to-strength over the last two years, having started as a team of ten in rented offices in October 2018.

This latest move sees the network expand its mental health group, TalkOut, as it looks to help businesses navigate new ways of working and support staff wellbeing following the coronavirus outbreak.

Headed up by CEO, Jill Mead, TalkOut will now be able to offer workplaces across the country access to the best employee mental health support using the latest technology, in addition to its existing training and consultancy services.

As well as the new VR offering enabling employees to better understand and manage mental health through simulated environments, TalkOut has launched an app to help businesses connect and engage with teams as the nation adjusts to home working.

Rigorously tested for 18 months, and developed to work across countries and continents, the app helps businesses encourage collaboration, boost engagement, break down silos and provide crucial mental health support and counselling through a specialist chat function.

Ayyab Cockburn, chief operating officer at the Martin James Network, says: “We’re an ambitious network of businesses and we’re always looking at ways to diversify and grow, whilst keeping an eye on emerging trends.

“This latest acquisition is our response to what is a global issue. We’ve all been forced to work remotely, and whilst flexibility is an attractive benefit, this way of working can lead to isolation or silos.

“Businesses now more than ever are faced with both emotional and physical barriers that can and will impact on their success. Accepting that we need to change how we communicate with our employees, will be key in driving businesses forward during this challenging time.”

For more information about the Martin James Network, visit or

Martin James Network awarded runner-up in Disruptive HR Better Normal Awards

Martin James Network awarded runner-up in Disruptive HR Better Normal Awards

Martin James Network awarded runner-up in Disruptive HR Better Normal Awards

We’re delighted to announce that we’ve been named runner-up in the Disruptive HR Better Normal awards.  

Recognising our leaders’ responses to the Coronavirus pandemic, the network was given runner-up status for the ‘Who Knew Our Managers Were This Human?’ category.

We were congratulated in particular for our innovative and disruptive initiatives during lockdown and beyond, including:


Creative director, Dan Osadciw, launched free daily HIIT workouts to help keep us fit and healthy during lockdown. Now, Dan is running three sessions per week and the Facebook group is open to anyone to join.

Wellbeing Wednesdays

Each week, TalkOut interviewed key leaders from across the business who spoke candidly about their life, careers, mental health and how they were finding lockdown. This included an interview with our very own chief operating officer, Ayyab Cockburn, who talked about the importance of creating cultures of care and wellbeing in the workplace.

Our Mini Tribe Adventures

Managing partner, Michelle Ivins, set up a Facebook community group to support parents and spread positivity throughout lockdown. Featuring kids activities, home schooling tips and general positive news, the group has nearly 5,000 active members.

This is Us: diversity and inclusion

Our people team amped up its diversity and inclusion strategy, This is Us, with a new employee forum. Employees were given the opportunity to have an open discussion about perceptions of race and equality following the increased prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement. The forums will now be held regularly and will form a key part of the network wide approach to diversity and inclusion.

Updates from Jim

We had regular updates from our founder and chair person, Jim. Helping to keep us all motivated, Jim produced videos from home where he talked about mental health and the importance of staying connected. These were shared to employees using our fantastic internal communications and wellbeing tool, the TalkOut app.

Ian Thomas, Practice Development Officer for the Martin James Foundation who took part in some of the initiatives said “Person cantered leadership helps people feel part of something they want to nurture and shelter, it is fundamental to our working community, in common-unity.”

Talking about the awards, group people director, Mark Shrimpton, said: “I’m really proud that the Martin James Network leaders have been recognised for their response to Coronavirus.

“Whether it was physical or mental wellbeing support, discussions on world topics, or simply just having fun, there was such a wide range of activities for employees to get involved with.

“A huge thanks to everyone who responded so positively and got involved – it really shows the care and support within the network.

“Covid may have kept us apart, but our managers made sure we stayed connected.”