A Tale of Two Conferences: Reflections after Liz Truss’s Conservative Party Conference speech
This week, the highlight of the employee ownership calendar – the EOA Annual Conference – took place in Liverpool following a three-year hiatus. Over 650 delegates representing more than 200 companies from across the UK joined us at this fabulous event to celebrate, learn, and connect.
At the same time down in Birmingham, the Conservative Party Conference was taking place. The day after a highly successful two-day EOA event, Liz Truss landed her first keynote speech as PM.
Growth, growth and growth
Truss has stated that her government’s top priority is growing the UK economy. At our own conference, we saw a wide variety of EO businesses that had experienced remarkable growth since transitioning.
EO is a great model for to boost regional economies, rooting jobs sustainably in their local areas for the longer term. EOA members such as Riverford Organics, based in Devon, or One + All , based in Stockport, revealed at the EOA conference that they’ve found giving their staff a stake and clear say in how their companies are run has fueled their stable – and sustainable – growth.
Our members also told us that the EO model puts them in a better position to be able to adapt to challenging times. Yesterday, Julie Abraham and David Robinson from Richer Sounds told our conference attendees that staff seeing themselves as owners meant that they were better able to pull together and weather the Covid crisis. Attendees heard many other similar stories of extraordinary resilience throughout the 2 day event. As we recently stated in our blog setting out our asks to the new government, now is the perfect time to put in place mechanisms to encourage the EO model.
Over the next year, we’ll futher build the evidence base and case for the employee ownership model to play a bigger part in our economy.
The productivity challenge: inspiring engaged employees to do their best and see a return on their work
The Prime Minister spoke of the need to ensure employees ‘feel it is worthwhile’ to work hard. That’s not a challenge that any of the EO companies we spoke to at our conference had; when the staff own the company, they’re all engaged and invested in delivering the business’s success.
In her speech, Truss also talked about the idea of a fairer pay cheque. Our response is that a simple, clear way for employees to feel the ‘reward and responsibility’ that Truss spoke of is through employee ownership. EO not only provides the direct personal responsibility that ownership brings, but, of course, an opportunity for the clear financial return through employee dividends. When employees receive a share of the profits from the business they’re part of building, they’re going to be inspired to do more.
A Britain that’s ‘open for business’ and attracting the best talent
Businesses across almost all industries are finding that attracting talent is tougher than ever right now. At our conference, companies like dxw, a specialist SME tech firm just one year into their EO journey, shared how being employee-owned gives them the edge in a competitive environment when attracting new staff.
Whilst large, established EO companies such as the John Lewis Partnership are a brilliant example of EO success, much of our economy rests on the shoulders of small and medium-sized businesses. For companies like mechanical services distributor Shawston International, who discussed their 7 year EO journey with attendees at the EOA conference, their ability to survive in a competitive market, attract and retain staff, and their subsequent growth, has been fueled by their employee owners.
As the Prime Minister said in her closing speech at the Conservative Party Conference, ‘not everyone will be in favour of change, but everyone will benefit from the result’. We know from businesses across the rapidly growing EO sector that the transition to being employee-owned can be challenging, but that the pay-offs are extraordinarily worthwhile.
So, the resounding call from businesses at the EOA Conference? Support more EO to unlock the potential of individuals, businesses and regional economies.