‘A must for a new employee director or trustee’: Four key takeaways Family Psychology Mutual highlighted after attending EOA course

Family Psychology Mutual CIC has pinpointed four key takeaways from sending a group of its employee owners to the EOA’s ‘How to be an Effective Employee Director or Employee Trustee’ course.

The EOA member sent four people on the course in 2021 – with one attendee remarking it’s “a ‘must’ course for a new employee director or trustee”.

Taking on the role of employee trustee or employee director as a business transitions into employee ownership can be a little daunting at first, particularly for candidates without prior experience.

The Employee Ownership Association (EOA), therefore, puts on this course six times a year – running it virtually over five mornings in a week, delivered by experienced course director Ken Lindsay.

It provides new employee trustees and employee directors with a solid understanding of the requirements of their new role, as well as demonstrating how they can maximise their performance.

Judith Hill, Operations Director at Family Psychology Mutual CIC, which started trading as an employee-owned organisation in 2018, arranged for its employees to attend the course – which she also signed up for.

She highlighted four key takeaways she and her colleagues took away from “an excellent and very engaging course”.

1. Gaining confidence

During the course, there was a finance section which gave Judith “confidence that you don’t always need to know everything”.

She said: “The great example given, and so many people felt this, was that you don’t always have to understand the profit and loss statement or the balance sheet.

“It’s not your job to understand these, your job is to look at them and ask questions, if something doesn’t make sense ask, or if you look at the balance sheet and it’s looking quite good or it’s not looking very good, what are the next steps.

“It’s the confidence to ask the questions and even though it was a virtual room, there was a penny that dropped for everybody of ‘I don’t need to be an accountant to be able to ask good questions’.”

She said gaining confidence was an overriding theme to come out of the course and that attending helped people feel “more at ease” in their roles.

She revealed that, at Family Psychology Mutual, they struggled to get people to come forward from the staff group to be on the board because people were “intimidated by the prospect of being on a board”.

Judith added: “Being a director, they have had no prior experience, so when you can actually say ‘we’ll invest in you, you can go on this course, it’ll give you a lot of the tools and the knowledge that you need’, it’s just a really good development tool for people to come onto the board.”

2. ‘Yes, you do know what you’re doing’

The company has a board made up of three senior executives and three employee owners, and Judith said the course helped provide reassurance that those stepping up “can be an effective director”.

“Sometimes you can have really strong personalities on a board whose voices get louder and you think ‘oh, maybe it’s me, maybe I haven’t got the experience’, but actually you have,” she said.

“The course, in a reminder way, was actually familiar to me, so I was still learning but you are kind of reassured ‘yeah, I do know what to do here’.

“The person delivering the course said many times, in a really reassuring way, ‘guys, I know that you know what to do here’.

“He gave so many examples of people who didn’t have all these massive qualifications and experience but went on to become great business leaders. It gave us all reassurance.”

3. Think openly about employee ownership

From an employee ownership perspective, the course helped Judith and her colleagues further understand “everyone has their own employee ownership journey, there is no right or wrong way”.

“As a result of that, I think as a company we’ve taken some positive actions,” she continued. “We’re still on the journey, but to understand that you’re doing okay and it’s okay sometimes to get things wrong, we can learn from it and move on.”

Judith added that the course “planted the seed” about the need to have an employee council, which is something they are now looking into.

4. We’d do it again

In its course feedback, Family Psychology Mutual said it is “very likely” to recommend it to others, so much so it signed another of its new employee directors to the course in March 2022.

The first of its cohort did the course in April 2021 and admit attending has had an impact on how they perform their role.

Judith added: “After a few of us attended we said to colleagues ‘definitely do this course, we really enjoyed it and you’ll really enjoy it’.

“It was useful having an overview of all the aspects you need and my colleague said it was a ‘must’ course for a new employee director or trustee, which I completely agree with as it gives them the grounding that they need.”

Find out more about the course by clicking here.

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