CEO Blog: Employee ownership is the real deal

The new narrative of ‘post truth’, ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ should not be viewed as simply a harmless evolution of modern vocabulary. These new phrases are seeping into society and are gradually starting to undermine public trust; in everything from the business of news reporting, the opinions of experts, the role of politicians and even the decisions of the judiciary.

In a world of social media, instant communication and Presidential tweets, the impact of this new narrative is hugely concerning, as a society without trust is a broken society.

So it is reassuring to know that there is a counter balance to this phenomenon.

There exists in the UK a growing group of organisations and businesses that prioritise truth, integrity, democracy and honesty and because of this are more trusted, by their employees, their clients and their suppliers.

These are the businesses and organisations that, through their employee ownership structures, enable every employee to choose to have a stake, and a voice, in their economic future.

But why does enabling people to have a stake in the business make these organisations more truthful, more democratic, more honest – and importantly, more trusted?

Firstly and possibly most importantly, employee owned businesses prioritise their people. They recognise that it is not the capital that is employed in the business that makes the difference; it is the people that employ the capital that deliver their competitive advantage.

They understand that it is their people, and not their machinery or estates, that can exert more influence over production and productivity when they are motivated, inspired, engaged and empowered.

And with this focus on their people, these are businesses that have an equivalent focus on the shared interests of responsibility, risk and reward.

Regardless of their role, directors, managers and employees all have a stake in the business and each therefore shares the same ambition; to contribute the most they can to the long term health and success of the organisation. For in an employee owned structure, if the business is doing well, everyone is rewarded.  However, if the business is struggling, then everyone shares the responsibility of contributing to how to overcome that struggle and risk.  After all it is everyone’s business.

It is the way in which this shared ambition and purpose is brought to life and enabled to flourish however that defines their success.

They operate in a manner which is wholly transparent, representative and honest.

In employee owned businesses the employee owners know how the business is performing, what the targets are, and how therefore they can contribute. Financial information, often viewed by other business as too commercially sensitive to share with employees, is shared with everyone so that every individual can see what their contribution can achieve and are empowered to do so.

There is strong engagement and representation of employee voice through representation on Boards or in other representative groups and there is honesty in the information shared. If there is bad news, it is shared, not hidden – in that way, the employee owners know that they are trusted and can consider their own personal contribution to the solutions.

The business of building and sustaining trust in society is a continuous challenge and one which everyone has a responsibility to contribute too, especially at such challenging times as we face now. The pillars of this trust are openness, transparency, engagement and honesty and employee owned businesses are perfect exemplars of how to.

In a world of fake news, post truths and alternative facts, employee ownership is the real deal.