It’s time to enable employee ownership to be a crucial part of the future of work

So, the enduring uncertainty the UK has experienced over the past three years has ended – the people of the UK have spoken and returned an 80-seat majority for the Conservatives, the party’s best result since the 1980s.

With the deadlock now broken, there is a need to address a looming resilience emergency in our regions.

As part of that, there is a key role for employee and worker ownership to play – as highlighted in our manifesto – through offering better corporate governance and oversight; greater productivity driven by engaged employees, and improved regional resilience supported by rooting jobs and investment from businesses in their locality for the longer term.

There are 5 things that we will begin to do immediately to help bring our manifesto life:

  1. Work with MPs new and old to make them aware of the opportunities of employee ownership and connect them with employee owned businesses in their constituencies.
  2. Build relationships with the government to support them with information on how employee and worker ownership can help deliver a more inclusive economy, driving innovation and growth.
  3. Work nationally and in the regions with our partners Coops UK to raise awareness of worker coops as a start-up option and employee ownership as succession option.
  4. Continue to work with our partners to raise awareness of the need for SMEs and family businesses to plan for succession, as well as with advisors and financers to help address some of the current barriers to growth.
  5. Work to create understanding of the key role employee and worker ownership needs to play as the UK plans for increased automation.

In return, we would ask for the following from this new government:

  • Policy on growing employee and worker ownership
  • A minister with responsibility for employee ownership
  • Commitment to better data to allow us to better measure the sector
  • A commitment to the continued tax incentives and exploring other possibilities for new models
  • To be part of the conversation on automation and AI and how ownership can help

There is a clear-cut case for growing the employee owned sector. Below I will share what key figures who have spoken on our behalf in 2019 have said about employee ownership’s relevance in today’s economy:

In recognition that employee owned businesses excel at creating value rather than just extracting value; at our Robert Oakeshott Lecture 2019, Professor of Economics, Innovation and Public Value at University College London Mariana Mazzucato, said:

“It’s only really in the 1980s this obsession with maximising shareholder value rather than stakeholder value that we started to see the real problems with profit not being reinvested in people, in research and development and the lack of reinvestment of profit in general. So, the question is now how do we reward those making value through collective effort to make sure we plough more money back into the economy?”

On why employee ownership is important for the future economy Sir Charlie Mayfield, Chairman of John Lewis Partnership, Be the Business and President of the Employee Ownership Association said:

“The economy is not in balance – this is why I think this is a critical time for employee ownership. It is often through the more difficult times that I am most proud of what our business achieves in partnership. In employee ownership we have a very good model for meeting and beating some of these very serious challenges we all face.”

In support of the #1MillionOwners campaign ran by the EOA and Coops UK – Julian Richer, founder of Richer Sounds, said:

“To me the decision to sell the company to my colleagues was an obvious one. Nobody knew my business better than the people in it and we’d created a culture together. To sell to the highest bidder would have created wealth for one or two people, instead using the EOT model we will sustain the value we create for the individual, the business and the economy.”

On agreeing to be one of our keynote speakers at this years EOA Conference; sharing their one year on story of employee ownership, Peter Lord and David Sproxton, Founders of Aardman Animations said:

“For us, becoming employee owned was the best way to retain our independence, to keep in place the people that we trust and value, and to preserve the special creative culture that we are proud to have created. It is fundamental to us that those that create the value in the company will continue to benefit directly from the value they create. We wholeheartedly encourage UK businesses to see employee ownership as an effective succession solution.”

In addition, when we asked 240 employee owners to tell us the one word that they most associated with employee ownership, some common themes emerged: Collaboration, Rewarding, Productive, Resilient, Relevant, Innovative, Inclusive, sharing to name a few.

So as we look to 2020 we will have a focus on employee ownership’s role in the future of work, which is why we are delighted to announce that Naomi Climer, Co-chair of the Institute for the Future of Work, will give the 2020 Robert Oakeshott Lecture on the 27th of February.

If you are interested in working with us on any of the projects mentioned above, please do get in touch.