CEO Blog: Telling the employee ownership story – it’s all in the numbers

One of the most important tools that supports the EOA in being the voice for employee ownership in the UK is the insight we have about the size and shape of the sector.

Our purpose to influence, inspire and support UK employee ownership to become more admired, widespread and successful depends on being able to tell a compelling story using sector data, alongside the rich case studies from our membership.

This is why, working with partners, we publish data that helps us to tell the story of employee ownership to influencers, business owners, the media and political audiences.

On EO Day this year, therefore, to complement the celebrations of thousands of employee owners across the UK, we published two important new data sets that will help us all to tell the story of a sector which is doing well while doing good, the Top 50 Employee Owned Businesses and the White Rose (WRCEO) Survey.

Together, these new datasets help us to understand and communicate the current direction of travel for the sector and demonstrate that the shape and size of the employee owned sector is changing.

Once reliant on a handful of large businesses, there is now a noticeable growth in employee ownership as a succession option for SMEs and family businesses. Data from the White Rose Survey shows there are 370 employee owned businesses in the UK with over 60% of conversions to employee ownership happening since 2014. In addition, the data reveals that sector experienced growth of 17.2% in 2017 and 18.5% in 2018.

The Top 50 illustrates a group of businesses that continue to perform well, especially when compared to UK business as a whole with combined sales of £19.2bn (up 3.5% like for like), over 166,000 total employees (up 1.4% like-for-like) and wages up 2.5% (like for like). Meanwhile the mean increase in productivity of the Top 50 is 6.2% in 2016, 7.6% in 2017, 9.7% in 2018 and 7.7% in 2019. Although a small number of larger employee owned businesses no longer meet the EO percentage threshold of the Top 50, these are replaced by larger privately owned businesses such as Riverford Organics and Richer Sounds that have entered the Top 50 in the bottom half the table.

The growing interest in employee ownership by larger privately owned businesses is best illustrated by the fact that over the past six years the number of employees required to enter the Top 50 has increased from 143 to 403.

One year on since the Ownership Dividend these two data sets evidence that awareness raising by the EOA, its members and its partners is supporting tremendous growth in the sector.

So we encourage you all to continue to tell your EO story, or your story of support for EO, whether to your employee owners or other people who are important to your business. You will find our new webpage ‘What the evidence tells us’ gives you the stats, infographics and information you need on the sector to help tell the EO stories you want to tell.