Why it’s critical the EOA and its members remain constant and authentic champions of ‘Good Employee Ownership’

Deb Oxley OBE, Chief Executive at the Employee Ownership Association, gave a keynote speech to open up day one of the EOA Annual Conference 2021. Here is what she had to say:

Believing that business and society are better when people have a meaningful stake and a say in their work, the Employee Ownership Association (EOA) has a clear mission to unlock the potential of people, businesses and the economy through employee ownership.

And arguably the opportunity for employee ownership (EO) has never been greater as businesses seek to be more sustainable, equitable and resilient, nor the EOA’s voice stronger – because of our members’ support, stories and advocacy.

But we can’t afford to be complacent – either in our campaign to encourage more employee ownership, or in our mission to ensure that all businesses that become employee owned are motivated to deliver ‘Good Employee Ownership’.

Good Employee Ownership means that employee-owned businesses (EOBs) prioritise their people, ensuring that their governance is representative of their employees and their views, giving status and space for employees to step up – to Trustee roles, Employee Council roles, even main Board roles – and helping the business to capture the untapped potential of their ideas and experiences, and to help the business prosper and grow.

Good Employee Ownership means developing the leadership and management capabilities in an EOB to allow everyone to step up to their rightful place as an employee owner – where line managers are confidently able to manage with the full support of a group of employees who are actively and positively contributing, doing the right thing on behalf of the whole business, not just in their own self-interest.

And Good Employee Ownership means placing focus on great communications and engagement – reaching all employees, regardless of their geography or role in the business, being prepared to both hear and listen to what employees feel – so that everyone is valued and their stake in the business is accompanied by a meaningful say.

For many of our members, this is all second nature – its just how they do business, reinforced when they became employee owned.

But as our sector grows at pace, there will be businesses that are not fully committed to Good Employee Ownership – they are less invested in the reality of bringing EO benefits to life and more interested in the kudos or the tax gains to be achieved.

Therefore, it is critical that the EOA and its members remain constant and authentic champions of Good Employee Ownership – telling members’ stories, sharing their successes and actively promoting what they do – so that the integrity of true employee ownership is not only protected and sustained, but becomes a beacon for Better Business.

An important part of being that beacon is having up to date, current evidence about the impact of employee ownership.

Post-Covid and post-COP26 pressure is growing on business transparency and accountability and we’re seeing increasing regulatory requirements coming down the track. So it is more vital than ever our sector has an evidence base that proves its impact.

In truth, we don’t have that evidence base today – but we must be able to demonstrate the differential effect employee ownership can have on financial performance and the social and environmental impact of employee-owned businesses – particularly on the lives of individuals.

For this reason, the EOA is embarking on a very exciting two-year programme with the sector’s think tank, Ownership at Work, to deliver the insights we need to:

  • Help encourage new businesses into the sector
  • Protect and enhance the sector’s tax reliefs
  • Help you strengthen your businesses competitive credentials and
  • Open up new routes to capital and funding

We will need our members’ help to achieve this so that together we can build a rock-solid evidence base to showcase and demonstrate what employee ownership delivers for the UK economy and society.

Deb Oxley OBE was speaking on day one of the virtual EOA Annual Conference 2021, the sessions from which are available on demand for 60 days after the event. To find out more or to register, click here >>