Employee trustee case study: Why it’s important to upskill yourself when starting this role on an EOT board
In this co-written guest blog, Rachel Hollister-Short and Alice Crowe from employee owned Ecctis offer insights on stepping up to become employee trustees and how attending the EOA’s Employee Trustee course gave them the confidence to have a voice. Ecctis is a provider of solutions and services in international education, training, and skills, and in the development and recognition of globally portable qualifications. It transitioned to EO via an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) in February 2021, with Information Officer Alice and Head of Membership Services Rachel being elected as employee trustees in October 2022 as two of the five people on the EOT board at Ecctis.
Having been with Ecctis for two decades, we’ve grown up with the company and seen it grow from under 20 people when we joined to now almost 200 employees.
As such, and now as employee trustees, we definitely feel like custodians of the company. We want to make sure Ecctis is successful and that this new stage in the company’s development works out, with everybody embracing employee ownership.
We were voted on as trustees by colleagues that we’ve worked with for years and a responsibility comes with that, so we just want to do the best job we can for them.
A big part of that is being well informed, so it was important for us to attend the employee trustee course just after we were elected as we had no idea what the roles and responsibilities looked like for us.
Building confidence as employee trustees
We would both highly recommend this course to anyone who has been recently elected as an employee trustee – it really is invaluable and a great starting point to increase your understanding.
We came to it with no knowledge of what a trustee should do. The first EOT meeting we went to was a bit like ‘oh my goodness’, but there was a real difference between our first and second board meetings once we’d attended the course.
The content was comprehensive, but at no point was it daunting, which helped us understand our roles and responsibilities. We came out feeling a lot more knowledgeable and confident, with a lot of ideas, and it empowered us with the tools to do the role to the best of our abilities.
Course director Ken Lindsay said there are no silly questions, which reassured us that we’re doing the right things and to trust our gut, so we were a lot more assertive in the second meeting, we had a list of things we wanted to ask, and we felt much more confident.
Course should be mandatory
We fed back to the trustee board that we think this course should be mandatory for anybody going forward for when we step back after our three-year term.
It has to be part of the onboarding process for those who follow us in the roles to help employees understand the concept of EOTs and the role of a trustee.
It is something we both feel strongly about with our responsibility to look after things and set things up so that once we’ve served our terms it can carry on in the right way, in line with our values.
We want to make sure the people that follow us understand what they’re taking on and have the confidence to come to their first meeting in a better place than we did.
I think the best way to do that is by ensuring they attend this online course, which was exceptional and engaging in the way it was delivered, as it can be challenging to deliver courses virtually.
Ken is very passionate, knowledgeable and a reassuring presence. He was there to support us throughout the week, as well as after the course.
He made the course feel relevant with lots of practical, real-life examples. For example, we really liked the ‘thinking like an owner’ activity and the ‘deep dive’ into the financial elements of the role, while the blend of guests and presentations was great with that real-world application to understand how it works in other companies.
Concluding with the fire-side chat was a great way to finish on the final day as it was nice to hear the thoughts of other attendees to realise it’s not just you with certain challenges, and that you can get through any dilemmas that may arise.
Find out more
Being appointed as an employee trustee or director in an employee owned organisation can feel like a lot to take on, especially for those with no prior experience. Our five-day virtual course equips people with the skills and confidence to excel in the role.