EO Today Member Spotlight: Gripple

From its headquarters in Sheffield, designer and manufacturer of precision engineering products, Gripple, supplies a range of patented products to the agricultural and industrial sectors in more than 80 countries worldwide.

In 1994, Gripple introduced the opportunity to buy shares in the business as a means of advancing the highly inclusive and innovative culture already embedded in the company. Understanding that better business performance equals a better dividend, which in turn generates a higher personal share value, Gripple felt this direct ownership model would allow all 500 employees to financially benefit from their combined teamwork, whilst simultaneously offering them significant control over the future direction of the company.

With the Chairman and Vice Chairman having pledged to donate half of their equity to employees over a ten-year period, a custodian company, GLIDE, standing for Growth Led Innovation Driven Employee, was established in 2011 to act as the market maker for the buying and selling of shares.

Managed by a board of elected representatives, GLIDE is also responsible for ensuring the Gripple commercial board meets its three main drivers: to grow sales by a minimum of 10% per annum; to ensure 25% of annual turnover should come from patented products younger than four years old, and to donate 1% of budgeted profits to charity.

Today, to maintain the business’100% employee owned status, every new member of staff must purchase at least £1,000 worth of shares within 12 months of joining the company, with loans available to fund the transaction via a mutual arrangement between GLIDE and Transave. This approach ensures all shareholders, as equal members of GLIDE, have the right to voice their opinion on how the company operates, with contributions used to help improve overall business performance.

The transition to employee ownership has enabled Gripple to take levels of employee engagement to new heights – something the company was keen to recognise by entering the 2015 UK EO Awards.

After a win at the 2014 UK EO Awards with Gripple Automation, followed swiftly by its best ever performing year, the 2015 Awards presented a valuable opportunity for Gripple to evaluate its progress by benchmarking the business against some of the sector’s most credible organisations.

In terms of the business’ financial progress, the stats spoke for themselves – YTD profits that had skyrocketed by 157%, a YTD sales growth of 17%, and 13 new products launched to market, compared to just one in the previous year.

Underpinning all of this though, and a major factor in securing the Business of the Year award, was Gripple’s ongoing dedication to empowering colleagues across all areas of the business. 2015 saw the establishment of a new ‘People and Culture’ department, designed to offer the encouragement and appropriate support to enable employees to take on greater responsibility and progress within their individual roles. Whilst another of the department’s core challenges – improving the quality of the annual appraisal procedure – resulted in the introduction of ‘Gripple spirit’ – a fundamental way of assessing the attitudes and behaviours of each individual team member.

Having taken home the award, and inspired by the ensuing positivity and motivation that swept through the team, Gripple made the decision to establish its own internal GLIDE awards – an annual celebration of the unsung heroes across its seven associate companies: Gripple UK, Gripple North America, Gripple India, Gripple Europe, Loadhog Ltd, PMS Diecasting Ltd and Go Tools Ltd.

Now in their second year and giving winners the opportunity to visit a Gripple facility of their choice anywhere in the world, the awards exemplify the business’ approach to staff engagement. Focus 100% of the time on the individuals is the message: how you select them; the skills you develop; the motivation, authority and responsibility you give them. Because the right calibre of people is what allows employee owned organisations to become better commercial enterprises and, after all, this is not charity – this is serious business.

And with yet another record-breaking year in the offing, who can argue with that?