EOA Conference 2023: Key takeaways from a lively and thought-provoking two days

We are still smiling after an excellent 800-strong EOA Conference 2023, sponsored by Baxendale.

We believe that with employee ownership and the EO network, you get out what you put in.

We saw and heard more than 800 of you sharing, listening, questioning and connecting on how you can deliver or evolve great employee ownership.

The energy from attendees in the main plenary and the well-attended breakouts was matched by their commitment to celebrating and cheering on their peers in the UK Employee Ownership Awards, as well as engaging in our questions in our Kahoot polls and quizzes and start conversations in our exhibition space.

Plus, as always you brought the fun! Many more than we thought shared their EO voice live on the stage with our Rockaoke band to exuberant support from an appreciative audience.

Together with our event partner Cascade Productions, our speakers, sponsors including Glide and Howden, our platinum and gold exhibitors, we want to thank attendees who brought an unprecedented willingness to connect and share at what has been our liveliest, best attended event to date.

Our 6 key takeaways!

1. The ingredients for being a high performing, purpose-led business.

Monday Keynote Joe Garner, former Nationwide Chief Executive, told us leaders need to stop, think, then do. To dial up the positives, leaders first need to dial down the negatives e.g., fear – “if you put in one wolf in the deer park it will affect the behaviours of all of the deer”.

He said: “If we dial down greed and fear, then we dial up purpose, potential and play we can create purpose-led organisations that are also high-performing.”

2. Putting humanity at the heart of business.

Our panel discussion on what business be doing for a more sustainable featuring Chris Turner, B Lab UK, Katherine Chapman Living Wage Foundation, Alex Veitch, British Chambers of Commerce, and Pat Brennan, CleanTEC Services Ltd, explored the profound choices that will impact our people, businesses and communities and how sustainable growth serves both profits and people.

While each organisation had its own insight, strategy and approach, a final unifying statement by Chris Turner best summed up the feeling from panellists and the audience ‘it’s about building a sustainable human-centric economy’.

3. Taking time to reflect on progress.

Lucy Gara, Employee Trustee and Associate Planner, from Employee Owned Business of the Year LUC, noted that it is important to take the time to celebrate your successes and that is why applying for an award is important as you get to review the journey you have taken.

She said: “Sometimes we are so aware of the things that are imperfect, that in completing the awards submission it was great to look back and think, oh wow we have made a lot of progress.”

4. Taking a sense of ownership in your business and beyond.

Pennine Healthcare, Graeme Cameron and Mark Jones discussed how their powerful motto of ‘don’t walk by’ sums up the feeling of ownership in the business that was non-existent before. It was the result of switching from a profit focused leadership to an EO people focused leadership which has driven their best results to date.  We were challenged to think of the impact of if everyone adopted a sense of ‘don’t walk by’ ownership when it came to planning for your business as well as a more sustainable future.

5. What makes us happy at work?

What makes us happy at work we asked in our Kahoot poll? Conference attendees cited being valued as being at the top of the list relating to happiness at work by quite a high margin, however, the rest of the top 10 answers in almost equal parts were autonomy, achievement, freedom, recognition, transparency, flexibility, respect, purpose and money!

6. The importance of being together.

Finally, our Day 2 keynote panel also noted that being together is important to take the time to share ideas and make in-person connections – AI, technology, sustainability and health are a number of reasons why people are gathering less, however, nothing can replace the energy and learning felt in the room at an event such as the conference.

We really hope to see that energy extend beyond the conference. Here’s some ways you can do this:

  • Let us know something you learned, or a contact that you made, at the conference that will see you doing something new on your return to work
  • Download and display the Proudly Employee Owned badge that we launched at the event
  • Read and share the latest research on the impact of the employee ownership sector
  • Read and share the work of our research partner Ownership at Work on the scale of the opportunity to grow employee ownership – the Great Succession opportunity.
  • In the meantime, if you want to bolster your skills and knowledge we have our EO Learn offer and in quarter 2 of 2024, there will be a new-look EO Hub with facilities to connect, learn and share all year round to support the experience of our in-person events.

The next EOA Conference will be on November 26 & 27 2004 in Telford, we hope to see you there!