Flying the flag for employee ownership

By Deb Oxley, CEO of the EOA

As I watched the BAFTAs earlier this month, I was struck by how many of the presenters and winners used the awards as a platform to air their support for the BBC whilst it wrestles with the renegotiation of its Charter.

With many of those fortunate to be on stage choosing this broadcast celebration of film and television as the chance to add their voice to a campaign they feel passionate about, their efforts not only highlighted the power of the media, but the power of a shared voice.

I was reminded of the strong parallels with the employee ownership community; that our collective voice is strong and if we take every opportunity to celebrate our sector, we send a powerful message about the importance of employee ownership to the UK economy for many of our target audiences.

So it’s timely that this month the EOA launches the UK Employee Ownership Awards 2016 – our BAFTA equivalents. These Awards provide a unique opportunity to showcase the very best in employee ownership, and whilst their presentation at the EOA Conference Gala Dinner in November, will not, unfortunately be broadcast by the BBC, they are the sector’s opportunity to shine a light on the collective and individual successes of employee owned businesses.

But celebrating employee ownership via the UK EO Awards is not simply about providing a ‘feel-good’ factor. A lack of awareness of employee ownership continues to be the biggest single barrier to its wider adoption – and therefore our promotion and celebration of the sector on a national stage, as a route to awareness raising with key target audiences remains a key priority for the EOA.

Whilst not all EOA members or employee owned businesses will submit a nomination for the UK EO Awards this year, we do have a route for every employee owned business to get involved in celebrating their ownership structure through the annual Employee Ownership Day, which will be held on Friday 1st July this year.

Launched by the EOA in 2013, EO Day provides a platform for the whole sector to come together, on one day, to share in a celebration – and inspire more business owners, professional advisers, journalists and politicians to become aware of and interested in employee ownership.

Growing in scale year on year, EO Day remains the single biggest opportunity for our collective voice to be heard – hence why the EOA places so much focus on it, providing tools and materials to encourage engagement and leading the #EODay social media campaign.

This year, again we hope that every member will plan something to mark EO Day. From cake bakes (we Brits love to bake don’t we?) and team breakfasts, to Open Days and MP visits – you continue to impress us with your ideas and activities.  So this year, please do take your chance to ‘fly the flag’ for the sector, by making sure that you and your team have something planned and that you share your plans and activity with the rest of the sector.

One EOA member who has already announced their plans to celebrate EO Day this year is Prospects.  In their role as the largest provider of careers advice in the country, their innovative EO Day celebration involves bringing the world of employee ownership to the attention of young people, schools and colleges, jobseekers and careers advisers. Partnering with other EOA members, they hope to arrange for employee owners to visit schools, colleges, support centres and community spaces to talk about their organisations, industries and skills.

Whilst EO Day and the UK EO Awards are key celebratory events in our calendar, raising awareness of employee ownership is, of course, a 365-day challenge. Fortunately, social media provides a powerful, universally available tool to help every one of us contribute to this challenge with an arsenal of ‘follows’, ‘tweets’, ‘posts’, ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ that allows us to spread our message across the globe in seconds.  The opportunity of social media for the sector is immense; so do make sure you are using your own social media channels to connect with and follow others in the sector. Use #employeeownership @employeeowned and #EODay to unify your voice with the rest of the sector and share your successes and achievements as employee owned businesses.

Our message is clear; employee ownership delivers better business.  Together, we can ensure that this message is heard – so that more businesses can benefit from better business.

Have a wonderful #EODay everyone!