Leading The Way

I am a disciple of Mark Twain in the sense that I have always believed, as he first set out in Connecticut Yankee, that we should talk our own nations up without necessarily being blindly loyal to their office holders or institutions.

The United Kingdom is a world or European leader in so many things. We should celebrate these wonderful achievements and promote them as successes the next generation is inspired to emulate.

One current piece of UK leadership in Europe is in employee ownership. Over the last three years the number of workers across Europe who own shares in the company they work in has declined significantly. In the UK it has risen by 8%. This may surprise those who think of continental European countries as having stronger social democrat traditions than exist in the UK. But the UK is incontestably leading the way in Europe when it comes to employee ownership.

This continuing growth of employee ownership here, fuelled by the rising number of companies that are totally owned by their employees, provided a fitting context for UK Employee Ownership Day 2015 at the start of this month. I created the Day in 2013 as an opportunity for employee owners across the country to celebrate their businesses and as a new platform for raising awareness of employee ownership amongst new audiences. Because of the enthusiasm of so many fantastic employee owners EO Day this year was the most successful yet. Indeed UK EO Day 2015 was the most effective single initiative ever mounted to profile the extent and benefits of employee ownership. A brief summary of the Day in words and pictures is available here if you missed it or simply want to look back on the events that took place on 3rd July.

UK EO Day 2015 also saw the publication by the EOA in conjunction with our colleagues at RM2 of the Employee Ownership Top 50. Now in its second year this shines a light on the economic performance of the fifty largest employee owned companies in the UK. This year’s facts are just as compelling as the ones in 2014. The higher productivity of employee owned companies is again clear for all to see whilst the long termism of employee ownership is evidenced by the very low net debt amongst the fifty businesses.

The EO Top 50 is now one vital part of the impeccably clear business case the EOA has created for why we need more employee ownership. It is a business case framed in the language of the audiences we must continue to influence, particularly business people. It is this switch to having a proper business case, for the first time, which has contributed massively to our progress over the last three years.

The next major opportunity to showcase the achievements of employee owned businesses is in November when the BBC’s Martine Croxall will present the 2015 UK Employee Ownership Awards to the winners on the first night of the 2015 EOA Annual Conference. These Awards celebrate and recognise excellence in employee owned companies. They are the most sought after accolades for all those involved in employee ownership in the UK. The countdown to the nomination deadline of September 14th has well and truly started so please do not miss the deadline if you want the chance to win!

While we are on the subject of countdowns many of you will soon be taking well earned breaks over the summer. The holidays are arriving at a time when employee ownership is playing a significant role in the rebuilding of our economy. General awareness of employee ownership, particularly amongst businesses, advisers, funders and politicians has risen to unprecedented levels. We are heading quickly in the right direction, on track for our goal of 10% of GDP being delivered by employee owned businesses by the end of 2020. But for the rest of 2015 and then beyond there is still so much more to do.

So, once the holiday season is over, I encourage everyone who supports employee ownership to keep communicating and advocating the evidence of its value to the economy and to society every single time there is a chance to do so. Ours is a campaign for progressive economic change so for our collective success we are critically dependent on each other’s passion and energy. Let us embrace the Twain approach and relentlessly keep talking employee ownership up.

Iain Hasdell is Chief Executive of the EOA