UK EO AWARDS: EO spirit rises for travel firm

Travel business Alfa Leisureplex Group wowed the judges with coach loads of evidence of how it has brought employee ownership to life in its business.

The business is the winner of this year’s Employee Owned Rising Star of the Year in the UK Award, sponsored by Baxendale, which celebrates a business that in its early years has embedded its EO ethos and culture across all of its teams.

Alfa Leisureplex Group started with the Sawbridge family owning one hotel in Llandudno in 1984: by 2015 it owned 21 hotels and was a tour and coach operator in the UK and Europe with 600 employees when the family sold 75% of the business to an employee owned trust as part of its succession plan.

Judges particularly praised Alfa’s engagement with their employee owners. This included developing a network of 25 workplace representatives, a series of communications and engagement activities such as employee engagement surveys, mini surveys, regular emails, a newsletter, a dedicated online area, a programme of 23 roadshows and an annual employee conference.

Since becoming employee owned the business has grown to 700 employees, across 28 sites in England Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Wight. They carried more than 110,000 passengers and provided 650,000 hotel nights last year.

Judge Professor Andrew Pendleton, White Rose Centre for Employee Ownership, said: “There is a strong and tangible commitment to promoting the employee ownership ethos in the company, and their success with this is particularly impressive because of the complexities of the number of different locations and shifts its employee owners work.”

“As highly commended in this category last year we have seen the spirit of EO come alive across at all of its branches which they demonstrated well on EO Day”.

Alfa’s staff have reported ‘A culture that encourages improvements and innovation’, ‘A sense of belonging’ and ‘Being part of a supportive team’ which has been reflected in employee-led improvements to customer service, a customer satisfaction rate of 91%, employee turnover falling by 17% and employee engagement increasing from 64% to 81%.

Alfa has also recorded its best financial performance ever with sales up 15% and profits up 18%.

Judge Kate Ludlow, a Director at Saxton Bamfylde, said: “There is a real sense of continuous improvement driven through its employee ownership structures and cultures and a commitment to continuous development of the ways in which employees are engaged. I particularly like the way they rolled out the staff representatives to form a network of two-way communication.”