UK’s Oldest and Largest Employee Owned Business Wins Culture Award

The UKs oldest and largest employee owned businesses has been named the winner of Employee Ownership Culture of the Year in the UK Employee Ownership Awards 2019.

John Lewis Partnership which has 50 John Lewis & Partners shops and 338 Waitrose & Partners shops across the UK has been employee owned for 90 years.

The partnership which has a written constitution which defines the principles by which it should be run, begins with its ultimate purpose being the happiness of all its members, through their worthwhile and satisfying employment in a successful business.

The judges of the award were particularly impressed by the partnerships continuous efforts to improve engagement and drive innovation through its 81,500 partners.

They noted the ability to bring large groups of employees together to innovate as well as engage employees to resolve difficult issues within the business. This includes 9 partner networks on key themes important to its partners, which alongside innovating new products has seen new policies made including the support for partners who are going through fertility issues.

In particular, judges were wowed by the Partnership’s efforts to involve and grow consensus to change a pension scheme it could no longer afford, which saw partners act in the interests of the business to support a £80m saving for the business.

While its actions to address issues raised by its employee survey – completed by 72% of the workforce -saw 700 employees involved in an empowered leadership study to support the development of training for managers in areas where there was lower staff satisfaction.

The partnership is supported by a host of engagement mechanisms including councils, networks, surveys and the weekly gazette where partners can see their issues or concerns published and have leaders respond in the same publication within 21 days.

The judges noted: “It is pleasing to see that after their 90 years of employee ownership that its methods of engagement to support the happiness of its partners are still central, significant and evolving when it would have been easy for these to become diluted over time especially during market difficulties”.