Why we’re calling on employee-owned businesses to become Knowledge Partners and help strengthen the sector | John Lewis Partnership guest blog

Guest blog by Gamal Lewis, the Democratic Vitality Consultant Lead at the John Lewis Partnership and Co-Chair of the John Lewis & Partners Shops Forum. Gamal is also part of the Programme Board for the Knowledge Programme, the largest research project into the UK employee ownership sector ever undertaken.

  • What are the benefits of employee ownership for businesses?
  • How does the experience of employee owners compare to that of staff in non-EO businesses?
  • Is employee ownership a more socially responsible way of doing business?
  • What does good employee ownership look like?

These are some of the questions those of us in the employee ownership (EO) sector are asked on a frequent basis.

To help answer these questions and evidence what the impact of EO truly is, independent charitable think tank Ownership at Work and the Employee Ownership Association (EOA) are launching the Knowledge Programme alongside research partner CBI Economics. Research will be conducted over the next six to nine months, with findings published in the autumn of 2023.

This will be the largest research project into the UK employee ownership sector ever undertaken. I think that EO is a better way of doing business – but I’m biased. It’s incredibly important that we have substantive, hard research that shows what the effect of employee ownership is.

This is why Ownership at Work and the EOA are asking as many employee-owned businesses as possible to support this work by becoming Knowledge Partners – offering a small amount of time over the next few months to share insights into their business. Getting enough businesses involved will be critical to ensuring this research is a success.

Together, research partners will help the Knowledge Programme to explore:

  • The facts and data that demonstrate the impact of EO
  • EO good practice to allow businesses to benchmark, learn and improve
  • The difference EO makes compared to other business types
  • The EO impact on commercial performance and on employees, communities and the planet

This research will be divided into three strands, each of which are an opportunity to strengthen the sector.

  1. EO Performance project will demonstrate employee-owned businesses’ (EOB) economic, social and environmental performance compared to non-EOBs
  2. Good EO project will produce a benchmark of best-practice insights for employee-owned businesses to access
  3. EO Integrated Impact project will produce a free-to-use tool that EO businesses can use to measure and manage social and environmental impact of their ownership model

The outputs of this research will provide a solid foundation for employee-owned businesses to make the most out of employee ownership, learn best practice, and have the necessary evidence and knowledge to understand their impact in the future. The evidence of EOB performance will also be important for supporting new businesses transitioning to employee ownership.

Evidencing the overall impact of employee-owned businesses will also help all of us work with policy makers to strengthen the EO sector. With a general election approaching after the end of the research, this will be a fantastic opportunity to promote the importance of employee ownership to decision makers, and highlight the needs of the sector and its businesses.

If you are interested in becoming a Knowledge Partner and helping to strengthen the EO sector please click here.

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