Winner UK EO Awards: Owner inspires as leader and advocate during difficult times

A young leader whose colleagues cited as “inspirational, supportive, positive, and passionate” has been named UK Employee Ownership Awards Employee Owner of the Year.

Lucy Farrow, a Consultation and Engagement Team Leader at OPM Group, was nominated for the award by her fellow employee owners for being a consistent, articulate and passionate advocate for employee ownership values. This was especially valued during a very challenging period for the group as it underwent significant restructuring to respond to deep budget cuts in some of its key market.

Lucy joined Dialogue by Design, which later merged with OPM, 7 years ago in a junior role and worked her way up. At the age of 28 she was elected to be the employee representative as Chair of the Trustees and represented employees as a Non- Executive Director on the board for three years.

The business, which now employs 45 people, and became partly employee owned in 1994 and wholly employee owned in 2009, is a research and consultancy organisation. It delivers public and stakeholder management, consultation management and analysis, research and insight as well as expertise in engagement and consultations for large-scale infrastructure, environment and energy projects such as HS2 and the third runway at Heathrow.

The nomination cited that as the Chair of Trustees, Lucy was “a strong visible and highly effective leader playing a key governance role” and that she was “a visible and accountable face of the board where she challenged with sensitivity and robustness in the best interests of the business as well as making sure the values of the EO model where retained.”

Alongside the her day to day job and her role as Chair of Trustees, Lucy also took the time to advocate for OPM and employee ownership, speaking at external events and writing and publishing articles.

Her Chief Executive Peter Holland said: “I’m extraordinarily grateful for Lucy’s support and leadership. Her commitment inspired us and gave us confidence that together we would be successful and has helped us to transform OPM Group.

UK Employee Ownership Awards judge Professor Andrew Pendleton, of Durham University and the White Rose Employee Ownership Centre, said:

“Three things realty struck me about Lucy’s story. Firstly, she received such great testimonials from her colleagues, secondly she showed leadership, engaged with staff and upheld the employee ownership values of the company during a really difficult period and finally she took on this key role in addition to her day job at the age of just 28.”

Judge Jean Claude Pierre, Group CEO of Scott Bader, said:

“It is clear that other businesses could learn from this impressive example of how Lucy has been empowered at such a young age to take leadership and responsibility, which has been to the benefit of the business and its employees.”