Seetec – Our EO Story: Structures put EO at the heart of the business
Seetec is a one of the UK and Ireland’s largest employee-owned service providers. We specialise in providing first-class services within the skills and education, employability and health, criminal justice and social care sectors.
We became majority employee owned in January 2020 which gave our people the responsibility to guide our business and shape its future. Our vision from the outset was to build on our values and create a way to bring employee voice into decision making. Our people know the clients and communities we work with, so having the wisdom and experience of our people involved in decision making, would lead to better overall performance and improved outcomes for the people we serve.
In order to get employee voice into the heart of the organisation, we have made changes to our governance structures at every level of the business.
Employee Voice Structure
Our vision of employee ownership was that it should not be seen as an addition to the organisation, but an integral part of our business structure, putting employee voice into decision making.
The journey started with our initial concept referred to “60-10-1” which was shorthand for a structure to have a representative employee voice across the organisation. Representation was always going to be a challenge for us; Seetec has 2,000 employees, across 60 locations in the UK and Republic of Ireland, and we wanted to go beyond an elected employee council and bring a broader range of colleagues into the driving seat of EO at Seetec.
The 60-10-1 structure is 60 employee champions (12 self-nominating people, committed to employee ownership from each of our five business pillars), 10 elected employee council members (two from each business pillar), and one employee trustee director (who would be from the employee council and selected by them).
Initially, we recruited the employee champions through a series of workshops (all virtual due to the pandemic) and they worked collaboratively to agree the role of employee champions and elected employee council members.
Once the Employee Council was elected in June 2020, we set about changing the governance structures of our business so that the elected employee council members sat on the senior board of each business pillar and we also put two employee council members on our senior governance board for social value.
When the Employee Trustee Director was appointed a couple of months later, that person became a full member of our Group Executive Board, working closely with Seetec’s most senior colleagues to ensure the best outcomes for our clients and communities.
In addition to employee council involvement, we created several working groups, getting colleagues contributions on important issues including group business strategy; equality, diversity and inclusion; health and wellbeing; social value; employee ownership dividend scheme; reward and recognition schemes; and financial reporting.
We are now into our third year of employee ownership and we are continuously learning how to bring employee voice into more aspects of the business.
Seetec Employee Council
The Employee Council are not only the elected representatives of our employee owners, they are trusted business partners. Seetec’s leaders’ value and seek their contributions and, therefore, the Employee Council is engaged in all aspects of the organisation bringing employee voice to business matters. The Employee Council challenge, contribute, ask questions, suggest improvements to a wide variety of business issues.
In the last two years, their contributions have included:
- Introduction of regular financial updates for colleagues, with regular changes in content and support responding to colleague feedback.
- Shaping local reward and recognition schemes with HR partners.
- Influencing Seetec’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and directly influencing inclusion groups.
- Collaborating with senior leaders to create Seetec’s group strategic framework, setting out our business strategy for the next five years.
- Directly influencing Seetec’s social value strategy with employee champions and senior leaders.
- Shaping Seetec’s community and sustainability commitments including environmental pledges, volunteering priorities and co-ordinating the Seetec Community Investment Fund.
- Shaping and directly influencing the launch of Seetec’s Employee Ownership Dividend Scheme.
- Influencing Seetec’s brand refresh and contributing to redesign of group intranet.
Seetec’s Employee Champions
Beyond the formal involvement of our Employee Council, we have also worked hard to include our employee champions and although their role is less formal than the EC, they play an important part in representing employee voice at Seetec.
Through their monthly Connect & Chat sessions with our CEO and Group CEO, their participation in working groups, engagement in local teams they have consistently ensured that the voice of colleagues and in turn our clients contribute to decision making at a local level.
Increasingly, local leaders will seek out employee champions to gain their insight and wisdom on topics ranging from communication and colleague recognition to new initiatives and operational fixes.
This year we have prioritised the development of our employee champions and post pandemic we are committed to bringing them together face to face twice a year. We began in May 2022 when 50 of them joined a development event in Bristol, led by the Employee Council and with the CEO and Group CEO attending to listen to Champion feedback.
What our people say:
- Janet Creavy (Employee Council member and Business Manager, Seetec Ireland): “Our colleagues are asked about everything; employee ownership is embedded in everything we do. Before we take any major decision in the company, we consider feedback from our champions and our council members. Champions and council members are involved in strategy meetings, environmental policies and changes to the intranet and IT systems we use every day. The council members consult with the employee champions, the champions then go to their colleagues, take their views and relay them back to the wider team.”
- Suzanne Purcell (Employee Council member and Education, Training and Employment Regional Manager, Seetec Justice): “I wasn’t confident at the beginning, unsure if I could do the role well but as I say to colleagues, don’t underestimate yourself! I learnt as I went along and that’s the beauty of the role, it evolves and grows as your confidence and ability does. The way we have structured employee ownership at Seetec means, as an employee council member, you are exposed to interesting and confidential business intelligence. You are involved in important discussions and decisions, balancing the need for confidentiality alongside supporting your champions and colleagues in making this a better place to work – for us all.”
- John Baumback (Group CEO Seetec Group): “When the move to employee ownership was announced in January 2020, the primary objective was to work with colleagues and together establish new employee voice structures across the business. Now, more than two years on, the Employee Council and Seetec’s leaders have created a solid employee ownership framework, ensuring employee voice is represented in decision making. Including colleagues in important discussions has brought significant benefits and created more robust and appropriate solutions than we could have hoped for.”
In the last two years, we have changed our governance structures to put EO at the heart of the business because employee ownership allows us to invest in what matters to us most, creating long lasting positive change for the people and communities we serve.
We continue to see many benefits from the changes we have made to our structures and governance including involving employees in key decision-making processes, providing employee owners with a single unified voice, supplying colleagues with financial benefits and increasing transparency across the business.
At the recent employee champion development day, we asked colleagues what employee ownership meant to them and there were a range of inspiring answers, best summed up by this one…
“We own what we do and why we do it.”