Hot topic: employee ownership

COVID-19 changed business priorities for many, but some saw it as an opportunity to change direction. Interest in employee ownership hit record highs during the pandemic, with 250 new employee-owned businesses established in the past 18 months.

A massive 70% of 230 businesses described employee ownership as a socially responsible thing to do, according to a survey by the White Rose Centre for Employee Ownership. So, is the model a viable route of succession planning? And does it really give value to employees?

Deb Oxley OBE, chief executive of the Employee Ownership Association

Employee ownership is growing quickly as a succession option for founders wishing to exit their business as it offers a route to protect the ethos, values and culture of the business they have built for the longer term, as well as protecting the jobs of those who have helped to build the business.

There are many surveys that show about two thirds of business do not have a clear succession plan – the pandemic has seen business owners suddenly having a much sharper focus on what they want to do with their business in the future and discovering that employee ownership is for them, which has seen 30% growth in the sector.


Julia Ingall, chief people officer, Bought by Many

The success of employee ownership can depend on your culture, the transparency and simplicity of the scheme and how you communicate.

I feel it offers value beyond that which is hopefully financial. It builds inclusion and trust and a sense of all working towards the same goals. It supports with ensuring that all of our team understand the financials and what we are working towards, regardless of level or function. 

Ultimately, the message for us is: ‘You’re important to us, we want you to stay and we want you to grow, so additional ownership grows’.

Some of our feedback from our teams has been about ensuring we were competitive in our reward practices and were treating both original and newer employees fairly and equitably, hence the roll-out of our scheme.

Our scheme is newly launched and we’ll be tracking its value as we continue to grow and ensure that every single employee regardless of level, function or geography shares in the growth and success of the business.


The piece above is part one of a feature that appears in the November/December 2021 print issue of HR magazine. Check out part two here and subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.