The company is employee-owned and communicates the benefits and challenges of the model to its staff from day one, according to Bass. “It’s vital that people get their heads around it as early as possible so that they understand the potential benefits,” she said.
A Partnership Council, consisting of a panel of employees from across the organisation, is involved in business critical decisions, ranging from company takeovers to changes in benefits schemes.
“We have 47 employees on the council who once a year sit in on board meetings and have a real voice within the organisation,” she said. “It gives a great cross-section of opinions from across geographically dispersed workers, so it’s not like having a central power base that’s making all the decisions for everyone.”
More than 150,000 employees in the UK today work for employee-owned businesses. Additionally, more than 100 organisations hosted events for employee ownership day, organised by the Employee Ownership Association (EOA), on 4 July.
A recent EOA paper, the Employee Ownership Impact Report, states that employee-owned businesses bring in £30 billion of revenue to the UK economy, which equates to around 3% of GDP.
EOA CEO Iain Hasdell told HR magazine the success of the employee ownership model is “not surprising” when the benefits to staff engagement are considered, but added there are still barriers to the model becoming more widespread.
“While many people are aware of it as an idea, there is not always that much information on the practicalities of setting up a business this way,” he said.
The EOA has set the target of employee-owned businesses contributing 10% of UK GDP by 2020. Hasdell said the Government can help to increase awareness.
“Things like tax relief are a great way to get employers thinking about this,” he said. “Something that gives greater incentives for employers to share the wealth among their members would be welcome.”
Healthcare provider CSH Surrey managing director Tricia McGregor sees patient care as the main advantage of the model in her organisation. “If people are engaged they’re going to do a better job,” she said.