Increasing ownership at work

Now is the time for bold and innovative thinking about how we can put more business ownership into the hands of employees, writes Deb Oxley OBE from the Employee Ownership Association.

See this page in: Cymraeg

There has always been a missing part of the business support jigsaw to help businesses thrive in the UK.

A lack of understanding of and support for succession planning is a key contributor to the failure of UK SMEs, which employ 60% of the nation’s workforce: over half them not having any succession plan, plus just 30 per cent of family businesses sustaining or growing their success during a second generation of ownership.

In addition to this, there is one option that is often not considered despite having a high proportion of successful succession case studies – employee ownership. As the number of employee owned businesses in the UK nears 500, growing by 28% in 2019, they consistently outperform businesses in the rest of the UK, particularly in terms of productivity.

However, now, with the advent of Covid-19, employee ownership can not only complete the jigsaw, it is a route to increasing the number of people in the economy with a stake and a say, so the UK can reap the following benefits:

  • reduced levels of income and wealth inequality
  • businesses having better governance and oversight
  • better productivity driven by engaged employees
  • jobs rooted in regions for the longer term
  • and a people focused approach to automation to create a 21st Century workforce to power the economy

As we start to emerge from the pandemic, we see the opportunity that  business founders will be thinking more about what their future business exit might look like, especially where their options may be reduced in a global recession, but also the risk that owners consider employee ownership for the wrong reasons where the motivation is rooted simply in tax advantages rather than profiting with purpose.

But  now is the time to be bold with new and innovative thinking – such as that from new think tank Ownership at Work which is considering new ways of how to put more ownership in the hands of employees to help them share not just reward but also responsibility – something that helps unite people behind a common purpose so they do what a business needs, not just what they want to do.

Post COVID-19, the UK needs a national conversation on how to socialise capital and what are the routes to ensuring this becomes a reality.

As I reflect on the last few months leading the Employee Ownership Association, it is the stories from our members which resonate; many of these EO businesses were able to leverage their employee ownership attributes – including trust, empowering people and inclusive and compassionate leadership – to adapt, innovate and flex during the crisis.

As the UK moves into the next chapter of this pandemic, these businesses will also rely on other characteristics of employee ownership including the commitment to employee engagement, taking a long-term view and prioritising the collective care of all employees.

As #BuildBackBetter has now become the by-line for ambitions of sustainability, resilience, equality and productivity, we are more confident than ever that employee ownership has a significant and impactful role to play in our economy.

This blog is published as part of a series for Co-operatives Fortnight 2020. Let’s build back better together. #KeepCooperating

Deb Oxley OBE

 

“As #BuildBackBetter has now become the by-line for ambitions of sustainability, resilience, equality and productivity, we are more confident than ever that employee ownership has a significant and impactful role to play in our economy.”

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Read more of our #KeepCooperating blogs for Co-operatives Fortnight 2020