Exploring Employee Ownership at #EOAConference 2016

I have just returned from the best conference I have attended in 2016.

I admit to being out of my comfort zone before I headed up to the EOA Annual Conference. Surveylab were exhibiting as well as attending as conference delegates – which I liked a lot because most other exhibitors weren’t there just for sales either. However, I do like to know what I’m walking into and having only joined the Employee Ownership Association earlier in the year I was relying on Annette and Jeremy’s experience – trust me, it will be good.

The EOA conference is a celebration of employee ownership (EO) and provides opportunities to share experiences and inspiration. I needn’t have worried.

I liked how the conference catered for different audiences from those new to (or exploring) EO to well-established organisations, and there were plenty of sessions to choose from. I took most notes as a delegate in a session about the steps to take and the pitfalls to avoid in transitioning to Employee Owned. Later, Jack Stack, Founder and CEO of SRC Holdings began his keynote by recounting how with the factory workers he borrowed money to save their company during the U.S. recession in the early 80’s. I can’t help but feel a big dollop of ‘winging it’ and good fortune here, but Jack and the staff at the factory turned it around together and have been enormously successful.

The final keynote of the conference was by Union Industries, winners of the Innovation of the Year award. Presented by ‘Mrs S’, former owner, and Andrew Lane, MD, employee ownership came about from the need for a succession plan. Their talk was full of entrepreneurial spirit, energy and conviction in their goal. Much of the foundations were already in place before Union Industries became employee owned two years ago but that doesn’t make their achievements any less striking.

I wasn’t taking notes (sorry). I just sat and listened, and thought wow.

Union Industries at EOA Conference
From the #EOAConference twitter feed

Something that struck me throughout the day was how similar the themes were in each session and the keynotes to other, non-EO conferences and presentations about people and work (whether these have engagement, well-being, HR or leadership in their titles).

For example, successful Employee Ownership requires good great communication, honest leadership, involvement, recognition and trust.

Sound familiar?

There was a session titled Employee Engagement too:
(I love the idea of a company camper van as a reward available to staff)

What is Employee Engagement? Winning hearts and minds
On our table we described Engagement as ‘winning hearts and minds for a common purpose’. We came up with 5 things that are needed to achieve our description, and ran out of time listing what actions/behaviour needs to be present to create those five outcomes.

True or False? I value being an employee owner and not just an employee

A few people asked me about exploring employee ownership in staff surveys. My immediate thought is how do your results differ from a time before EO was on the table, to now? Similarly, how do your results compare to other organisations in general?

Annette did some work evaluating our own Employee Survey Framework with 7 principles that underlie Employee Ownership: Governance and accountability, Ownership identity, Leadership and management, Decision making, Information and communication, Entrepreneurial spirit, and Reward and fairness.

The questions we have been working on are yet to be tested, but if you are looking to evaluate understanding and the impact of employee ownership in your organisation, can we talk?

If you came and stopped by our stand, thank you.

Have questions or looking for more information? Please do get in touch.