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Employee Ownership: Providing Stability and Structured Support Through the Pandemic

Articles News 24 June 2021

To mark Employee Ownership Day 2021, we’re celebrating our position among the UK’s top employee-owned businesses rising five places to 11th.

However, more importantly, we’re using the day to reflect on the challenges faced during the past 15 months, and how by working #BetterTogether everyone continues to play their part as the country moves cautiously towards the end of the latest lockdown.

We strongly believe employee-ownership is a positive, resilient and sustainable way of transforming lives and communities, enabling us to deliver evidenced-based interventions and better outcomes through our multiple business divisions.

Faced with the challenges posed by COVID-19, a big priority has also been the health and wellbeing of our employee-owners. The added pressure of balancing homeworking with home-schooling and supporting vulnerable family members during the lockdowns has had an impact.

Our aim has been to provide the right level of flexibility to our people, so that they can take better care of vulnerable individuals that use our services. We achieved this through our leadership team working closely with employee ownership champions across the business to provide a range of practical, physical and emotional support initiatives, as seen in our Ireland business division.

A survey of 1,000 of our employee-owners revealed a 12% improvement in health and wellbeing scores following the introduction of initiatives, including:

  • Laptops for families – a loan scheme to support families with home schooling, to keep them connected and reduce digital exclusion;
  • Covid grants – for our employees facing financial crisis;
  • The Listening Ear – monthly non-work-related check-ins with trained mental health first aiders;
  • In Safe Hands – a safe online space with discreet access to information in a hurry, primarily around domestic abuse, mental health, financial worries and drug/alcohol support;
  • Weekly mindfulness – sessions designed and led by employee champions;
  • Physical activity support – including weekly online yoga and Zumba sessions, an online Seetec Movers Strava community to link employees and encourage winter activity and much more; and
  • Home school support group – pooling knowledge and subject matter expertise across the organisation to help families with remote learning.

Our Associate Director, Employee Ownership, Ann-Marie Conway said: “We have a comprehensive health and wellbeing policy, but the pandemic brought unique challenges for our people.

“We are a people-to-people business and being isolated from colleagues who provided daily support to each other was difficult enough, compounded by dealing with our own family issues. It was clear we could only support our clients and communities when our people were well supported.

Our network of Employee Ownership champions really came into its own, ensuring the employee voice was heard by the senior leadership team. This approach continues to empower our people to create agile and responsive solutions for the benefit of the business, further embedding the values of an employee ownership culture to boost the support we provide to our service users.

So far, feedback from our employee-owners has been overwhelmingly positive with comments, including:

“Our EO structure has been a fantastic vehicle to support people through this difficult time.”

“I have seen the true meaning of employee voice to help steer the business strategy.”

“Feedback from employee-owners has reached senior leaders and I have seen actions being taken as a result.”

Our employee ownership status has represented an exciting opportunity for our people to help shape the future direction of the business. Our collaborative structure and ability to be responsive to the challenges presented by the pandemic has enabled us to maintain high standards of service to the communities we serve and support.

Employee Trustee Director, Karen Palfreyman explained: “Against the backdrop of the pandemic, it is remarkable that we have managed to not only continue to grow and develop the business, serving communities impacted through the biggest economic and social upheaval in several generations, but also establish the right foundations for our own employee ownership culture to succeed.”

Chief Executive of the EOA, Deb Oxley OBE said: “At the EOA we believe in better business together – our EO networks support individuals, businesses and the economy to unlock their potential, something we are delighted to be celebrating this EO Day.

“It is great to see the impact of being employee owned is having on employee owners at Seetec, who we have been delighted to see developing strong and robust governance supported by good engagement and communications that is driving benefits for all.”