At the age of 28, Harriet Kelly feels her voice is being equally heard in the boardroom at our 2,400-employee owned public services business.
The former teacher believes this is one of many positive outcomes since the employment, skills and justice services provider became employee-owned two years ago this January. In 2021 we ranked as the UK’s eleventh-largest employee-owned business.
Adopting employee-ownership just two months before a global pandemic could have hindered our commitment to this new way of doing business. Instead, we believe it has been a positive transition for the business.
Harriet joined our Group Executive Board after being elected Employee Trustee Director in October 2021. She said:
“I didn’t know what to expect but I soon felt genuinely accepted and involved. Everyone treats me as though I’m at the same level as they are, and my input is really valued. It is a real opportunity for me to represent employees’ voices in the boardroom.”
In 2019 Harriet joined Seetec Outsource, the specialist skills and education division of the Seetec Group, as an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) tutor in Liverpool and was promoted to Lead Tutor and then ESOL Academy Manager.
Since secondary school, Harriet has been on an upward trajectory. She was the first in her family to go to university, supported by a scholarship award at her Liverpool comprehensive school which helped her attend the city’s prestigious University of Liverpool.
Harriet’s educational experience has helped her in her current role in the Professional Standards and Development team as Quality and Innovation lead. She also acts as Strategic Lead for Women and Young Girls, a role which aims to identify and break down barriers women face in accessing education, training and work.
Harriet sees our employee ownership as strengthening collaborative working between employees and management.
“Recently we recruited two new people in my team, who were attracted to Seetec because of our employee ownership. They asked me to explain how things are different and I showed them the video summary our CEO provides after each board meeting.
“They were shocked by how honest it was. From day one, you have access to high level conversations which give you a full picture of the business you’ve joined.
“All employees are sent quarterly financial updates, with graphics and explanations. We also have a live question and answer session with a finance representative. A lot of people don’t have a financial background, but the business genuinely trains you to feel like an owner and ask questions about financial decisions.”
During Harriet’s first board meeting, she asked board members to identify the benefits of employee ownership, an exercise that was filtered down to the Employee Council and other employees.
“We ended up with four pages of benefits!” she laughed, “colleagues feel empowered to have their say. There is more engagement across the business because we are building a culture that’s about working together, because everyone in the business is a genuine stakeholder.”
There are many tangible examples of this engagement in action. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we were quick to position ourselves to respond to employees’ struggles. Initiatives included setting up a Covid grant scheme for those facing financial challenges, and a Home-Schooling Support Group for those needing help ranging from subject support to re-purposed laptops donated by colleagues and distributed to employees in need. There were health and wellbeing initiatives too, ranging from online Zumba and yoga to frequent exercise challenges.
Results from a recent employee survey reflect the employee ownership ethos with job satisfaction increasing to 83% whilst health and wellbeing moved up to 80% from 77% in 2020.
Harriet believes service users have benefited from the positive culture within the business.
“Colleagues are more committed because they are stakeholders, and they have a greater role in designing and shaping our services. This leads to higher quality service design and a better customer experience.”
Our commitment to social value has also been enhanced: the Employee Council pushed for greater charitable support during the pandemic, leading to thousands of pounds and euros being distributed to a range of charities and community projects that are supported by colleagues through our Community Investment Fund.
“I was attracted to Seetec because of its ethos of improving lives and empowering communities,” Harriet concludes. “My current job role involves helping the continuous improvement of the business and employee ownership means everyone’s ideas for improvement are listened to.”