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Employee ownership: what it means for employees and customers

Published: June 2022
Updated: March 2024

Will Davies
Will Davies, Design Consultant and Employee Trustee

The number of employee owned businesses has increased sharply as more companies see the benefits of employee ownership (EO) as a way of acting in the best interests of staff and remaining resilient during and after the pandemic. In the UK, around 1,400 businesses are employee owned. Scotland’s EO community is particularly thriving at almost 200 businesses, with the aim of 500 by 2030.

Shore transitioned to EO in March 2020 to futureproof growth and maintain our strong team ethic and culture.

As well as being a design consultant with ten years under my belt at Shore, I have a voluntary position as Employee Trustee. I’ve had a key role in the transition and ongoing running of EO, by representing the interests of Shore employees. I’m also responsible for communicating any EO updates to staff.

What is employee ownership?

Most will know of John Lewis as an employee-owned company; it’s the largest in the UK. This type of ownership means that employees hold a significant stake in a company, either totally or substantially owning the business.

There’s so no standard way of setting it up, the structure should be tailored to a company’s ambitions. For Shore, it made sense to go down the most popular route; to create an Employee Ownership Trust. The Trust holds the majority of shares in the business on behalf of the employees, while our Managing Director and Founder, Nick, remains a significant shareholder.

According to Co-Operative Development Scotland, who assisted us with the transfer, employee-owned businesses consistently outperform ‘non EO businesses’ in terms of profitability, increased productivity, employee wellbeing and business resilience.

Part of Nick’s decision to adopt EO was for succession purposes, carefully planning his eventual exit from the business. He wanted a solution that would guarantee that Shore remained independent, retained the company’s strong values and culture, and protected the employees. We are enormously grateful to Nick for entrusting us with the future of the company that he had so successfully built up.

What does employee ownership mean for employees?

The benefits mentioned above are certainly true for Shore. All employees have agreed that EO has been a good thing. Everyone has a stake in the future of the company, and we all share in its success.

Given that the pandemic hit just after the transition, some of the benefits may have been slightly overshadowed. However, we’re seeing more tangible outcomes as we’ve established a consistent approach of hybrid working.

Stats from employee survey. Shows what employee ownership means for employees. 100% of employees agree that employee ownership is a good thing. 97% feel that they now have an increased stake in the company. 100% of employees experience positive emotional engagement.

Findings from a recent survey

From a recent employee survey, it concluded that everyone feels more positively engaged with the company than they did in 2020. Some reported that they feel more of a sense of being part of a team, along with an increased interest in becoming a key member of that team and having a greater influence on the future direction of the company.

In a Q&A session with our independent trustee, Alistair, employees could ask anything that they might not understand and follow up on any outstanding actions from the survey. It was very encouraging to hear Alistair compliment Shore on how successful our transition to EO had been.

Photo of Shore team in employee ownership Q&A session. People sat informally in meeting space having a discussion.

An EO Q&A hybrid session with Independent Trustee, Alistair

What does employee ownership mean for customers?

We’re passionate about improving the lives of patients, who are our clients’ ultimate customers. We always strive to achieve the best possible outcomes and aim to exceed expectations. Clients work extremely closely with our experienced team – with most communicating daily on projects. Our long-standing partnerships with clients are something we’re very proud of.

All of this is what Nick wanted to preserve in Shore’s future.

The fact that employees now feel that they have an increased stake in the company means that the way we work with customers will remain the same, if not better. One of the notable outcomes from the employee survey was that the common ownership acts as a driver for sustained and increased performance.

Whether we’re considering the impact of EO on our employees or customers, we believe that we’re certainly on to a ‘Shore’ thing.

Find out more about life at Shore and current opportunities here.

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