Celebrating Employee Ownership Day!

July 3, 2015 Written by Georgina Pearson

Friday 3 July marks Employee Ownership Day  and to acknowledge the occasion the Employee  Ownership Association have released a list of the top 50 employee owned organisations in the UK. The rankings are based on the number of staff, number of shareholders and the turnover of each organisation. We have reached number 15 – a great achievement!

To celebrate Employee Ownership Day, our Chief Executive Julia wrote a blog about the benefits of working for a staff owned organisation for the popular local website, www.bristol247.com. You can read the blog below:

Julia Clarke, CEO of Bristol Community Health

Employee-owned organisations are the future

As the chief executive of an NHS ‘spin-out’ I was amazed to discover that our social enterprise, Bristol Community Health, is one of the top employee owned companies nationally, with a turnover of over £45 million and 1200 staff, 76 per cent of which are shareholders. Employee ownership is so good and so powerful I thought everyone must be doing it!

So what is employee ownership? Put simply, it’s a business model where the staff own the company. Research shows that employee owners have higher levels of job satisfaction and a greater sense of achievement and job security. Bristol Community Health is a not-for-profit social enterprise, so our staff don’t receive dividends. Instead, they feedback on how we should reinvest surpluses into our 35 different community health services.

So if we’re not-for-profit, how does it benefit us? Personally, I feel it defines everything that is important about our organisation. Where to start? Quality of patient care of course! That is what we are about. The fact that our staff own our organisation gives them a very personal interest in the quality of care that we deliver. As a result we have an open culture – anything which goes wrong, or nearly goes wrong, is reported and acted upon. As employee owners, our staff want to ensure that our systems, processes and training are up to scratch.  There’s a shared commitment to this which is reflected in the fact that 83 per cent of staff would recommend our services to their friends and family.

We’re also an open and inclusive organisation where everyone has a say in our future direction. When we develop our business plan, we ask staff to contribute feedback through staff engagement events. Our board and senior management teams also visit frontline services across the year to get informal feedback on what’s working and what’s not. And it’s not just talk – last year staff told us there was too much change happening, so this year we’ve decided to have a year of consolidation with only essential new initiatives going ahead.

One of the great benefits of staff ownership is that when it comes to the difficult decisions, we are all in it together. How we manage our money, how much we pay staff, what we can afford to invest in services and how much we need to keep in the bank, are all questions our staff get involved in. Last year we consulted staff on whether to match NHS pay and pension packages, and this year we repeated the exercise. We also asked staff if they wanted us to become a living wage employer – an idea which originated from our Staff Council. I’m enormously proud that our team said a resounding ‘yes’ to this- equity and fairness is very important to them.

Underpinning all of this are our governance arrangements. Our staff team elect a number of staff councillors to form a staff council, which provides strategic input directly into our Board. The staff council also nominate someone to sit on our board as the staff council director (normally the chairperson of the council). Any member of staff is eligible. The staff council are involved in the appointment of our board non-executives, and they also undertake an annual evaluation of Board performance.

Staff ownership really helps to break down barriers within the organisation. As shareholders we are all equal. As chief executive, I effectively work for our staff, which is exactly how I view the role. And it can be lots of fun too. The staff council help with the planning of our staff summer party and run a fantastic bake sale raising funds for local charity Giveamonkeys. They take seriously our responsibility for delivering social value as a community interest company. Together we are creating the social enterprise we want to work for – delivering outstanding care for local patients, providing secure and rewarding employment for staff, and investing in our fantastic Bristol communities.”

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