What does it look like when a private company delivering community-led services changes to an employee-owned business model?
We became employee-owned in January 2020. This gave our people the responsibility to shape our organisation’s future. Our priority since then has been to bring employee voices into decision-making. Our people know the clients and communities we work with. By having their wisdom and experience involved in decision-making, we create better overall outcomes for the people we serve.
Being employee-owned also means that we can share some of our profit with the people who created that success, our employee-owners. Earlier this year we launched our employee ownership dividend policy which will distribute profit to colleagues as a dividend payment.
With the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, we finally brought our employee representatives together for an in-person Employee Council meeting in Dublin last week. Irish council members and champions have worked collaboratively with local leaders to promote employee ownership and support colleagues to understand the change and the benefits for employees, the business and our clients. This has been particularly important in Ireland, where the concept of employee ownership is not as widely recognised as it is in the UK or other European countries.
Since Employee Ownership launched in January 2020, what differences have our colleagues seen in how Seetec operates.
Janet Creavy Employee Council member and Business Manager: “Our colleagues are asked about everything; employee ownership is embedded in everything we do. Before we take any major decision in the company, we consider feedback from our champions, our council members and everyone else employed here.
“Champions and council members are involved in strategy meetings, environmental policies and changes to the intranet and IT systems we use every day. Most recently, we were asked for input on our upcoming brand refresh. The council members consult with the employee champions, the champions then go to their colleagues, take their views and relay them back to the wider team.”
What are the developments in Seetec’s employee ownership journey that have made our colleagues take note of what this change means for them?
Niamh Forde-Employee Council member and Support and Compliance Employment Adviser: “We’ve had lots of initiatives recently and some colleagues are very engaged, and others aren’t as excited. However, the announcement of the dividend policy was big news. Now our colleagues have more information on how the company is doing financially and more importantly when they can expect a dividend pay-out. It stands to reason that profit-sharing helps co-operative workers begin to understand that they are employee-owners rather than staff.”
What are the biggest challenges both employee council members and employee champions have found in communicating the benefits of employee ownership to our colleagues?
Employee Champion and Employment Advisor, Paul Ennis: “We launched this while we were all working remotely. We ran so many events and information days online, but people still couldn’t see all the things we were doing. Now, that we’re back in the office, our colleagues can see all these activities happening around employee ownership.”
Employee Champion and Employment Advisor, Hanifa Hamadache: “We’ve spent the last few years learning everything we can about employee ownership, trying to understand it ourselves. Meeting everyone in person gave us lots of ideas on how to let everyone we work with know how important this is.”
After all this time developing employee ownership remotely what was it like meeting other council members and champions in-person for the first time?
Employee Champion and Employment Advisor Compliance and Support, Jade Lau: “Meeting everyone and getting to know them was fascinating, finding out what every other sector did, I found out about the entire organisation. In Ireland, we have our own distinct business, but you sometimes forget there are other parts of Seetec doing many different things.”
Did you get any ideas or insights about developing the knowledge and impact of employee ownership on our colleagues?
Joanna McWeeney, Employee Champion and Complaints and Data Access Lead:
It was great to meet everyone but what we found out from that meeting was that Seetec Ireland is shining. We’ve started some initiatives that people in other pillars admired. The Wellness group we started to help people with their mental health and help colleagues connect online was something people found impressive.
What plans have you got for further embedding employee ownership in our culture?
Niamh Forde: “It’s important that each one of our colleagues learns that they are an employee-owner. We think that by doing more activities and meetings face to face, in different centres across the country, the idea will begin to resonate with our colleagues even more.”
How can the employee-ownership model benefit the communities we serve?
Janet Creavy: “If a customer or service user works with a business whose staff is better engaged, they’ll have a better experience. Staff are involved in decision-making and the future of the business they are part owners of. In theory, that makes for a better service. These things matter, it improves the service we provide, and our clients feel it.”