Guest post: Employee Ownership Day

Employee-owned companies are taking an increasingly prominent position among UK businesses. On Employee Ownership Day, Jo Maher, a legal secretary and employee ownership trustee at Cornwall-based law firm Stephens Scown LLP, talks about how the firm has changed under employee ownership

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We switched over to employee ownership in 2016 and became the first large UK law firm to do so. This was an exciting moment for the firm, as it felt like a strong step in the right direction for the business, and for all of us as employees.

Our employee ownership scheme is called ‘Scownership’. It is an indirect employee ownership model and we have a number of employee ownership trustees who are voted in by colleagues and can be anyone from any position in the company.

I put myself forward to be a trustee as I was keen to challenge myself and have a little more responsibility, but was also interested in how the firm works, how decisions are made and also to make sure that my fellow support staff were represented well.

My role as a trustee is mainly to act as a representative for the employees at board level. As the trustees have different job titles and roles from all over the firm, we can ensure that we can give a viewpoint from those who will be directly affected by any ideas put forward at board meetings. We are also a contact for our colleagues if anyone has any ideas or comments on how things are done, so we can raise this on their behalf.

For us, probably the biggest benefit that we’ve seen from employee ownership has been engagement! The people are any organisation’s biggest asset, so when they are owners themselves and feel like they can make a difference, it really does create a culture where everyone works together towards a shared goal. It leads to celebrating each other’s successes and working together to solve problems. We know that anyone, at any level of the business, can contribute towards its success and this in turn makes people feel happier and more motivated.

For any organisation that’s considering becoming employee owned, I’d say that it is invaluable having a workforce that is as invested in the success of your business as you are. When everyone is engaged and working together, it can be easier to reach your goals.

As well as being employee owned ourselves, we advise businesses who are considering making the change to employee ownership and have found that for some businesses employee ownership is useful for succession planning.

I’m proud that Stephens Scown is so forward thinking and progressive, and I love being a part of that. I really feel valued and that I make a valid contribution.

Personally, it is the feeling of knowing that I am listened to and that my opinions and feelings are valued. From an employee ownership trustee perspective, this role has really pushed me out of my comfort zone, in a good way, and I have had lots of opportunities and responsibilities outside my normal job role to grow and to make a difference.

Jo Maher is a trustee of Stephens Scown’s employee ownership scheme and a legal secretary in the firm’s employment team in Truro. Stephens Scown provides legal advice to businesses considering employee ownership and can be contacted on 01872 265100, email solicitors@stephens-scown.co.uk or via www.stephens-scown.co.uk

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