Alan Spence: Employee ownership has wider benefits

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A growing section of the business community is making its mark by focusing on the power 
 of people. Employee ownership has increased by nearly ten per cent year on year for the past three, according to recent Employee Ownership Association (EOA) figures and employee-owned companies now contribute more than £30bn annually to the UK economy.

The number of employee-owned companies in the UK is now 164, 45 of these in Scotland, providing jobs for nearly 2000 people. They are taking great strides and there is a growing awareness of the reasons why companies are turning to employee ownership. The Employee Ownership Association believes ten per cent of GDP to be generated by these companies by 2020.

It is a business model that benefits from a range of tax incentives, but more than this, it is about closer bonds between employees, a sharing of common goals and sustainable business growth. While the financial benefits are attractive, the model cannot be driven by these alone – it requires management to foster employee engagement and lead by example.

Companies across the UK will mark Employee Ownership Day 2015 on July 3. It is a chance for management teams from all businesses to find out more about the proven techniques used by these companies and how they can use them without necessarily committing to full employee ownership.

Employees who have a stake in the business, be it financial, intellectual or emotional, can directly influence its success. At Accord, our employees are involved in deciding and implementing long-term strategy, they have the opportunity to determine how profits are distributed and bonuses paid and can take responsibility for their own personal development. These make a difference to staff loyalty, increase productivity and attract personnel that share the values of the business.

Ultimately, the philosophies of employee ownership are about communicating effectively with staff and empowering them to take responsibility for the business. Good dialogue and efficient communications positively impact collective knowledge and understanding and form part of an effective company culture.

Companies looking to adopt this way of working benefit from support networks including EOA and 
Co-operative Development Scotland, of which I am an ambassador. Peer support has increased enormously since we started hydrocarbon accounting firm Accord Energy Solutions five years ago and I can see a revolution on the horizon.

Alan Spence is founder and director of employee-owned hydrocarbon accounting firm Accord Energy Solutions.