Post-EOT Transition: The importance of effective employee engagement

Employee engagement is vital to the success of an employee-ownership trust (EOT) owned company. When employees are engaged effectively, they understand that employee ownership is about much more than an EOT bonus. It gives employees the opportunity to contribute to change in their workplace and work for a business that they are committed to. This article will explore the ways in which employee engagement is beneficial and some ways in which it can be improved.

Why is employee engagement beneficial?

Having employees who are engaged and committed to the company and its values has many commercial benefits.

  • Increased productivity – When employee-owners understand that they each have an impact on the business and its profitability, there is usually an increase in productivity and collaboration. This is due to them being invested in the success of the business and the outcomes of their work. Employees will work together for the good of the business as they know each of them has a stake in its performance. Employees are more committed to their roles due to their vested interest in the company which contributes directly to improved productivity.
  • Recruiting employees – The prospect of being employed by a company where they have a voice that is valued, as well as benefiting from a stake in their own success, can be appealing to many talented individuals. In a competitive job market, this can set a company apart and be an effective recruitment tool.
  • Retaining employees – When employees are effectively engaged, there is an increase in morale. This can be linked to having greater job satisfaction because they are employee owners and will personally benefit from doing their roles well. This, in turn, can contribute to a lower turnover in staff.
  • More entrepreneurial and committed staff – Effective decision-making is an additional benefit when employees are engaged. As employees are more involved in decision-making, changes to the business are considered from the perspective of staff from all levels. This can contribute to more balanced and effective decision-making, helping the business become more efficient.

How can EO businesses improve employee engagement?

Part of the ethos of employee ownership is creating a sense of purpose and direction for the employees, allowing employees to feel involved in the business and its future direction.

Mindset change – One of the key steps to ensuring employees “buy into” this ethos in the long run is changing how they perceive their role within the organisation. This often starts with management and how they engage with employees. Simple changes such as referring to employees as “employee owners” or having regular ‘business updates’ can help employees gain a better understanding of the organisation’s values and goals and how they can each contribute to achieving these goals. For example, at John Lewis and Waitrose, all employees are referred to as “partners” reflecting their “owner” status.

Values – Establishing a clear set of values for the company is beneficial to improving employee engagement. When these align with the employees’ own values, it creates a positive culture in the workplace, contributing to effective employee engagement. Additionally, having clearly defined values helps with decision making, as they give the foundations of what the company is looking to achieve. The company’s values should be considered upon transition to employee ownership given the change in the way the company is owned. The values should then be revisited on a regular basis, to ensure they still align with the goals of the company, and the company’s direction of travel.

Employee voice – Giving the employees a platform, through which they can express their views on key matters relating to the business, reinforces the mindset that they are employee-owners and encourages an open line of communication with the leadership team. Employee representation can take many forms and be tailored to the needs of the individual business. Examples range from more a formally appointed ‘Employee Council’ to informally selected ‘Employee Champions’. Consideration must be given to the size and structure of the business when deciding which form would be appropriate for your company. It is also beneficial to consider how to ensure the members of the employee voice are representative of all employees within the company structure. The key is to ensure that employees have an open communication channel with management and perhaps more importantly, know how to use it effectively.

Communication, communication, communication

Effective engagement is impossible without active communication from the leadership team. It is important to keep staff up-to-date on matters such as the company’s financial performance, the business plan for the year, key obstacles etc. Updates could also be used as a platform to celebrate individual successes to ensure employees feel valued and connected to the overall successes of the company. Understanding the strategy and having clear targets against which they can measure success helps employees make more effective decisions in their roles and understand their impact on the business. While the level of detail that is shared could vary, information should always be presented in an accessible and easily digestible way.

Education – Educating employees on what it means to be an employee owner is an effective way to ensure ongoing engagement with the EOT values. Onboarding of new employees could include an overview of the EOT structure, how employees participate in the business and how they can individually get more involved the employee consultation process (for example, by putting themselves forward as employee representatives). Additional training could be provided to employee representatives to help them navigate the challenges of the role – at the end of the day, if they are not effective in their role, this could hinder the effectiveness of the employee voice and disenfranchise staff.

For example, one EOT client reports to employees on the cost of “damage” on an unattributable basis, whether it be to company vehicles (and the loss of profit while unavailable due to repairs), plant and machinery or stock held in the business. The employees can see a direct correlation between the cost of the damage and the loss of a potential EOT bonus over the course of the year. The employees can then hold each other to account regarding how they treat company equipment.


At Geldards, we offer training for EOT trustees and employee representatives as well as regular EOT forum meetings to allow trustees to discuss topics and areas of concern with other EOT trustees including improving employee engagement. If you would like to receive updates about future events or would like to discuss trustee training for your EOT, please contact Andrew Evans.


This article was written with the assistance of Mina Dimitrova and Holly O’Regan

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