Employee Ownership – Reflections, One Year On

January 2024, by Catherine Gordon

MM-Eye became employee-owned a year ago this month, and it has been quite a year of change and progression across the whole business.  At our recent all-partner meeting (we now call ourselves ‘partners’ rather than ‘staff’), we discussed the changes experienced during this time and shared thoughts and feelings about being employee-owners of the company.

The overwhelming sentiment was positive – we feel like we have done a lot in a year, but we are still very much starting a process of transformation for ourselves and our business.  We felt it would be useful to document and share our experiences at this point in our journey as we celebrate the first anniversary of employee ownership for MM-Eye – and in doing so, we hope to inspire other businesses to take a step towards it.

The main organisational changes which employee ownership required at MM-Eye were the creation of a Trust Board and an Employee Council, which were both up and running fairly quickly.  The Trust Board oversees the decisions of our Operational Board with a remit to ensure the interests of MM-Eye’s employee-owners are properly considered.  The Employee Council represents the views of partners and feeds these back to the Operational Board.  The Operational Board has adjusted to being accountable to the Trust Board, which includes an Independent Trustee, Danny Sims of DJS Research (also an employee-owned business) and an Employee Trustee, Meg Rudman-Walsh, one of our Research Directors here at MM-Eye. In addition, Damien Field, our Managing Director, also represents the Operational Board.

We realised, soon after the initial set-up of 2 employee council groups, that a single Employee Council would be more effective and efficient. Representatives on the Employee Council have been getting into the swing of giving feedback and thoughts on various topics, ranging from employee satisfaction improvements to a newly drafted bereavement policy and a new partner bonus scheme.  A lot of us have had new roles and responsibilities to get used to, over and above what we’d consider our day job, and we are all feeling a cultural shift of having to ‘think like owners’ and realising we now have decision-making voices.

During our partner meeting discussion, a wide range of thoughts were shared in response to Danny, our Independent Trustee, asking how we all felt about employee ownership a year in.  Here are a few of those we shared:

  • Feeling included in decisions being made.
  • Feeling our views matter and that we are listened to.
  • Employee Council feedback is making a difference – we now have a few examples of reviewing and suggesting changes to draft company policies before implementation.
  • Realising we have the power to suggest and make changes to how we work, which will improve employee satisfaction.
  • More transparency in financial matters, with training provided to equip us with the knowledge we need to make sense of the information shared.
  • Positive responses reported by our business development team when talking to prospective clients. Employee ownership is considered a distinctive feature in the market research world – it underpins our values and is associated with better service levels.
  • Our Independent Trust Director is like having an ‘honest friend’ in terms of advice and guidance – this is the first time the operational directors have had this type of external advice, support and accountability.
  • Career progression opportunities for all staff, having more transparent conversations about succession and clear opportunities for future leadership roles for those who want it.

Overall, we had a very positive, open discussion, affirming the benefits of employee ownership so far.  It still feels like early days, with lots to do – like embedding an ‘ownership’ culture, settling into the routine of our regular council and board meetings, and embarking on our long-term leadership succession process – but overall, we have made a positive start.

If you are thinking about the employee ownership route for your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch! We would be very happy to talk more about how we have got to where we are.