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How employee ownership can transform a business

30/06/2017 By James Parker

On May 17th, La Fosse Associates hosted the Employee Ownership Association's Regional Network Meeting, bringing EO business leaders together to share knowledge and experience around employee ownership.  Below is a write-up of that event. 

The La Fosse Employee Ownership Story: 

Before founding La Fosse Associates, Simon La Fosse spent nearly 14 years helping build a business from a team of 30 to a listed, international business of over 500 people with a market cap at peak of £250 million. 

After the business sold, he took a step back and saw an industry that, by and large, seemed to just treat people as commodities. He believed that we could do better.

Simon always took the approach that it’s best to treat everyone with care and respect: he found it made his job more enjoyable and it always paid dividends. It was one thing for him to think it’s the right thing to do – but was it too ridiculous to try and build a company around this very simple idea?

So after much soul-searching and a deep breath, he re-mortgaged the house, and went about finding out. Fast-forward to today and we’re now a £70 million operation with over 150 recruiters. 

 

Launching an employee-owned business

Simon set up La Fosse Associates as an employee owned business, with over 40% of the equity  earmarked from day one so it could be gifted to all staff over time. He felt not only that this was the right thing to do, but that it would bring staff together, and build a strong and motivated team. 

Simon also wanted to change the perception of the recruitment industry, which many people saw as transactional. He wanted to build a relationship-based recruitment firm with a senior management team that put values first, like care and respect. 

And while many advised against the risk of building a recruitment firm on an employee-owned model, Simon stuck to his guns. 

As we enter our 10th year, we're proud of the growth we've achieved and culture we've built. And while it’s still early days, and we aren’t in a state of perfection, we believe that we're on the right path, together, to proving Simon's original mission:  that treating people well isn't just the right thing to do, but is a better way to sustainable build a world-class business.

 

An employee’s view on EO

Employee ownership is said to create a shared sense of commitment to the cause and increased motivation among team members. So we asked two employees in the know their opinion on EO: 

Claudia Cohen joined La Fosse Associates over 4 years ago. 
“I didn't know what employee ownership meant before joining La Fosse. But I got the sense that it brought everyone together and it was the firm’s key point of difference for me. I'm now four years into my career at La Fosse and being EO plays such an important role in our culture. It really motivates the team, and creates a collegiate atmosphere.  It also helps that they have part to play in building this business together."
 
Luke A is a recent grad, who joined La Fosse Associates just under a year ago. 
“I felt it had a real impact on the culture and really differentiated the firm from its competition. A lot of companies talk about culture. But it only really means something when you can prove it and do something financially to back it up. The culture at La Fosse can be felt from the top down. It starts with senior management and it filters down to brand new consultants. For me, it’s motivating – and inspiring.” 

 

The challenges of employee ownership

Of course, building an EO business hasn’t come without some challenges, particularly around how to communicate what it means to our employees. But we feel the challenges can be overcome with clear and comprehensive communication that helps staff to better understand our shared vision and the benefits of employee ownership. 

For Simon, this challenge was all too real when it came to building La Fosse Associates. Looking back, he is transparent in admitting the EO scheme wasn’t communicated well enough. 

"Employee Ownership for us is a statement of intent. Intent from employees to help build this together, along with an intent from management.  We think that employee ownership engages everyone in a way that means we all are sharing the experience of creating a great company.”
- Simon La Fosse

To share our knowledge, experience and learnings of running a successful EO scheme, we ran two workshops.  Here are the key takeaways:

1. How to create an Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

With our first workshop tutorial, James Parker, CEO, explained how to create an improved EVP in four steps.  

 The 4 steps that La Fosse went through to establish an EVP. 

1. Discovery
We realized, as a small company, that a lot of our values and culture - and what it means to be Employee Owned -  was implicit to us. But we wanted to make it explicit to our market and audience. We started with gathering opinion: we used employee surveys from exit interviews, internal audits amongst staff members, audits amongst the competition and our clients – to discover the difference it made to them. 

2. Setting a goal
After the discovery phase, we set goals on how to articulate our EVP and how it fitted with our company objectives. One of our key learnings during this stage was that we spent a lot of budget and time on 3rd parties, but in the end it had to come from us. 
 
3. Communication
It was vital to ensure clear communication from the board down. Every single staff member needed to understand who we are and what our mission is. EO brings us all together under one shared purpose and there must be consistency in every piece of communication – from how we answer the phone, to website imagery, to office design – even down to the atmosphere of our Friday company meeting. 

4. Delivery
Your staff are your most powerful advocates. And how they delivery on the promises you make in your EVP will make the all the difference.  So looking for and responding to honest feedback is key - through employee surveys, best company surveys (if you need a third party) and powerful external resources such as Glassdoor. 

 

2. Engaging people in culture and values

With the second workshop tutorial, Amy Gilman, Director of Learning and Development and HR, took group members through what it took for La Fosse to create meaningful engagement among staff members. 
 
1. Performance
Managers were involved in coming up with values and implementing them within their teams, to ensure our culture is tangible from the top down.

2. Promotions
We created a Career Roadmap Diagram for staff to see the options they have for career progression. We ensured we showed them possibilities beyond their department and implemented SMART objectives for career progression. 

3. Recognition
To maintain our focus on building a world-class culture, we established a scheme where employees anonymously nominate each other each week, in recognition of good work, to shine a light on those who have gone above and beyond to help their fellow colleagues out. 

4. Metrics
We implemented quarterly PDP appraisals and employee engagement surveys to measure how we're doing and develop key points for improvement. On top of this, we send an annual 3rd party survey to entire company to rate levels of engagement.

Interested in working for an employee-owned business?  

Working for an employee owned business is a powerful and driving force for employees. It creates a sense of building something together and offers a tangible dedication from a CEO. 
Come to La Fosse Associates to experience it for yourself and join the recruitment firm that’s doing things differently. 

Get in touch today.

La Fosse celebrate Employee Ownership Day 2017
Tagged In: Culture, Hiring
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