Business growth depends on having a workforce who believe in the business and want it to succeed. You can have the best ideas and strategy for growth in the world, but if you don’t have a team of people to help you get there, you will be lost.
Employee engagement is not something that you can pay lip service to. At Stephens Scown we started a programme of change about five years ago. The most visible manifestation of this externally is our employee ownership scheme, Scownership, which gives everyone who works here an equal share in the profits.
However, before we got to that point we took a long, hard look at our business and realised we had to change. It started by listening to our people – really listening. And instead of simply telling them ‘what’ we were doing as a business, we started to share ‘why’ we were doing it. We got everyone more involved and asked for their ideas and – crucially – acted on them. From an IPhone App for clients to a new carers support group and reusable coffee mugs, their ideas have been fantastic.
Once we had the right culture in place, we brought in employee ownership. We were the first large law firm to do it and it was not easy. The regulation around law firms meant we had to be innovative and come up with a model that would satisfy the regulators.
This is all about giving everyone who works here a real stake in the business. No matter what role someone has, or what their perceived seniority is, we are all part of the same firm. Everyone’s contribution to the firm is equally important, and now their share of the profits is too.
There is a big difference between being an employee and an owner, and that is starting to be felt across the business. In particular, we have been able to show our people that the profit share is not just related to turnover but looking at marginal cost savings and efficiencies can have a dramatic impact on the profit.
The firm’s persistence has been worth it and I would definitely recommend employee ownership to other businesses if they are committed to getting their culture right first. For us employee ownership is a powerful motivator for our people and has a direct impact on growth, client service, engagement and, ultimately, the success of the business.
This article was first published in the Fast Growth 75 supplement of the Western Morning News on 2 November 2017