Four of the biggest employee-owned companies in the UK

The countdown to Employee Ownership Day continues, and today we’re celebrating by profiling four of the biggest co-owned companies in the UK

By Evie Prosser

Employee ownership may seem like a fairly new idea, but a surprising number of UK companies have embraced the change. That’s because it makes sound business sense and delivers a raft of benefits to the company and the wider economy.

    ...the companies selected share a commitment to valuing staff and customers alike.  

It’s impossible to name all of the UK’s employee-owned companies, but the Employee Ownership Association’s Top 50 is a helpful guide. To give you a flavour of the variety of companies adopting co-ownership, here’s our pick of four of the biggest.

Biggest doesn’t always mean best, of course. But in this case, the companies selected share a commitment to valuing staff and customers alike. They have a long-term and sustainable vision for growth and prosperity. And co-ownership both derives from their corporate ethos and drives it, making them examples from whom every business with an interest in the model can learn.

1. John Lewis

No list of employee-owned companies is complete without John Lewis. It’s the biggest co-owned UK company, and 100pc of its shares are held by staff, which John Lewis calls “Partners”.

The company makes around £3.8bn-worth of sales each year, showing that employee ownership imposes no limits on growth.

The model of co-ownership used by John Lewis is straightforward, and has been a part of its DNA since the start. Partners in the company have a direct say in how it is run, and in its strategic direction. This is achieved through the Partnership Council, which meets four times a year and represents the interests of the whole workforce.

As with any business, John Lewis’s management team is given devolved authority to run things on a day-to-day basis, and to make strategic decisions. But at every turn, they are mindful of the company’s commitment to its people. As its constitution states: “Partners’ happiness, through worthwhile and satisfying employment, is at the heart of everything we do.”

2. Unipart

While most people know that John Lewis is employee owned, not everyone is aware that another household brand is, too.

    Upon privatisation, its staff were given a direct stake in the company’s performance.  

Unipart is a hugely successful company that has reinvented itself several times in order to remain vibrant, dynamic and profitable. It works with a range of top companies to deliver supply-chain management that drives efficiency and enhances the customer experience.

Although the Unipart brand has been around since the 1970s, its current incarnation dates back to 1987. This is the year the company moved into private ownership, with half of the shares being owned by employees.

That ownership structure, along with the vision and energy of its management team, is responsible for Unipart’s enduring success. Upon privatisation, its staff were given a direct stake in the company’s performance. That means they adjusted to new ways of working that may have been resisted had it remained in public ownership or simply transferred to a private company.

3. Arup Group

The story of Ove Arup is inspirational. By 1970, he’d established one of the world’s foremost structural engineering firms and was looking to unite a number of disparate regional practices into one organisation, called The Arup Group.

At the age of 75, Arup wanted to preserve his legacy and empower the next generation. So he took the bold decision of handing ownership of his global business to his employees. The employee-ownership trust continues to own Arup and to drive its values. That gives staff a direct hand in the firm’s running, and a genuine commitment to its success.

More than that, employee ownership sets the ethos for Arup as a values-driven business. As with John Lewis, the vision of its founder remains at the heart of the firm, shaping its identity and empowering staff to keep the legacy alive.

It is no wonder, therefore, that Arup is one of the world’s most successful employee-owned companies, renowned for its ethical approach to design and its commitment to doing the right thing. An inspiration, just like its founder.

4. Mott MacDonald

Mott MacDonald is the second-largest company on the Employee Ownership Association’s top 50. It employs almost 15,000 people in 150 different countries and has been co-owned since 1989.

Like the other business on this list, Mott MacDonald has a strong ethos that is shaped by its commitment to employee ownership. It sees its core enterprises of engineering and management consultancy as means of improving life for the world’s population.

It is also resolutely committed to operating ethically. Every member of staff is required to be familiar with the company’s business ethics policy and it meets a variety of global ethical standards in every aspect of its work.

As with many employee-owned businesses, Mott MacDonald’s core identity is shaped by its ownership structure. It’s a clear example of the connection between co-ownership and Corporate Social Responsibility that goes beyond mere words and helps make the world a better place.

Published: 26 June 2019

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

If you enjoyed this article, you may like: Just five benefits of employee ownership (to businesses)

You may also enjoy: Business heroes: Ove Arup, Structural Engineer – Shaping the World

Jobs currently available

Featured job
Management Accountant
Sector: Accountancy, Banking and Finance
Salary: £30,000 - £38,000
Location: Haverhill
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 906965
About the role

The Just Recruitment Group have a superb opportunity for an experienced Management Accountant to join our client on a fulltime, permanent basis working near to Haverhill.

Reporting directly to the CEO of this fast growing successful company. The business is currently growing at 20% per annum and is at a pivotal moment in its development. New premises have been purchased and new sales and accounting systems are due to be installed in the coming 6 months. This role will be part of the senior management team and involved in key decision making for the business going forward.

Responsibilities include:

  • Responsible for the whole of the accounts department and production of the monthly management report and KPIs.
  • Managing the accounts assistant who has primary responsibility for the purchase ledger.
  • Managing UK and overseas payments, controlling deposits and advance payments.
  • Cash management including weekly forecasting of cash and credit control.
  • Running all aspects of payroll.
  • Management of Royal London pension scheme.
  • Responsibility of all company insurances and utility suppliers.
  • Working with the Operations Manager, analysing profit and cost variances to budget.
  • Implementation of new accounting system, which will free up purchase ledger clerk to take some of the more administrative elements of this role.
  • Job and departmental profit analysis.
  • Monthly VAT returns and Bank reconciliations.
  • Ad-hoc tasks necessary for the for Senior Managers and Directors.
  • Management of personnel files.
  • Administration and other duties relevant to the role.

The ideal candidate will possess the following skills:

  • Experience working in a fast moving busy office environment.
  • Ability to work to deadlines, quickly and accurately under pressure.
  • Ability to prioritise.
  • Discretion required due to nature of the role.
  • Excellent communication skills.
  • Confident in using Microsoft Excel.
  • Flexible and adaptable.
  • ACA/ACCA/CIMA Qualifications are desirable but not essential.

 

Read more
New job
Conceptual / Creative Designer
Sector: Creative Arts and Design
Salary: Negotiable
Location: South Woodham Ferrers
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 908654
About the role

The Just Recruitment Group Ltd is currently recruiting for a Conceptual / Creative Designer for their client based near South Woodham Ferrers.

Successful applicant will be responsible for producing clear concise concept / creative designs, which follow the brief and brand guidelines given by the Account manager / client. This position requires understanding / interaction across all departments within the business.

You should be willing to go the extra mile to satisfy the Customers visions. Be able to work as part of a strong team but also be able to work independently. As you grow into the role there will be occasions to visit Clients with the Sales team to take briefs and support them throughout the initial stage of the project.

Skill sets:

  • Highly Creative - To be able to create concepts from a client’s brief, following their guide and maybe offering some alternatives.
  • Vision - Visualise and bring to reality the client’s brief. Being on-trend with the current and up-coming market.
  • Hand Sketching - Able to hand sketch in a “live” situation in front of a client to offer visual options as part of a brief / discussion.
  • Concepts - Able to produce realistic rendered concepts to clearly show the options as outlined in the brief.
  • Technical - Bearing in mind that any concepts would require manufacture – allowing for construction and materials.

Duties and responsibilities:

  • Time management and planning workload with Head of Design
  • Take client brief either from Account manager or Client
  • Assist Technical when workload allows
  • A ‘can do’ attitude

Qualifications:

  • Excellent level of knowledge using Studio Max
  • Good level of knowledge using SolidWorks
  • Ability to use Adobe Suite
  • Good problems solving skills
  • Excellent Communication skills
  • Good Word & Excel skills 
Read more
Graduate Technical Designer
Sector: Creative Arts and Design
Salary: Negotiable
Location: South Woodham Ferrers
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 908655
About the role

The Just Recruitment Group is currently recruiting for a Graduate / Junior Technical Designer for their client based near South Woodham Ferrers.

This is a fantastic opportunity for a candidate who is interested in Product Design to be mentored whilst working alongside a senior designer, producing clear concise drawings / designs, which follow the brief and brand guidelines given by the Account manager / client. This position requires understanding / interaction across all departments within the business.

Duties and responsibilities:

  • Create new products, including 3D designs, prototyping and testing.
  • Execute robust design process and continuous improvement.
  • Take client brief either from Account manager or Client.
  • Time management and planning workload with Head of Design.
  • A ‘can do’ attitude.

Qualifications:

  • Excellent level of knowledge using SolidWorks
  • Good level of knowledge using Adobe Suite
  • Experience with the POS sector would be advantageous
  • Product Design degree would be preferred
  • Good problems solving skills
  • Excellent Communication skills
  • Good Word & Excel skills

 

 

Read more
HR Advisor
Sector: Recruitment and HR
Salary: To be discussed on application
Location: Witham
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 908633
About the role

Are you an experienced HR Advisor, with strong employee relations experience?

Do you have extensive experience in dealing with disciplinaries and grievances?

Just Recruitment Group is currently recruiting for a HR Advisor for their every growing client based in Witham.

You will be responsible for the delivery of a full range of Human Resource service, and Support the Head of HR and Senior HR Business partner to drive the HR Agenda in the aligned functional business.

Main Duties and Responsibilities will include:

  • Providing professional and confidential HR advice, support and administration across the full range of HR activity; including employee relations issues, terms and conditions of service, policies and procedures
  • Managing employment relations issues such as discipline, grievance, appeals, change and absence management are dealt with fairly, commercially and pragmatically. Identifying any potential risks to the business, conducting thorough investigations, fully considering the right course of action and identifying areas for improvement
  • Assisting with the monitoring, reviewing and updating all HR policies and ensuring these are in line with the current legislation
  • Informing employees of their rights and entitlements and keeping them up to date on any changes that are made
  • Managing staff relationships, responding to any queries or problems that they have and managing their expectations 
  • Supporting the Senor HR Business Partner with HR projects, change management activity etc.

Skills Required:

  • Experience operating in a past paced professional environment
  • Extensive experience of conducting investigations and supporting, coaching and guiding managers through investigations
  • Strong working knowledge of employment legislation
  • Experience of guiding managers and providing HR advice and counsel on performance management issues, grievances, disciplinaries, long term and short-term absence matters, and other employee relations case management and advisory including change management and redundancy processes
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills with experience of writing appropriate HR policies, procedures and documentation that are legally compliant and manage risk in an appropriate manner
  • Experience of reviewing and updating employee policies and procedures
  • Can do attitude and work ethic with a persistent and willingness to work as a team
  • Ability to prioritise and handle multiple projects and daily activities
  • Strong working knowledge of employment legislation

Experience Required:

  • Previous experience of operating at HR Advisor level within a busy, commercial environment
  • Previous experience of managing large volume of employee relations issues
  • IT Literate including experience of the Microsoft Office packages to an advanced level

Qualifications Required:

  • CIPD or equivalent HR qualification and / or qualified by experience

 

This is a full-time, permanent position working Monday – Friday 37.5 hours per week.

If you are interested in this fantastic opportunity, then apply today!!

Read more
Junior Digital Account Manager
Sector: Marketing, Advertising and PR
Salary: £19,000 - £20,000 per annum
Location: Kelvedon
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 908630
About the role

Do you have an interest in Digital Marketing and have worked in an Agency dealing with a variety of accounts?

Just Recruitment Group is delighted to be assisting their prestigious Agency Client in the recruitment of their Junior Digital Account Manager vacancy.

Duties will include:

  • Liaising with clients to create project briefs
  • Liaising with different teams in order to produce projects for your assigned clients
  • Discussing your clients’ needs with different teams, and any appropriate research
  • Briefing jobs into the studio throughout each stage of a project – ensuring each job is always managed and processed in the correct way
  • Taking a lead in project management activity
  • Responding proactively to all client requirements
  • Providing quotes and managing invoices
  • Creating close working relationships with your assigned clients

This is an excellent opportunity for someone with previous Agency experience.

This is a full-time, permanent position working Monday – Friday 08.30 – 17.00.

Due to the location of the role you must have your own transport.

If you are interested, then apply today!

Read more