People power: employee ownership for your brand 

Between 2020-2022 the employee-owned sector more than doubled

It’s the way a company acts, not what it says, that really draws people to it. That’s not just true of household brands, but employer brands, too. Having worked in agency recruitment for the past 13 years, we see that through our candidates day in, day out. Research also backs it up — 65% of people say a brand’s CEO and employees influence their decision to engage.

Transitioning to 100% employee ownership at The Industry Club cemented everything we stood for as a brand. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly, but I believe in the power of our people and that they’re the reason we’ve been successful. I also wanted to preserve our agency culture for years to come. 

Employee ownership is on the rise 

As well as a change in ownership structure, employee ownership is a testament to the incredible impact that people power can have on reinvigorating a brand and business. Our team of ten (which now co-owns the business) have all come from industry roles, giving them a deeper understanding of the industry. Many have been with the business for a significant period, with an average staff tenure of seven years (higher than the recruitment industry norm). Between 2020 to 2022 the employee-owned sector more than doubled in size, to over 1,000 businesses. 2022 alone saw a total of 332 new employee-owned businesses; which was another consecutive record for yearly growth (Employee Ownership Association). This growing popularity comes in conjunction with a surge in the power of individuals to shape the reputation and marketability of businesses.

The concept of employee ownership is not a new one, but it’s gained traction in recent years. It’s a departure from traditional models and a move towards a more inclusive and participatory framework. At its core it empowers individuals, grants them a stake in the company’s success, and fosters a sense of collective responsibility and pride. Embracing employee ownership is the key to enhancing a brand’s vitality, and the answer lies in the dynamics of people power. When people are not just cogs in a machine, but co-owners of the business and brand, their motivations align more closely to the organisation’s goals. They become brand ambassadors, invested in delivering excellence and upholding company values.

The shift to employee ownership acts as a catalyst for cultural transformation within an organisation too — a shift toward transparency, collaboration, and trust. The real game-changer is giving everyone a platform to influence the long-term vision. When employees have a direct stake in the company’s success, the walls separating different hierarchical levels begin to crumble. Ideas flow more freely and innovation and creative problem-solving thrives.  

A strategic differentiator 

Embracing employee ownership is still a strategic differentiator in a competitive market landscape. In a world where talent acquisition and retention are paramount, companies that offer meaningful ownership opportunities have a distinct advantage. The prospect of being more than just an employee, but a co-creator of value is a powerful incentive for talent. It fosters loyalty, commitment, and a sense of belonging that goes further than traditional employer-employee relationships. 

From a marketing perspective, the narrative of employee ownership offers a compelling story — one of empowerment, inclusivity, and shared success. Employees are increasingly discerning and socially conscious, so brands that embody these values stand out. By showcasing the journey toward employee ownership and the positive impact it has had on both the workforce and the brand, businesses and brands can forge deeper connections with their audience. It’s not just about selling a product or service anymore; it’s about embodying a set of values. 

Long-term sustainability 

The most profound impact of employee ownership on a brand is in its long-term sustainability (Cass Business School). By aligning the interests of employees with those of the company, employee-owned businesses are better equipped to weather economic downturns and navigate turbulent waters. The resilience and adaptability that stem from a deeply engaged and motivated workforce can mean the difference between survival and obsolescence in an evolving marketplace. 

With employee ownership, people take centre stage. And by embracing it, companies can tap into the collective wisdom, passion, and creativity of their workforce, revitalising their brand from within and securing their longer-term future. It’s not just about growing profit and market share; it’s about empowering individuals, fostering a culture of collaboration and innovation, and creating lasting value for all stakeholders.  

Featured image: Annie Spratt / Unsplash

Melissa Smith, MD and Founder at The Industry Club

Melissa founded The Industry Club in 2011, having spent 20 years in creative agency operations - heading up Project Management and Production departments for some of London’s leading agencies at Board Level.Melissa leads The Industry Club on a day to day basis but is also passionate about building careers in the creative comms industry for Everyone.In 2020, she launched Marketing Debuts, a recruitment and training programme for young talent to drive diversity in the industry.Melissa is also one of the regular trainers at The Industry School sharing her knowledge and passion for Project Management with agencies and brands.

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