Lessons learned from the ‘EO Boost’ conference

By Helen Bone

‘EO’? Yes, I know, yet another acronym to remember! Apologies for that but this one is close to our hearts at Merlin and simply stands for ‘Employee Ownership’!

It’s always good to expand your knowledge, and the EO Boost conference has certainly given me a lot to think about for my new role on Merlin’s EO Trustee Board. This year has been difficult for pretty much all EO companies, whether they are struggling to remain afloat in the current climate or overrun with additional work.  A clear message I took away from all of the talks was how, in these times of difficulty, EO workforces have demonstrably pulled together to find creative ways forward, and Merlin has been no exception.

Just 1 in 500 companies are currently Employee Owned. Some of the better-known companies you may have heard of are the John Lewis Group, Riverford Organics and Aardman Animation. (Are Wallace and Gromit employee owners, one wonders)? Merlin became Employee Owned on 1st July 2016 with a goal of building a stronger more sustainable company, where aims and values were shared companywide and everyone’s views could be heard as part of the decision making processes.  As owners of the business, Merlin’s staff certainly see a direct benefit from the business succeeding and are thus more invested in achieving that success. There is also frequent engagement with staff on the future pathway of the company and all are encouraged to put forward ideas on how the company can mature.

So how does this benefit our clients?  Well, given that the staff see the benefits of Merlin’s success, they work towards making the company as successful as possible and that means doing the best work they can for our clients.  The EO culture also brings with it some additional benefits which are not so obvious at first glance. Employee Ownership, by its very nature, encourages good communication across the company and that translates into all staff working well together on projects, and Merlin project teams working as seamless extensions to client technical teams. Communication and openness in turn improves trust and staff know they can rely on each other for support, especially when times are tough.

Merlin will have been Employee Owned for 5 years next year. It has taken time to establish the new culture, but every team member has benefited from the transition and all are determined to work together to improve Merlin and develop into a brighter, stronger company well into the future. Why not see for yourself and try the ‘EO difference’ with Merlin!