What does the ownership effect mean at Tibbalds?

Hilary Satchwell a Tibbalds board director and EOT director reflects on taking part in the Ownership Effect Inquiry, with the results and report – The Ownership Dividend – published today by the Employee Ownership Association (the EOA).


At Tibbalds we’ve been living and working with employee ownership for over 5 years and it’s had a significant impact on how we run the business. Last year I was involved in one of the panel sessions that presented to the Ownership Effect Inquiry. This was a great opportunity for me to really think through what being employee owned means and how this has impacted on me as a director and manager, and also as a founder shareholder in Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design.

Contributing to the Inquiry process was interesting in itself. I was part of a panel of three employee-owned SME businesses presenting to and responding to questions from the Inquiry Panel. The Panel comprised around 20 business, legal, regulatory representatives, including both ‘converts’ to Employee Ownership, and those that were not. They asked us a series of questions reflecting a very broad range of considerations including “How do you deal with the reduced performance of being employee owned?” to which the answer is there is no reduced performance that we have ever seen! “How has being employee owned affected how you run the business” and so on. It was a full-on hour and a half session with a stream of interesting questions and discussion amongst the panel through our responses. One thing that was clear was that all of the three businesses that were part of my session felt strongly that being employee owned has had a positive impact on both how they run their business and also on their employees, and levels of employee engagement. A strong ownership effect in evidence.

So, what about the ownership effect at Tibbalds? Undoubtedly, employees have benefited from tax free bonuses, and these are much appreciated. But even more I think it’s been quite transformative in terms of how we share information within the business, how we discuss and develop business strategies, how employees influence how the business operates, and in strengthening our ethos and the purpose of our work. I have been really impressed by how engaged our Employee Trustee Directors have been and how they have worked hard to fulfil this role really well.

Since becoming majority employee owned, one of the changes has been introducing a quarterly Staff Forum where staff can raise any issues for discussion with all employees and directors, before ideas are further developed and put to the Tibbalds Board for decision. This has led to a number of interesting changes in how we work including: trialling and then making permanent more flexible working arrangements for all employees; improved pension arrangements that were implemented earlier than our auto-enrolment staging date; introducing ‘the Tibbalds blog’ that all staff can contribute to; proposing improvements to our reception space; thinking about how we manage visitors to the office; deciding which charities we should support; an idea for an annual Tibbalds day supporting good causes; and how make sure we best to celebrate our successes over the year.

I am confident in the #OwnershipEffect and its great to see this supported by the Inquiry process.

To find out more context about the Ownership Effect, you can follow this link: theownershipeffect.co.uk

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