Employee Ownership Day 2022: Our employee ownership stories

23 June 2022

Employee Ownership Day 2022: Our employee ownership stories

To mark Employee Ownership Day 2022, we asked some of our members to share their employee ownership stories, and why working for an employee-owned company is so special.  

James West - Chair of trustees and senior consultant  

How did you first hear about employee ownership (EO)? 

I hadn’t come across EO prior to Traverse, so I first heard about it when I joined the company as a member of the Response Unit (a group of temporary staff who work on some of our large-scale projects). Members Day (when we all come together to consider organisational matters from the perspective of an employee owner) is only open to permanent members of staff, but I used to come down to the lounge to pinch some of the leftover pizza and maybe listen in a bit before I got back to work. It started, as it always seems to for me, with food. 

What made you want to join an EO organisation? 

I guess I was really impressed by those early glimpses of Members Day and the discussions that were going on. I’d never worked anywhere before where a Director would stand up in front of the company and ask what they thought, never mind sit down at the table with their colleagues and talk it through and debate it. Early on in my career, it would have been so easy to wind up somewhere that I didn’t have a voice, but at Traverse I could have something to say. That made me want to get involved and stay involved. 

What has been the best thing about working for an EO organisation so far? 

In March 2021 I was lucky enough to take over as Chair of Trustees on our Employee Shared Ownership Trust and a big part of that is leading our internal engagement with Members. Being a company of consultation and engagement specialists, this can be challenging, but when it works it’s really pleasing to feel the buzz and the vibrancy of making decisions together and being part of something bigger. 

What would you say to anybody thinking about giving EO a go? 

Go for it! Employee ownership is by far the best model I’ve seen for getting employees interested and engaged in their work. It’s not just the fact that people have skin in the game (albeit through an ESOT) but it’s the culture which that generates – everyone is more willing to ask questions, to speak up and to challenge, and that invariably leads to better decisions. 


Clare Payne - Corporate support  

How did you first hear about employee ownership? 

A friend of mine had applied to the response unit (the bank of temporary employees who support our bigger projects) and pointed me in the direction of Traverse. When I was applying for a role at Traverse was probably the first time, I really engaged with the idea of employee ownership, and I really liked the idea.  I had previously worked in a social enterprise start up that although not EO had lots of staff voices in the workings of the organisation and so it was something that I thought was important.  

What made you want to join an EO organisation? 

Before working at Traverse, I had worked in a mixture of very large institutions and the systems that go with them! I had also worked at smaller arts charities and a start-up and I was looking for a happy medium. A medium sized organisation that wasn’t set it its ways (too much) and had discussion and working out the best way to do things at its heart, whilst having a governance structure in place.   

I thought Traverse fitted that idea well and enjoyed members days and working with colleagues in a collaborative way on issues that affect the company.  

What has been the best thing about working for an EO organisation so far? 

I think the best thing so far has been the people that work for the organisation and the challenge and thought that goes into members discussion.  I think that is quite unusual and is in part fuelled by the EO principles. 

What would you say to anybody thinking about giving EO a go? 

Yes, go for it, especially if you like to contribute and are interested in the governance of an organisation and would like to get involved in a role such as being a Trustee. 


Jane Simon – Consultant  

How did you first hear about employee ownership? 

I first heard about EO after starting with Traverse. The concept was rather abstract to me for a long time. I remember approaching one of the Trustees after my first members’ day and asking the question: 

  • “But who owns this company?”  

I would have never anticipated how many questions I would have after his answer. 

What made you want to join an EO organisation? 

The reasons why I would join an EO organisation today are:  

  • The culture of EO organisations seems to me, much more ‘community like’. There is a sense of group responsibility and motivation from everyone to do their best and to achieve their best.  
  • It encourages members from different hierarchical levels to look at the bigger picture and see the business as a whole. The greater transparency and engagement from members at all levels contributes to healthier organisations and develops individuals’ skills.  
  • It offers wider opportunities to employees when compared to the traditional model. The role of trustee in particular is an incredible opportunity to step into a ‘director’ role or similar and learn a lot about business and politics when one has limited or non-existent experience of how a company operates at the board level.  

What has been the best thing about working for an EO organisation so far? 

Learning about business strategy, understanding board dynamics and leadership, and being able to challenge the board on decisions that affect the business.  

What would you say to anybody thinking about giving EO a go? 

I would say ‘go for it, and read Animal Farm, by George Orwell. 

Anything else you wish to add about Traverse and EO. 

We are very fortunate to be part of an organisation that is 100% employee owned. It is easy to forget that some people worked very hard in the past to build this company to our benefit today. We should continue to honour their hard work and ensure Traverse has a long and successful future for the benefit of all its future owners.  

To find out more about employee ownership, please visit The Employee Ownership Association.

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