From education to employment

Resilience of employee-owners supports service users through pandemic

Ann-Marie Conway, Seetec Associate Director, Employee Ownership

To mark Employee Ownership Day (25 June), the Seetec Group celebrated rising five places to 11th in the list of the UK’s top employee-owned businesses but, more importantly, it used the day to reflect on the unprecedented challenges faced during the past 15 months and how, by working #BetterTogether, everyone continues to play their part as the country moves cautiously towards the end of the latest lockdown.

Employee-ownership is a positive, resilient and sustainable way of transforming lives and communities, enabling Seetec to deliver evidenced-based interventions and better outcomes for society through its business divisions.

Faced with the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19, a big priority has been the health and wellbeing of Seetec’s employee-owners. The added pressure of balancing homeworking with home-schooling and supporting vulnerable family members during the lockdowns has had an impact.

Seetec’s aim has been to provide the right level of flexibility to its people so that they have the ability to take better care of vulnerable service users. This was achieved through a collaborative approach delivered by the leadership team working closely with employee ownership champions across the business to provide a range of practical, physical and emotional support initiatives.

A survey of 1,000 employee-owners revealed a 12% improvement in employee health and wellbeing scores following the introduction of initiatives, including:

  • Laptops for families – a loan scheme to support families with home schooling, to keep them connected and reduce digital exclusion.
  • Covid grants – for Seetec employees facing financial crisis.
  • The Listening Ear – monthly non-work-related check-ins with trained mental health first aiders.
  • In Safe Hands – a safe online space with discreet access to information in a hurry, primarily around domestic abuse, mental health, financial worries and drug/alcohol support.
  • Weekly mindfulness – sessions designed and led by employee champions.
  • Physical activity support – including weekly online yoga and Zumba sessions, an online Seetec Movers Strava community to link employees and encourage winter activity, and a ‘Step into Spring’ fundraising challenge to encourage more physical activity five days a week.
  • Home school support group – pooling knowledge and subject matter expertise across the organisation to help families with remote learning.

Seetec Associate Director, Employee Ownership, Ann-Marie Conway (pictured) said:

“We have a comprehensive health and wellbeing policy, but the pandemic brought unique challenges for our people.

“We are a people-to-people business and being isolated from colleagues who provided daily support to each other was difficult enough, compounded by dealing with our own family issues. It was clear we could only support our clients and communities when our people were well supported.

“Our network of Employee Ownership champions really came into its own, ensuring the employee voice was heard by the senior leadership team. This approach continues to empower our people to create agile

and responsive solutions for the benefit of the business, further embedding the values of an employee ownership culture to boost the support we provide to our service users.”

Feedback from employee-owners has been overwhelmingly positive with comments, including:

“Our EO structure has been a fantastic vehicle to support people through this difficult time.”

“I have seen the true meaning of employee voice to help steer the business strategy.”

“Feedback from employee-owners has reached senior leaders and I have seen actions being taken as a result.”

Seetec supports thousands of individuals every year to shape their own future through its skills, employment, justice, health and social care services.

Employee ownership has represented an exciting opportunity for individuals to help shape the future direction of the business. Seetec’s collaborative structure and ability to be responsive to the challenges presented by the pandemic has enabled it to maintain high standards of service to the communities it serves.

Employee Trustee Director, Karen Palfreyman explained:

“Against the backdrop of the pandemic, it is remarkable that we have managed to not only continue to grow and develop the business, serving communities impacted through the biggest economic and social upheaval in several generations, but also establish the right foundations for our own employee ownership culture to succeed.”

Chief Executive of the EOA, Deb Oxley OBE said:

“At the EOA we believe in better business together – our EO networks support individuals, businesses and the economy to unlock their potential, something we are delighted to be celebrating this EO Day.

“It is great to see the impact of being employee owned is having on employee owners at Seetec, who we have been delighted to see developing strong and robust governance supported by good engagement and communications that is driving benefits for all.”

Seetec is delighted to be shortlisted for Best Health and Wellbeing Initiative category, recognising the company’s commitment to colleagues’ health and wellbeing at this year’s prestigious CIPD People Management Awards.

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