Employee ownership in Australia is becoming more familiar to us but we still lag behind our overseas counterparts. For example, in the United States there are currently an estimated 10 million employee owners. The US-based National Centre for Employee Ownership plans to raise that to 50 million by 2050.
To come closer to this kind of relative uptake in Australia there is a need to raise awareness of the importance of employee ownership, and the benefits it brings. One way is to award excellence. Employee Ownership Australia and New Zealand (EOA) has a diverse membership and some of the recent winners at the Employee Ownership Australia Awards included big names like Brambles and Optus. At that event Culture Amp was also awarded the EOA ‘Best Small to Medium Enterprise Succession Plan’ by the Shadow Minister for the Future of Work and the Digital Economy, the Hon. Ed Husic, MP.
So, when the Chair of EOA, Angela Perry, was looking around for inspiring employee ownership success stories to film, one company was front of mind. Culture Amp develops culture and employee engagement in companies so that they can sustain and grow business opportunities consistent with their purpose and values. Culture Amp focuses on employee retention and productivity – the stuff that happy enterprises are made of.
Rod Hamilton (Co-Founder & VP of Product) and Douglas English (Co-Founder & VP of Engineering) from Culture Amp recently spoke with EOA’s Angela Perry about how their initially humble start-up went from 15 to 100 employees and expanded into three countries. They say that employee ownership has been a key factor in assisting them to grow and thrive. The discussion was opportune, as Culture Amp was one of the first companies to take up the new legislative changes for start-ups.
You can see the full interview here
Perhaps it wasn’t a huge leap for them to make because employee engagement is their core business. Research says with a great deal of certainty that when ownership and participative management are combined, substantial business gains result.
The approach of Culture Amp has avoided the use of token employee bonuses more common in the industry. Why? They say that focusing on team building rather than individual contribution is the way to go. They have utilised employee ownership strategies to align everyone working at Culture Amp to the success of the company. They say that it’s a case of ‘the better they do as group, the better everyone does’.
Since the employee ownership structure has been in place there have been some real changes to company culture. Rod Hamilton says the language has changed, from ‘well it is your company what do you think…’, to, now, ‘everyone owns part of this company, and the decisions we all make impact the outcome for the company’.
Douglas English talks about this in the interview – that company growth has meant that the founders have needed to step back and be ‘enablers as opposed to driving things’; this has, he says, ‘also had a big impact on allowing employees to feel that they have more control and ownership over what is happening’.
Employee education is particularly important because the concept isn’t that common yet in Australia. Rod says that it is good to explain what the employee share plan means when hiring new staff. However, in some cases Doug says that rather than being the focus for recruiting new talent it can be more important as a way ‘to keep employees’ who are building up the business.
The bottom line for Rod is ‘the why’ of employee ownership; he says that ‘fundamentally it comes down to we’re trying to build a very big audacious successful business and if we get the outcome we’re after, we want you to be a part of that’.
Employee Ownership Australia and New Zealand is a lean member-driven not-for-profit centre for excellence, uniquely supporting broad-based employee share-ownership and participation at all levels of our society. You can be a part of the movement by joining EOA. Check out the EOA startups page here.
* Article prepared by EOA staffer Antony McMullen.