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Employee-owned businesses can prosper in millennials’ hands


The millennial generation is not a threat to the employee-owned business model, research from European law firm Fieldfisher and the eaga Trust, the body that promotes employee well-being, engagement and ownership in the workplace, has shown.

On the contrary the research – Busting the Millennial Myth – the Power of Purpose – shows that employee ownership works well to meet the aspirations of the generation, and reveals that millennials value many characteristics of the employee ownership business model, such as profit sharing and personal development, more than previous generations did. The paper was co-authored by Peter Neville Lewis, founder of Principled Consulting, and Dr Ruth Yeoman, research fellow at Kellogg College, University of Oxford, and followed a survey of almost 750 employees across all age groups, and from fifty different employee-owned businesses.

One clear result of the research was that the notion that millennials are only interested in “doing their own thing” is a myth, as is the idea that millennials can’t commit to an organisation. Instead, millennials want to contribute in a meaningful way to an organisation where their voices are more likely to be heard and where there are goals that are not just financial. Peter Neville Lewis and Dr Ruth Yeoman said: “We believe that the employee-owned business model can prosper in the hands of a new generation and that we have exposed the myth surrounding millennials with regard to their supposed lack of engagement and, as many critics have said, their selfishness.  It is not borne out by the evidence we have uncovered.  In fact, we have found a good match between millennial attitudes and the ethos of employee ownership.”

Richard Marr, chief operating officer of the lead sponsor, the eaga Trust, said: “This research is able to highlight that on many aspects of millennials’ views on working in employee-owned businesses there is more that unites generations than divides them.  For example, a sense of belonging, security and making a useful contribution are job attributes valued by most people whatever their age.  However, there are some distinguishing features – for instance, the fact that millennials trust management more could suggest that management styles could well have adapted to the needs and characteristics of this demographic.”

Graeme Nuttall OBE, partner at Fieldfisher said: “The UK employee ownership sector is long established.  Many flagship employee-owned businesses moved to this successful way of working decades ago including Arup, the John Lewis Partnership, Scott Bader and Swann Morton. The longevity of this business model has been taken for granted.  Given the recent growth of the employee ownership sector, and the backdrop of unsettling commentary about millennials’ attitudes to work, it was timely to check this assumption of longevity.  We now have the assurance that the employee ownership business model continues to have longevity and that employee ownership can prosper in the hands of the millennial generation.” Support for the report came from – in addition to Fieldfisher and the eaga Trust – the John Lewis Partnership, the Employee Ownership Association and a number of employee-owned businesses.

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