Hilary Prosser saw the benefits of employee ownership first hand when she joined Highland Home Carers.
Here, she explains how the business model encourages a greater sense of engagement amongst staff.
I was a support worker with vulnerable adults for the past four years at Leachkin Service, Inverness. Two years ago the service went out to tender which was a difficult and uncertain time for staff. Highland Home Carers successfully won the contract and were quick to alleviate our concerns, providing us with details on how we would TUPE over to the company on our current contract.
This was the first time I had worked for an employee owned company and to be honest at the beginning I didn’t really think much about what that meant to me, I was just relieved to know I still had a job!
Over the transaction period I began to see the difference of being employee owned. No longer did I go into an office where no-one appeared to know who I was. Instead I was going into an open plan office where I was introduced to everyone and made to feel like part of the family.
The differences have continued to be evident over the past two years and all for the better I am glad to say. Having previously worked for a company whose head office was in Glasgow with decisions made by bosses I never met, it is refreshing to now find employees are kept informed of the company finances and consulted in decision making.
So how does it all work on a practical level? Well, profits are shared by the whole company. Highland Home Carers is also committed to ensuring support workers and carers are trained to a high standard and shares and bonuses are issued on an annual basis.
This creates a company with employees who feel valued, happy and take great pride in their work, which in turn means service users receive the best care possible. I very quickly made the decision to move over to a Highland Home Carers contract.
I was given the opportunity to become a representative for Leachkin on the Partnership Representative Council (PRC) which is a group of representatives from all areas of the company who meet every four weeks. My role as a representative is to keep in touch with my colleagues and put forward any ideas, suggestions or issues they bring to me.
The PRC then discuss the matter and decide where to go from there – perhaps discuss with the managing director or put it to the board. This is a great way for all colleagues to be involved and have a voice in the company. It has also given me the opportunity to travel to another employee owned company in Aberdeen to see how they operate and speak to their staff.
I attended the Employee Ownership Association Conference in Birmingham which was fantastic and very informative. The PRC also organise an annual barbecue for colleagues, service users and families which is a great success. We hope to expand this to support local charities in the future.
One of the recent decisions taken by the PRC was to run employee ownership workshops to help everyone within the company to understand more about ownership culture and encourage involvement. I look forward to being part of the workshop programme and continuing to promote employee ownership.
Co-operative Development Scotland is a Scottish Enterprise subsidiary, established to help companies grow by setting up consortium, employee-owned and community businesses. It works in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise.