Richer and Capita lead the way on employee representation - could it be the start of greater things?
Employees at hi-fi specialists Richer Sounds ended Tuesday considerably better off than they started it. Founder and CEO Julian Richer spelt out plans to transfer ownership of his company to his staff. He also gave each employee, excluding directors, a bonus of £1,000 for every year that they had worked for him, to celebrate their loyalty (the average length of service is eight years).
While the transfer of Richer Sounds’ ownership is part of a long-term plan, the cash bonuses were a surprise for workers, admitted Richer in an interview with the BBC.
It is impressive to see Richer, who has been a vociferous opponent of zero-hours contracts and supporter of the living wage, put his principles into action as a good employer.
And Richer Sounds wasn’t the only business intent on furthering employees’ involvement this week. Outsourcing giant Capita announced that it has appointed two employees to its main board – incredibly, it is the first FTSE 250 company to do so for 30 years. The move is part of a wider package of measures to develop the company’s business and culture.
No-one knows a business like its own staff, so it is not surprising that Capita has turned to its own employees to help drive change – rather, it is disappointing that so few other companies have done so. There are echoes of John Lewis’s (JL&P) decision last year to rebrand as ‘with Partners’, reinforcing its long-standing ethos of putting its 83,000 workers (the partners) at the heart of how it operates. But in the majority of businesses, the boardroom door remains resolutely shut to employees.
Could Richer’s, Capita’s and JL&P’s actions be part of a growing recognition that, rather than adopting apparently innovative but ultimately poor-quality work practices, respecting employees’ wellbeing and involving them in business decision-making is the key to future profitability? In stark contrast, last week’s global strike by ride-sharing company Uber’s workers over pay and conditions cannot have helped its disappointing IPO the following day.
I’m looking forward to finding out Dan Lyons’, author of Lab Rats: Why Modern Work Makes People Miserable, view at REBA’s Employee Wellbeing Congress on 20th June 2019. His first-hand experiences of exploitative working practices in Silicon Valley and his perspectives on what those practices mean for workplace wellbeing more generally will be absolutely invaluable.
* Find out more about the Employee Wellbeing Congress on 20th June 2019
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