Ownership, Leadership and Meaningful Work

3 June 2016


Increasingly, businesses are expected to make their contribution to the public good, and to manage their activities in multi-stakeholder contexts. In such environments, co-owned organisations offer a distinct organising philosophy for grounding innovations in management practices. Despite persistent interest in different kinds of ownership models, there remains a lack of research as to how co-owned organisations generate novelties in leadership and work design. At the same time, practitioners are expressing interested in organisational meaningfulness and purpose, as a result of stagnant productivity and employee engagement.

It is in this context that the Centre for Mutual and Employee-owned Business at Kellogg College, University of Oxford has partnered with Agilisys and Formation Architects, two recently converted employee owned businesses, to conduct a study of the relationship between ownership, leadership and meaningful work. Using participatory research called Change Laboratories, the research will help the employee owners of Agilisys and Formation Architects create new leadership practices and work design, as well as contribute to scholarly understanding of leadership and meaningful work in co-owned organisations.

For Formation Architects, in particular, the project is well timed to support the launch of its Employee Ownership Trust by RIBA President, Jane Duncan, on Thursday May 26. The event will be introduced by Graeme Nuttall OBE, Fieldfisher and author of the government’s review of employee ownership.

The research will be managed by Dr Ruth Yeoman, Research Fellow at the Centre for Mutual and Employee-owned Business. The results will aid the development of a new ‘Mutual Leadership Network’ to be launched at Kellogg College, with workshops for public and private co-owned organisations planned for Autumn, 2016.

Dr Ruth Yeoman, of the Centre for Mutual and Employee-owned Business said: ‘The employee owned sector is an important and advancing feature of our economy. Employee owners are highly motivated by seeing their organisations fulfil their potential. However, tapping into such motivations requires new models of leadership and work, which we are only just beginning to understand. Furthermore, experiencing meaningfulness and purpose in work is urgently desired by employees in all corporate forms, and brings benefits to other stakeholders, including customers, suppliers and communities. Examining how co-owned organisations create innovations in leadership and meaningful work is therefore a source of learning for all kinds of organisations serious about mutual gain for all its stakeholders.

Tim Quick, Director and Trustee of Formation Architects said:

“The move to an employee-ownership trust is great news for everyone at the business, and for our clients, who can rest assured that everyone is committed to achieving success, and that means delivering great work for each and every client of the practice.”

Simon Mounsey, HR Director of Agilisys said:

“Agilisys incorporated our Employee Ownership Trust just over a year ago, making us one of the largest employee owned organisations in the UK. As employee owners we now have a greater say in the way our company is run and are contributing directly to the future of a business that we’re proud to work for.  We are one of the first businesses in our sector to become employee owned and are hugely excited to be involved in this study, which we hope will inform this innovative model of business ownership”.

The Centre for Mutual and Employee-owned Business at Kellogg College, University of Oxford is Britain’s leading academic research centre dedicated to the study of mutuality and alternative corporate forms.  It is directed by Professor Jonathan Michie and supported by a number of distinguished associates.  The Centre provides a range of services for the mutual and employee-owned sector, including academic research, leadership education, consultancy and public policy.

About Formation Architects

Formation Architects is a newly converted employee owned business which aims to use its employee ownership to model the future for architectural firms in highly competitive markets where there is a need to recruit and retain the best talent. It is officially launching its new status in May 2016.

About Agilisys

Agilisys provides digital advisory services and IT solutions to public sector organisations, helping to transform services for millions of UK citizens through a suite of citizen-centric technology products and centres of delivery excellence across the UK. In April 2015, Agilisys established an Employee Ownership Trust and became an employee owned organisation. With a workforce of 2000 employees, this placed the organisation in the top ten of UK employee owned businesses.

To find out more visit www.agilisys.co.uk or follow on twitter @agilisys.

For all enquiries please contact Dr Ruth Yeoman ruth.yeoman@kellogg.ox.ac.uk