As the UK economy faces into a cost of living crisis, unprecedented supply chain challenges and the legacy of a global pandemic, it is more important than ever that the opportunities that come from sharing ownership with workers and employees are well understood.

The social as well as economic benefits derived from giving people a stake and a say in their organisations can help address challenges ranging from local and regional economic growth, to structural wealth and income inequality, to the growing adult mental health crisis.

To increase and broaden knowledge and understanding of employee ownership, OAW is shaping and delivering multiple research projects with a range of world-class partners, including:

The EO Knowledge Programme

Ownership at Work is delivering an unpredecented national research programme to establish a new baseline for the economic, social and environmental impact of employee ownership.

Commisioned by the UK’s trade body the Employee Ownership Association, the EO Knowledge Programme is the largest research project ever undertaken by the sector in the UK and will run for 18-24 months. 

The Knowledge Programme will analyse the performance and impact of over 100 employee owned businesses and compare the findings to comparable non-EO businesses; and design and roll out an annual survey to capture sector best practice and build up sector-specific benchmarks.

The Transition Impact Programme

Ownership at Work is delivering a three-year research programme that aims to establish a rich and multi-dimensional understanding of the impact of introducing broad-based employee ownership into a business. 

Working with a specialist funding partner, this project will publish semi-regular outcomes data contrasting performance before and after the introduction of employee ownership in small and medium-sized firms across economic, social and environmental measures.

Under this Programme, we have also launched Time to Share: a place-based initiative which aims to examine the impact of raising awareness and reducing funding barriers to introducing employee ownership, and to particularly focus on the nature of subsequent social as well as economic impacts (on workforce, local community and economy). 

Building data, knowledge and insight

Alongside our two major research programmes, Ownership at Work continues to work with excellent and committed partners to grow understanding around critical issues, including: 

  • The drivers behind the sector doubling in size since 2020
  • Levels of business owner readiness for exit or retirement
  • Emerging governance best practice in businesses with Employee Ownership Trusts
  • How businesses can attribute social impact to their ownership models
  • The potential role of capital in increasing worker and employee ownership

Strengthening the sector’s evidence baseline

The research projects described above all aim to strengthen the evidence baseline that underpins the sector. In other words, to increase the volume and quality of data-driven insights available for public understanding. 

This work aims to complement and build on the very excellent research work being done by colleagues in this sector across the UK and globally. 

To date, the lagest single research exercise done on employee ownership in the UK was the Ownership Effect Inquiry which published its findings in June 2018 in a report entitled The Ownership Dividend.

This ground-breaking piece of work established the best baseline to date for the supporting evidence of the benefits of employee ownership in the UK. The report featured evidence, findings and recommendations of the year-long Ownership Effect Inquiry.

Led by the sector’s trade body the Employee Ownership Association, in partnership with John Lewis Partnership, the eaga Trust and the academic support of CASS Business School and Manchester Business School, the inquiry was at the time one of the most comprehensive studies of employee ownership in the UK.

More than 100 employee owned businesses (EOBs) and those who advise them gave evidence to an independent business-led panel of representatives from Britain’s leading business and professional organisations at seven hearings across the UK.

All of the research that OAW pursues builds on this foundation, and aims to strengthen findings and address gaps where they exist.