A catalyst for reevaluating vision and values for EO businesses

EO team - vision and values
This is a guest blog from SALAD, a 100% employee owned branding and communications agency, who we first met at the EOA Annual Conference in 2023.

A catalyst for reevaluating vision and values for EO businesses

Why organisational integrity and narrative count for alignment and engagement

Every employee ownership journey varies, and the reasons for transition are nuanced in the culture of each individual organisation. But a common thread should weave itself through each journey: a desire to align your team, and create positive and lasting impact for employees, and within your marketplace.

How can you develop your organisation’s vision and culture to align and empower your teams? How can you unlock the potential of employee ownership to accelerate growth and the sustainability of your organisation?

Maintaining clarity and consistency, and fostering a culture that is capable of sustainable growth and regenerative returns, means keeping people informed, involved, interested and inspired.

Levers of engagement

During a workshop at the 2023 EOA Conference, we explained the four enablers of engagement in businesses. There’s a real opportunity for newly transitioned employee-owned businesses to take advantage of these four enablers, right at the start of their journey, to build engagement and create a positive transition to employee ownership, and succession.

The enablers are described as:

1. Strategic narrative: a vision and a story which is well communicated, both internally and externally
2. Engaging managers: who coach, stretch and support employees
3. Employee voice: capturing the authentic views of the workforce to inspire change and action
4. Organisational integrity: a set of shared values which form part of an organisation’s daily life, acting as a glue to hold the business together.

For the purposes of this blog, we’re going to focus on the benefits of early action around strategic narrative, and organisational integrity. Not just as levers to engage employees, but also as levers to engage customers. And, the transition to employee ownership provides a great opportunity to reevaluate vision and story, to ensure they’re both fit for purpose. Both for the purpose of engagement and wider communication.

Is our vision fit for our new reality?

Part of the transition to employee ownership enables the leadership team to become custodians of the vision, but the whole organisation needs to be engaged by it. Assessing and adapting the vision to suit a new employee-owned reality creates an initial opportunity to achieve real alignment.

This first step really asks, “are we, as a team, engaged by why we do what we do, and engaged in the future we’re trying to build?”

Often a founder’s vision for a business holds true, and there’s no need to create a new vision just for the hell of it. But there is a need for reflection, clarity and constant communication.

Does the original vision hold true? Can you deliver against it? Does the transition to employee ownership necessitate an adapted vision? Whichever way your business answers this question, what’s really important is that the leadership team become custodians of the vision, that they use the vision to guide decision-making, and that they communicate the vision and what it requires of the business regularly, with clarity so that employees can understand it, buy into it and, in turn, use it to establish their contribution towards it.

Alignment around vision, what you’re hoping to achieve, is crucial. It provides direction to the whole team and allows them to buy into the business’s reason for being.

How well does our culture support our business?

Culture, and values, are not just words to be written on a wall. They are the glue that holds the organisation together. They allow individuals to understand their place in the business, and they can create a positive and inclusive environment if they’re revealed rather than designed.

Much like vision, culture and values are often developed and driven by founders, and that’s not always a bad thing. But they evolve at certain points in business life, and the transition to employee ownership is one of those inflexion points.

So, talk to your staff, and find the authentic values and culture of the business. Document them, make them specific to your organisation, and then use them to judge decision-making.

Involvement in the development of these fundamental foundations can create a culture of deep engagement. Inviting your team to participate in the process of refining culture will signal that you’re listening. By showing you value the whole organisation’s input in the process you increase representation and publicly recognise that you’re building together. Giving your team a sense of shared ownership and shared responsibility. After all, no one knows your business better than its people.

Accelerating your brand through employee ownership

Once alignment of vision and culture is achieved, there is a real opportunity to use employee ownership as a lever to improve your external communications.
A deep understanding of the marketplace and your customers starts with those who work at the coal face. Again, deep collaboration with your employees can often uncover insights into your customers you won’t find anywhere else.

This is not just a sales and marketing exercise. This is an exercise in creating a single overarching narrative to support what you do and how you do it.
Utilising the knowledge within your organisation to create a truly representative brand, capable of sustaining your business well into the future will aid and increase engagement. Too often brand building is overly focused on customers and excludes the people actually delivering. There’s a wealth of information that can be used to make communication more nuanced, more appropriate and more compelling.

In conclusion

The adoption of employee ownership starts with founders and leadership teams: creating a plan to communicate the move and, as a part of that, starting to think about how the business needs to respond to the change.

What elements of your business need to change to facilitate a smooth transition? Where does accountability fit? Does your vision still hold true, and are you able to deliver?

Take the time to reevaluate these elements: your vision, your culture, your values. You don’t need to change them all absolutely and immediately.

The responsibility to create engagement and alignment stretches through the organisation. Resist the urge to act immediately and talk to your team. How in touch are they with company culture? How do they feel the values represent them as a group, as a team? How well do they understand the vision, and are they all aligned with what that asks of them?

Take your time to go out to the world with your story of change. Change is tricky, change can disrupt. You need to strike the right balance between “all change” and “business as usual”. And, finally, consider every stakeholder. Think about what the transition to EO means to more than just your people.


Salad help businesses find their most compelling purpose, and communicate that purpose to both internal and external audiences. Visit their website to find out more.

Robert Postlethwaite

Contact us to see if employee ownership could work for your company, call us on 02038189420 or email info@postlethwaiteco.com for a no commitment conversation.

Robert Postlethwaite, Partner and Managing Director