We want to collate views and experiences about workers on boards, and gain a deeper understanding of both the value and risks of making such a radical change to the composition of boards.
If employees really are a company's best asset then they should have a major contribution to make in the boardroom. Many other countries reserve a board position for a worker, so what's different about the UK? We are particularly interested in hearing from board members, and from workers who would be willing to sit on the board of their organisation if given the chance. Would worker directors inspire a culture change at the top of British business , or is there a real risk that they would delay decision-making or cripple discussions? Please tell us your views on: selection and election procedures; what it means to be a representative on a board; and how employee involvement affects confidentiality, board effectiveness and decision-making.
Why weren’t the problems at Ryanair predicted much sooner? Competent management teams understand the implications of changing the holiday year. If pilot resignations were another factor then Ryanair needs to prepare for more of the same. The morale of all the staff, especially those on the frontline dealing directly with customers, must be at an all-time low.
There is a clear trend for airlines to get into the headlines for all the wrong reasons, the question is why they are getting it so wrong and what can be done about it. Perhaps it is time to put employees at the heart of the decision-making at these companies.
Agreed, but what is the best way to get employees involved? Is there much value in a single seat at the board table? Employee Directors will be vastly outnumbered. Advisory Panels have stood the test of time at John Lewis. In fact, perhaps it's possible to have the best of both worlds, Employee Directors supported by Advisory Panels?
Definitely food for thought!
But where does it stop? I think most people would agree that it is imperative that boards have a clear line of sight on the issues impacting multiple stakeholders - customers, lenders, suppliers, shareholders etc - so should the board include a representative for every stakeholder group? Even taking 'employees' as a single stakeholder group is fraught with problems as the issues impacting (say) pilots will probably be very different from (say) those working in customer services . Then factor in UK v overseas employees and the whole thing gets very murky. I would focus on getting processes in place to capture the issues of concern to all major stakeholders and then ensure they are escalated appropriately through management and ultimately to the board - rather than getting employee (and other unique stakeholder) representation on the board per se.
There can be no sacred cows when it comes to who sits on boards and how directors are chosen. In order to prepare for the future companies should make an objective assessment of their boards with open minds that are not constrained by old ways of thinking.
ICAEW's publication How employee directors add value is essential reading for companies who take workforce engagement seriously, and for anybody who is keen to explore a new perspective.