Posts Tagged ‘co-operative movement’

What we can learn from Robert Owen

posted by Scott McKenzie

I’ve been reflecting a bit more about how “wellbeing” connects to Employee Engagement.

I recently watched a fantastic BBC documentary on the co-operative movement. One of the founders Robert Owen has become a bit of hero to me .

Owen was literally a hundred years ahead of his time. He sought to build working environments which were safe, sustainable and sustaining for those involved. He was aiming to build communities which were genuinely collaborative, where colleagues worked for the greater good.

Profits were ploughed back into the business. Investments made in the working environment, living conditions and education.

Indeed, there was a real focus on taking children out of poverty and putting them in purpose-built schools – at a time when there was no state education system and children commonly worked in factories and mills in truly appalling conditions. I have no doubt that all of these initiatives were key factors in genuinely engaging employees.

Owen was a visionary and a philanthropist. A leader in every sense. His ideas shaped the co-operative movement which has given us great companies like  the John Lewis Partnership.

As our Prime Minister puts his weight behind employee engagement, and struggles to bring his vision of a Big Society to life he would do well to reflect on Robert Owen’s work.

Indeed you could say the same for our business leaders as they bring their organisations through this economic crisis, and prepare them for growth.

These leaders are demanding more innovation, more productivity and more discretionary effort from their employee. They would do well to think back to Robert Owen and ask themselves what they are offering in return?