On Friday 25th June we joined the EOA and fellow employee-owned businesses across the country in celebrating the ninth annual EO Day – the national celebration of employee ownership in the UK bringing together the EO sector and supporters to raise awareness of the positive impact EO has on individuals, business and the economy.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, EO Day was once again celebrated predominantly online and we therefore took the opportunity to share on social media some of the reasons why we’re #BetterTogether as well as introduce our elected Shareholder Impact Board (SIB) Reps who represent their colleagues at Board and other formal committee meetings.

We were also excited to be among those organisations sharing their EO Stories, as you can read here: https://employeeownership.co.uk/eo-stories-2021/ Our EO Story explained how being employee-owned has supported our business during challenging times, and how we have adapted and developed in ways that will benefit us going forward. It was good to reflect on our employee-owned journey and recognise how it’s helped us innovate and adapt, not just in challenging times.

Prior to the pandemic Smile Together was going from strength to strength, meeting and in many cases exceeding our performance and social impact targets. In line with Public Health England guidance we initially had to pause all dental service delivery but were very proud when our Harleigh Road Dental Centre in Bodmin was chosen by NHS England as the Cornwall’s first Urgent Dental Care Hub in 2020. This remains one of four that we continue to operate alongside coordinating all countywide Hub referrals.

Thank goodness for employee-ownership and our engaged, dedicated, professional teams! From creative thinking around service adjustments and new working practices alongside the all-important patient communications, we reopened in Bodmin ahead of schedule on Saturday 11th April 2020 and began once again seeing patients face-to-face.

Working on the frontline of urgent care during a pandemic was really tough, compounded by the ever-changing national guidance and PPE shortages. Safety for our people and our patients was paramount and everyone pulled together. Meanwhile our professional services colleagues were now all working from home, enabled by our IT team who fast-tracked their 3-year strategy for a more ethically and environmentally minded way of working whilst also ensuring that everyone could effectively adapt and keep working productively through and beyond the recent lockdown.

We built on our existing internal communications channels, introducing frequent COVID-19 updates and quarterly business performance reports to reassure colleagues about their safety and security, and monthly video updates in direct response to any issues or concerns, alongside our regular weekly newsletter and intranet. This, complemented by regular patient communications, helped us to build and maintain trust, understanding and reassurance at a time of such unprecedented challenge and change.

Unsurprisingly the pandemic brought our EO elected body even more sharply into focus so we took the opportunity to relaunch this as our Shareholder Impact Board (SIB) and also recruited an additional three representatives to join the existing four, revised our aims and objectives, produced a Roadmap to outline our collective ambitions and implemented a rota whereby two representatives regularly attend each Smile Together Board and other formal committee meetings.  This involvement in strategic governance and leadership further enhances engagement and communications at all levels within the organisation.

We’ve always encouraged colleagues to be creative and innovative and have a genuine voice in our business. Some changes implemented as a consequence of Covid-19, particularly around patient care pathways and skill mix, have been so successful that they’ll be retained and further enhanced long term. Despite the challenges of the past 18 months, our colleagues have gone above and beyond for their patients and each other and really shown what it means to be an employee-owned social enterprise – we really are #BetterTogether and here are just some of the reasons why:

  • When it comes to economic resilience, we are #BetterTogether – we get so much from being an EOA member, sharing our experiences and learning from others in the EO community, and we’re committed to becoming a BCorp
  • When it comes to mental health & wellbeing, we are #BetterTogether – our SIB Reps instigated our intranet Health & Wellbeing Zone to support colleagues with mental and physical health and several of us are trained Mental Health First Aiders
  • When it comes to delivering good business practices, we are #BetterTogether – we all have a genuine voice in our business, from influencing patient care and service improvement programmes to reaching further into our communities, our voices make a difference and have sustainable impact
  • When it comes to promoting diversity & inclusion, we are #BetterTogether – our SIB Reps review policies to ensure equitable treatment, plus our Health & Wellbeing Zone features resources to support LGBT+ colleagues and enables us all to support our patients
  • As employee owners, as a business and as a sector, we are #BetterTogether – we all have a say in our business, which is better for us, our patients, our communities and our planet