BT is to distribute £50m in shares each year to staff as it sets out to improve customer service, alter its workplace culture and improve workforce morale.
Philip Jansen, who has been chief executive since February, said he wanted to offer the 100,000-strong workforce, currently beset by far-reaching job cuts, a stake in the company’s future as it invests in 5G and new fibre optic technologies.
The share offer will equate to roughly £500 per employee a year.
“I’m asking our colleagues for their commitment to making BT a national champion and I want to give them ownership in our company and a share in our success,” said boss Jansen. “Placing customers at the heart of BT will only be possible by investing in the lifeblood of the business, our people, giving everyone a stake as we build a better BT for the future.”
Employee ownership, BT and workers on boards
Jansen also told journalists that he was feeling frustrated by BT’s bureaucratic workplace culture. He said it was “damn obvious” that BT was too slow, too fond of committees and needed to offer customers better service.
He added: “The processes and the systems, they are such a nightmare. Employees are all doing stuff, they’re all committed, but they’re doing stuff which is really really inefficient, so we have to redo the processes so they are relatively straightforward and smooth. And then automate the hell out of it.”
Jansen said BT had “lost its confidence a little bit” and its reputation needed repairing. He said employees told him that “if I go out in a bar, I probably don’t say I work for BT”.
In March Jansen, was reported to be considering a huge reduction in jobs that could cut another 25,000 staff from their current workforce of nearly 100,000 (82,500 direct employees and 12,300 contractors). It is thought that such a move might help to fund BT’s roll-out of “full fibre” broadband ISP technology.
Carlyn Fairbairn, CBI director general said: “BT’s move towards employee ownership is very welcome, giving employees a stronger voice, which has been shown to foster productivity growth and inclusivity in the workplace.”
Fairbairn has not previously been a beacon for those pushing for worker ownership and employee representation in boardrooms. In 2016 the CBI put pressure on Theresa May’s government causing it to abandon plans to make workers on boards mandatory.
Earlier this week, prominent high street TV and hi-fi retailer Richer Sounds, which employers 531 people, announced it was handing control of the chain to staff.