Fostering a Culture of Employee Ownership

One report after another confirms what many employers already know: the men and women who work for them aren’t always engaged with their jobs, and many are looking elsewhere for different employment.

Keeping employees engaged has always been a challenge, but today—in a job market where skilled candidates are at an absolute premium—retaining the best employees seems harder than ever. What’s needed to engage employees in their positions? How can a company’s culture favourably influence an employee’s decision to stick around?

One answer lies in employee ownership. There’s “ownership” in the sense of stock awards or stock options, which is always worth considering. But instilling a culture of employee ownership is another valuable option. In this workplace environment, employees “treat the business they are working for—and its money—as if it were their own,” Medium notes. Employees with a sense of ownership seek “creative and innovative ways to improve and develop what they are doing, rather than [just] going through the motions.”

There are many ways in which employees can “own” the job they have, and the business they work for. Here are factors to consider if you wish to implement a sense of employee ownership in your organisation:

Give employees a better sense of the “big picture.”

It’s easy to feel alienated if you don’t know where the company is headed and how it plans to get there. Employees want to better understand the organisation’s vision and objectives. “Millennial employees in particular derive purpose and feel more engaged when they understand how their work directly contributes” to a company’s success, according to Soapbox HQ.

Employees like having independence in their jobs.

Nothing fuels disengagement more than attempts to micromanage employees. The same principle applies to companies clinging to the idea of a traditional work-week, when so many other employers have adopted flextime, remote work and other approaches to how jobs get done.

According to Gallup Workplace, employees “are 43% less likely to experience high levels of burnout when they have a choice in what tasks to do, when to do them and how much time to spend on them.” Certain risks around job role ambiguity can be a challenge, but “creating the proper job autonomy and flexibility should be part of every conversation about role design.”

Provide real-time feedback to employees.

Waiting for an annual or semi-annual employee performance evaluation to discuss different ways of doing their job is an inefficient approach to human capital management. Ideally, your managers have some training and experience in coaching employees and in offering feedback that’s constructive and inspiring.

Strive to have a conversation, not a monologue. As part of this conversation, invite employees to share their thoughts, and “to raise any operational issues they’re experiencing that might contribute to an unsatisfactory outcome.” This approach also facilitates a sense of employee ownership, because it’s offered in a collaborative, not punitive, manner.

Focus on the outcome.

At times, employees have only a vague notion of what’s expected of them. Business owners and managers who take time to clearly define the end-result they’re looking for pave the way towards an employee ownership culture. Just as importantly, they trust team members to find an efficient way to achieve this result, but refrain from decreeing, “It must be done my way.”

Of course, your input and suggestions for achieving a goal can be useful. But the talented, ambitious individuals you’ve hired will feel a greater sense of ownership if they’re given reasonable latitude (and the right resources) to get a job done. This approach demonstrates your trust in their judgment and abilities—a key element in any effort to reward and retain employees.

Savvy business leaders understand that employees are their #1 asset. They do everything within their power to provide a culture of employee ownership that makes everyone feel part of the team.