An employee-owned culture isn’t necessarily about owning a stake in the company. According to Ronnie Teja, CEO and founder of Branzio, an employee-owned culture is “where employees feel a sense of ownership over their decisions, performance and results.” This is commonly referred to as participative management where management actively involves employees in the decision-making. As such, this instills a sense of pride in employees resulting in increased productivity, knowledge sharing, motivation, accountability and loyalty, to name a few.
When employees are involved in the company’s decision-making process, they’re more invested in driving its vision forward. Jacob Wedderburn-Day, founder of Stasher, explained, “employee-owned cultures are also much more collaborative in nature. That means the success of the team is shared and people are generally happier to celebrate each other’s wins. Contrast that with a very individualistic culture of sales commonly found in recruitment agencies.”
Dima Suponau, co-founder of Number For Live Person, added, since an employee-owned culture has a flattened traditional hierarchy, “managers are still managers, but they are there as mentors, not dictators.” Pola Henderson, content and community manager at Digicoop shared, that their company operates as a worker cooperative where 51% of the capital is in the hands of the team. Thus, everyone participates in decision-making since everyone has a stake in the business.” Henderson added, “our modus operandi is collective intelligence. We believe in autonomy, shared responsibility, self-management and workplace flexibility.”
Here are three ways employers can create an employee-owned culture to drive the company forward.
Give Employees A Voice
Giving employees a voice is crucial to creating a productive, engaged, happy and high-performing workplace. The mistake most companies often make is they roll out initiatives or major changes without first seeking the feedback of their employees. Research revealed, when employees aren’t involved in the decision-making process they become apathetic, disengaged and discontented. Some of these decisions might include a company rebrand, cultural initiatives, revisiting policies, restructuring processes and gaining perspectives on bigger company issues.
Too often, employees are left out of the loop of what’s going on in the company. Leadership is then met with resistance when they try to implement changes. Getting buy-in from employees is fundamental especially since they’re the ones working directly with clients and aware of the issues going on. Jaume Alavedra, founder and CTO of Onsite Fun, stated, that companies can “build employee involvement not just by allowing employees to contribute ideas and information, but by making that part of their everyday work through feedback opportunities, devolution of authority, and other structures.”
In order for employees to speak up, they must first feel safe, secure and comfortable in their workplace. Traditionally, workplaces have created an environment where employees are afraid to speak out and share ideas and concerns for fear they’ll lose their job or face repercussions. Cultivating a culture where employees feel safe starts by building trust and allowing vulnerability to emerge. Only when employees feel safe will they then use their voice.
Give Them Autonomy To Work
Rather than micromanaging employees, Michelle Dees, owner of Guinea Pig Owner, asserted, managers should focus on the end result instead of the process. Dees shared, “by letting go, my team members feel like they have more autonomy over the way that they work and how the task turns out.” This leads to an increased sense of responsibility, ownership and accountability over a decision, results and performance. Hosea Chang, chief operating officer at Hayden Girls, added, “giving your team space to accomplish tasks and use their own judgment can help them gain a sense of freedom and responsibility for their projects and lead to more engagement.”
Giving employees autonomy allows them to decide how they’ll achieve a task for a successful outcome. Adam Rowles, CEO of Inbound Marketing Agency, shared, “employee-owned methods allow the employees to firsthand experience and work on their leadership skills. It allows them to explore their creative realms and give shape to unbound ideas.” He went on, “it generates a sense of curiosity, interest, desire to improve, and imagination which will boost work satisfaction and employee loyalty towards.” The goal of any organization, regardless of size, should be to build more internal leaders. For this reason, when mistakes are made, managers should use them as a coaching opportunity. They can do so by asking targeted questions to help employees understand how they can prevent those mistakes again in the future.
Empower Them With Positive Reinforcement
Whether an employee owns a stake in the company or not, every worker wants to be recognized for the work they do and feel appreciated by their manager. According to a Harvard Business Review article, positive reinforcement inspires people to do their best work, increases their confidence and enables them to make a dramatic and lasting impact on the organization.
The traditional management style is to focus on pointing out mistakes and what’s wrong and issuing a punishment instead of finding what’s right and rewarding it. When positive behaviors are rewarded it increases them being repeated. The key is being specific and genuine when giving feedback for high-quality work. Karl Staff strongly recommended against connecting positive reinforcement with punishment. Staff said, “when rewards and punishment are applied to a positive reinforcement attempt, they actually both lose their independent impact.”