Connecting Employee Ownership to Employee Owners

By Jennifer Briggs

Employee ownership is a fantastic way to transform a company. In the last Employee Ownership Insights, we discussed a few thought starters to prepare people for the journey toward employee ownership. In this article, let's dig in on four ideas to make a more direct tie from the ownership structure to ownership attitude.

Teach the retirement benefits. With an ESOP, it is important for people to understand their benefit and what this new retirement plan might mean for them. To help, engage a retirement plan advisor who is versed in ESOPs to help people learn how to integrate this into their retirement planning. No matter the age of the participant, planning for retirement is critical and they have a new tool to add to their tool belt. Group sessions teaching about the ESOP are great, now helping people understand individual impacts. At New Belgium, we were fortunate to work with an investment advisor who provided one-to-one consults related to our 401(k) plan. But, we went a step further. Our 401(k) administrator integrated participant ESOP assets into their retirement health score and integrated it into the broader retirement planning discussion. Making the tie to the retirement health score and watching it improve over time will be a rewarding path.

Teach personal financial literacy. Building financial and business literacy is a key aspect of building an ownership culture. One way to teach basic financial literacy is to support personal financial literacy training. When people understand how their personal books flow, they will develop perspective on how the company's books flow. Basics of cash flow, profit and loss, and debt and investing are very similar. It is a great stepping stone to the next steps for an open book, participative ownership culture.

Own your performance. The performance review seems to be a dilemma for any company. Becoming employee owned presents a unique opportunity to flip the status quo on performance management. Set up your performance management system so people can own their own performance. Use integrated planning, collaborative goal setting, and individual self-reviews to give people the authority and responsibility for their own performance. Teach managers how to be better coaches and empower people to complete self-reviews so they can critique their needs for improvement, their progress on goals, and wins. Teach them how to build helpful feedback loops. Post-project feedback, peer reviews, integrating process data, etc. Don’t get overly complicated. Keep it conversational - it's about helping people evaluate their behaviors and results to help their company make progress and win.

Four Cores

  • How do I show up and live the values? What can I start, stop, continue?
  • What am I capable of? What can I develop, deepen, or continue to improve in my role, as an organizational citizen, and to prepare for our future?
  • What results have I achieved and helped others achieve? What can I do more of, less of, or keep doing?
  • What progress have I made on my goals? Where did I win? What were my top strengths and how can I use them more? What should I change for next time?

Own your health. In companies with a self-insured health plan, a healthy workforce can directly contribute to a more affordable health plan. When people can own their health and take advantage of preventative services they will help mitigate long-term risk in the health plan. Health insurance premiums in the U.S. continue to be a critical business challenge for nearly all employers. According to the National Association of Health Underwriters (June 2015), as much as 70 percent of health care spending can be attributed to behavioral and lifestyle choices. Some corporate wellness programs can be quite expensive, but it doesn't need to be complicated. Use your employee ownership participative mindset to set up ideas and get some programs started. According to a 2012 Gallup State of the American Workplace study, employees with a high overall "well-being" have 41 percent lower health-related costs". There is no better work environment to really ignite well-being engagement than an employee-owned company!

Jennifer Briggs, organizational development and HR executive consultant

Go Back