The Beyster Institute offers a comprehensive program of employee ownership governance education: the Governance Curriculum for Employee Ownership Companies. The program takes the form of three intensive educational events (two or three days in length) that are offered by the Rady School of Management at intervals throughout each year. Each course addresses the needs of one of the three elements in the collaboration that governs and directs modern employee-ownership companies.
The Employee Ownership Management course has been providing specialized education for strategic level management employees for more than a decade. The program is designed to help those key planning-level executives to manage the challenges and tap upside potentials of employee ownership. The intensive three-day course is designed to develop and refine management skills that take into account the specialized imperatives of the employee ownership environment while maximizing the advantages of an engaged workforce. This is a training curriculum in management skills that covers the full skills menu: strategic planning; marketing and brand development; cash management and financial planning for growth; human resource management and employee development; and much more.
One of the fundamental resources of the ESOP movement is the large group of dedicated, well-intentioned people who agree to serve as trustees or other fiduciaries on behalf of their company's ESOP. The second component of the Governance Curriculum for Employee Ownership Companies is an intensive education and certification program designed to help these brave souls gain the knowledge, experience and confidence they need to serve effectively in that role. The course curriculum takes place over two and a half days and includes a combination of classroom activities, group exercises, case study simulations, guest lecturers, and group discussion to assure students' mastery of the numerous areas of responsibility assumed by ERISA fiduciaries. Course content includes thorough reviews of the standards of fiduciary conduct applied to the many areas in which judgments will be required; in depth exploration of the practical implications of those responsibilities; practice at implementing decision-making processes; and a full critique of performance in all areas. After a final review and proof of mastery exam, each student successfully completing the exam will receive a certificate issued by the University of California San Diego, Rady School of Management attesting to their mastery of the concepts and skills necessary to serve as a non-professional ESOP fiduciary.
Governance of an ESOP company is vested in collaboration among three significant bodies: the management of the company, the fiduciaries who oversee the best financial interest of the ESOP, and the corporation's board of directors. The last of these bodies is responsible for setting and monitoring performance toward the long-term goals of the company; developing or approving a strategic plan for reaching those goals; overseeing management through selection, compensation, supervision and succession of the chief executive officer; monitoring compliance and financial controls; and appointing the individual or entity to serve as fiduciary for the ESOP. No other member of the governance team has broader involvement in the process nor sits more precariously on the boundary of fiduciary responsibility than the board of an ESOP company. This program is a combination of instruction, interaction, and evaluation aimed at helping directors of employee-owned companies understand their role and how it is affected by the fact of employee ownership. It also is an opportunity for corporate directors to leave technicalities behind for a moment and develop a better understanding of the ways in which employee ownership creates a “different kind of company” where the role of the board is both enhanced and restricted, and where the opportunities to materially improve the lives of all employees are very real, and a very real responsibility of the board.