How to Inspire a Spirit of Ownership Among Employees

by Ralph Heibutzki

All too often, employees don't think past their chosen roles, which causes customer relations and job performance to suffer. The alternative is to create a spirit of ownership, in which employees are encouraged to think as if they were running the business. In this type of atmosphere, employees are consulted on major decisions, given room to act independently and empowered to work collaboratively in solving the company's problems.

Ask for Feedback

A business owner isn't on the premises every day, so it's important to ask regularly for employees' feedback. You'll gain important insights about customers' preferences and learn about problems that may be negatively affecting your organization. Once your employees see that their opinions matter, they'll feel like valued members of your team and will be more likely to take initiative in solving problems.

Collaborate on Decision-Making

A collaborative decision-making approach is a crucial building block of an employee ownership culture. That's because employees are more likely to support ideas that they've helped to create, Entrepreneur magazine reports. One major promoter of this approach is Bridgeway Capital Management, where proposals are decided by a mixture of employee votes and shared decision-making. For example, employees can submit ideas for annual goals, which are then narrowed down by a company-wide vote.

Empower Your Staff

Policies and procedures can inhibit employees from helping customers and solving problems. In a genuine ownership culture, the business owner doesn't micromanage every employee action. Instead, the employee is encouraged to put himself in the owner's place and decide accordingly. Once staff develop these instincts, an owner or manager can spend less time on minor issues and focus on the company's direction.

Let Employees Choose Projects

One of the most commonly recognized ways of improving productivity is allowing employees to choose projects within certain guidelines. The manager might ask for brief proposals and have the whole team discuss them. Once the team chooses a credible project, you should pick a senior employee to oversee it. Other than periodic check-ins, the manager should take a hands-off attitude so that employees develop a feeling of ownership of the results.

Reward Excellence

An ownership culture is unlikely to take hold unless employees are rewarded for going beyond their typical duties. Badger Mining Corporation's 156 employees, for example, can join teams that oversee key parts of operations -- such as health, retirement and wellness. Employees who actively contribute to the teams receive extra credit for participating, which is given during the evaluation process.

About the Author

Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.

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