When Employees Take Ownership, Everyone Benefits

In many companies and industries, much has changed in recent years regarding the roles of leaders and employees and how they interact. In general, these relationships have become less “at arm’s length” and more authentic and human. Leaders are more approachable and willing to show vulnerability while employees want to contribute more, take more responsibility, have their ideas considered, and be recognized for their contributions.

While navigating this changing landscape, the concept of Ownership Thinking (OT) has been a primary focus for members of our Exit Planning Peer Advisory Board over the past year. Its objective is to help businesses unleash their potential by providing the training and tools to develop a culture of “ownership thinkers” – employees who think and act like owners and become active participants in their company’s financial success.

As one of our members sees it, “Ownership thinking is taking an active part in the company’s overall vision. It is being a part of the organization not just a spectator.”

Whether it is referred to as Ownership Thinking or other terms are used, the work environment is evolving into one that is more collaborative. A step towards incorporating this bottom-line-boosting concept into company culture is motivating employees to take ownership of their jobs, which means gaining an understanding of how their work impacts the company in general.

Our PAB members developed a list of why taking ownership is important to the company and how it is beneficial to employees at all levels. 

  • Understanding how the role is essential to the company’s success ensures alignment of projects and tasks with company goals, which is important to the overall health of the organization.
  • The better the company does, the better each employee can do.
  • Having the freedom to express ideas demonstrates to employees that they are valued for their contributions – they are more than just a number.
  • When employees understand the value of their jobs to the company, it builds confidence; they feel better about their role and the work they contribute.
  • Employees that are empowered to be proactive in asking questions, developing ideas, and seeking feedback from supervisors, rather than waiting to be told what to do, are more productive and happier in their jobs.
  • Taking ownership strengthens relationships and builds trust with coworkers, managers, and customers by encouraging productive communication and through an understanding of if and how one’s work impacts others.
  • An accepting and encouraging work environment facilitates career growth through expansion of skills, assumption of additional responsibilities, and both personal and professional growth.

As they worked to establish a mindset of ownership thinking and enthusiasm for embracing ownership of work, our PAB members discovered that employees don’t automatically understand how they and their job fit into the bigger picture and the company as a whole. How would they? Other than among top leadership, most companies likely never explain and discuss their overall vision and how each piece of the puzzle fits together and why it is essential.

One of our members developed a process to help employees gain these insights and understand the reach of the impact of their individual job. Following are some examples of the questions she asked as she walked through the exercise with an employee. This particular employee works in the department that does silk screening for packaging.

  • Do you know the goals for your department?
  • How do we measure those goals?
  • What makes the department work?
  • What challenges does the department face?
  • What are we doing right or wrong in terms of reaching departmental goals?
  • In your particular job, how many containers do you print in a year?
  • How much does a gallon of ink cost?
  • How much do rags cost?
  • What is the cost per day to run the silk screen room?
  • What does a printing mistake really cost considering materials, ink, time, and labor?
  • What are your strengths in terms of reaching goals and keeping costs in line?
  • How well do you and your coworkers in the department work together – do you help each other out or is it everyone for themselves?

It’s not surprising that much of this information was unknown by the employee. Since he was not involved in purchasing there was no way he could know the costs of performing the job or the costs of mistakes. Employees in the department had been informed of what was referred to as a “reject rate,” or the maximum number of containers that could be lost to bad printing in a day, and this particular employee was keeping that rate below the maximum allowed, so was complying where he knew what was expected.

Obviously, this exercise can be eye opening to both employer and employee. All of the points above are critical to staying within budget yet the employee had not been given the tools to contribute to that goal. When employees are trusted with information and responsibility, they are more likely to take ownership of their job and how they perform it, and to become far more than a mere spectator.

Brad Hams, creator of the “ownership thinking” concept and methodology, saw it as the path to a mentality of creating wealth, out of which grows more opportunity for all. Elements of the mindset and program include employee incentive programs, employee empowerment, employee ownership training, and opportunities for ownership. Companies that practice Hams’ OT program have consistently seen increased productivity, profitability, and employee retention by up to 200%, all of which boost the value of a company, which is key to a successful exit plan.

I’d welcome the opportunity to discuss your unique situation. Contact me for a complimentary consultation.

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