May 31, 2022

Creating ESOP Champions Throughout Your Company

Executive Director

Ohio Employee Ownership Center

Research Associate & Special Projects

Ohio Employee Ownership Center

As trainers and educators, we at the OEOC spend a fair amount of time working with companies as we all try to unlock the secrets of building the ideal ownership culture. There is no magic elixir that, by just adding water, will build that ideal culture for you. But there are some best practices that can help, many of which we will cover at the upcoming OEOC/NCEO National Employee Owner Summit in Chicago on August 25–26, 2022.

Who Is a Leader in Your Company?

We automatically think of leaders as coming from the upper levels of management within your company. When it comes to company functions and responsibilities, roles and responsibilities are usually clear and necessary, based on skillsets and abilities. When it comes to creating an ownership culture, those dividing lines are less important—after all, everyone can benefit from being an employee-owner, and everyone builds the ownership culture.

What can truly set a company with a turbocharged culture apart is having front-line leaders that are employee ownership champions at every level of the company. How that broadened leadership manifests itself will vary, in message and tone. However, having multiple people, at every level, communicating your ownership message every day can be powerful.

The Power of Peers

One of the advantages of building a larger group of leaders at all levels of your company is that doing so increases the likelihood that any given employee will hear your employee ownership message from one of their peers. Research has shown that employees trust their coworkers more than their bosses or company leadership; what your people hear from their coworkers matters. In addition, the most powerful and impactful messaging that we’ve heard happens when everyday employees (and retirees) describe, in their own way and their own words, the effect that having an ownership stake in their company has had on their lives.


Many business leaders can fear the loss of message control that can occur with this kind of “decentralizing” of their EO communication strategy. It is not a trivial concern; the last thing that any company needs is to have the wrong message and misinformation taking hold within the company. Though a company-wide messaging strategy is important, an often-overlooked component is providing key front-line leaders with the training and education they need to be effective messengers and thus culture builders.

In our experience, the required skills include having a deeper understanding of what an ESOP is and what it means to be an ESOP participant; understanding what makes an ESOP company different and how sometimes competing short- and long-term considerations affect company operations; understanding business terminology and financial basics; how to be effective team members, especially if also serving on a communications committee; and the opportunity to network with similar employee-owners from other companies to share common challenges and their solutions. 

These are all components of our two-day National Employee Owner Summit in August, presented in partnership with the NCEO. We hope that your prospective ESOP champions can join us there!