At the Intersection of ESOPs and DEI
ESOPs at their best do a lot more than provide working people with livable retirement income. Sure, this is perhaps the most important or compelling aspect of ESOPs, and one needn't look far to see reasons why this sort of wealth inequality solution is so vital in 2021.
Ideally, however, workers participating in an ESOP receive more than the fruits of their labor in the form of lasting retirement. Employee-owned companies often go above and beyond the day-to-day best practices of non-employee-owned companies to make sure that their employee-owners are respected and engaged, seeing that their contributions are not just heard but acknowledged, that their suggestions aren't merely seen but incorporated, and that their voices always receive a response. Examples abound of ESOP companies going the extra mile to get their employees involved, and that extra mile often yields advantageous results not easily replicable at other companies.
As you'll likely have seen, the business world is at a bit of a crossroads when it comes to both how workers perceive their workplaces and how they are perceived at their workplaces. Right now, there is an enormous push for greater attention to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). DEI initiatives tend to focus on workers who are often marginalized in the workplace solely by virtue of who they are—be they of a different race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, country of origin, and so on.
It may sound counterintuitive that focusing on differences among people doesn't lead to atomization but instead greater togetherness, but it makes sense. By learning about the ways in which marginalized workers are often shut out or barred access from even the most basic of workplace opportunities, we can begin to make up for the sometimes significant gap between our intention and our impact. Doing so can lead to teams with greater trust, more willing and able to lean on each other and go beyond the limitations of a more traditional, closed-minded place of business.
Of course, nobody is perfect, and no one company has figured out all these issues perfectly; in fact, perfection shouldn't be the end goal here. But making the effort is more than most are doing and is a large part of struggling in the right direction.
We believe the same aspects that animate the ESOP world also animate the conversation around DEI. A healthy ownership culture is, after all, an inclusive ownership culture. For this reason, the NCEO will host a DEI workshop starting July 29. Open to 25 applicants, this free member benefit will be lead by expert Rosita Choy, whom some of you might remember from the DEI roundtable at our most recent annual conference.
Over the course of four sessions that will take us into 2022, we will discuss how to improve DEI at your company in a way that is consistent with the values of employee ownership. These sessions will allow ESOP companies to learn from each other in a way that is safe and conducive to growth.
Applications are still open, but they close on July 20. If you're interested, we hope you'll apply to this program, which is sure to be as engaging as it is enlightening.