July 30, 2020

Ownership Culture Insights: Beyond Corporate Engagement

 

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At the NCEO’s Fall ESOP Forum in 2019, I met with a manufacturing company that was concerned about engaging its shop floor employees more effectively in the culture of ownership it was trying to build. They were concerned that their employees working in their corporate offices had more opportunities for learning and more all-around engagement in the business and employee ownership. When their employees took the NCEO's Ownership Culture Survey later that fall, the feedback we collected confirmed their suspicions. Employees in other departments responded 20% less positively than those closer to corporate leadership when it came to ESOP understanding, ownership identity, decision-making, and access to business information.

While every company has unique challenges, this challenge is actually quite common among any company with a corporate or administrative office and other siloed work groups. It is so common, in fact, that I have come to expect more positive attitudes from employees working in a corporate office relative to other work groups, especially those working in the field or shop floors. Often times, these same employees will respond more positively to ownership identity questions that ask how much they feel like owners of the company. If we consider my previous Ownership Culture Insights blog post concerning the different attitudes among managers and non-managers when it comes to company culture, we can identify some similarities as to why employees in corporate offices, like managers, also have more positive attitudes about the culture.

In discussing this matter with companies and assessing the data we receive from employees, a few things are clear. On various measures pertaining to access to information, opportunities for ESOP education, or opportunities to be involved in decisions that effect their day-to-day work, employees on shop floors or working in the field felt their opportunities for such things were lacking or limited. The struggle for most companies is structuring such opportunities.

Those in corporate or administrative offices not only spend more time in front of computers that grant them more access to information and learning, they also are granted closer proximity to leaders and decision-makers. To create a meaningful culture of ownership, it is important that such opportunities for learning and involvement are structured at every level and department of the company. In one of our newest publications, Beyond Engagement, Corey Rosen explores how companies like SRC Holdings create more involvement and business literacy through weekly huddles for all team members in every department focusing on what they call “common sense financials” that employees find relevant and useful. In the long run, creating and structuring these opportunities not only creates a greater understanding of the business and ESOP, it also involves employee owners in the process of understanding how their behaviors increase the value of the business and their ESOP accounts.