August 27, 2021

Using Employee Ownership to Recruit New Employees

Executive Director

Businesses across the country are struggling to find, hire, and retain the employees they need, so this finding from the General Social Survey (reported on in our blog) should be welcome news to everyone responsible for recruiting at an employee-owned company: “Democrat or Republican, female or male, black or white, union or non-union, a majority of respondents said they prefer to work for a company with employee share ownership.”

How do you tap that advantage?

One idea is to highlight employee ownership in your job postings. As the GSS data indicates, just using the phrase “employee ownership” may give you a boost over other employers, but you can take it further. Consider including a link to the NCEO’s page Working at an ESOP, which gives a no-background-necessary overview of the extent and success of ESOP companies and some of the reasons they tend to be better employers. You can also show people what employee ownership look like -- that is the theme that ties all the strands together in this new-employee video (3:27) from Morton Buildings.

Another approach is to use your culture. It’s easy to think of your company culture as something that only your current employees can really understand, but really your culture is something you just can’t fake, and people know that. When prospective employees come for their interviews, some companies always give them a tour led by someone who would be a peer if they take the job. Not only is that peer a credible source for how your company is different, the tour itself is a chance for the candidate to see the company’s day-to-day “vibe” in action. They’ll notice the conversations people are having with each other, what’s posted on the bulletin boards, and the expressions on people’s faces. If you use internal social media, give prospective employees a chance to flip through some postings. 

Renée Mundell, the manager of customer service and support at Radian Research sets up panel interviews and tells candidates that she wants them to observe Radian employee-owners: “we want you to see how we interact with each other.”

Of course, attracting people can be in tension with screening out people who are not good fits. How to balance that tension depends on the job market and the company situation, but a good interview process has a chance of resolving that tension: if interviewees get an accurate sense of your culture, that can help screen out the people who aren’t good fits while making your company more attractive to the ones who are.

The challenge is to give people an accurate sense of the company culture without inadvertently giving them a script for the words they need to say to impress your interviewers. As a hiring manager at another ESOP company says, “When you put too much of yourself out there about how you are, people watch that and know how to answer.” The solution might be not to describe your culture in too much detail, but to have clear behaviors that you look for during the interview, both in the answers people give and how they act during the interview itself. She adds, “Show yourself, but not too much that people know the pattern to get hired.”

Two last tips: a company’s profile on Glassdoor can make or break its prospects for hiring new people. When Radian employees ask Mundell how they can help the hiring process, she tells them to go to Glassdoor and fill in a review. Maintaining recent positive posts on job review sites can increase both the number of applicants you receive and the percentage that move from interview to employment.
NCEO members can show their pride in employee ownership by using our member badge images available for download (member log in required).

This blog post was inspired by a meeting of the NCEO’s Innovative Communication Coalition, a new network of people at employee-owned companies with responsibility for communications. The group meets periodically to share ideas, jointly develop resources, and support each other. If you would like an invitation to the group’s next meeting, please fill out the intake questionnaire.