Creating a Sense of Ownership in Your People

When staff feel a sense of ownership at work that leads to greater productivity while reducing the efforts needed to manage them, it should be something on every business owner’s priority list.

There are many ideas around that suggest how a sense of ownership can be developed in staff, however, what you DON’T want to do is create a sense of possessiveness where staff feel that the work belongs to them and no one else, and resist change even if it is for the better.  Here are 3 simple steps to get the desired results.

  1. There is no ‘quick fix’ or ‘instant formula’.  A sense of ownership depends on a relationship of trust; managers must trust staff enough to allow them to be part ‘owners’ of the business, and staff must trust that the owner wants them to genuinely play a role.  Looking for an easy way to ‘buy’ the feelings of ownership is precisely counter to the objective of developing those feelings.  Instead a sense of ownership will come from many individual actions that constantly reinforce to staff that their contributions are valued.
  2. Create a strong sense of meaning and purpose.  A clear statement of what the business is there to achieve and why it is important beyond the existence of the business – it can be a vision and mission but these are very difficult to make sound genuine – a manifesto or bold statement is best for most businesses (e.g. The Humane Society’s is simply, “Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty”).  Do not consult staff on this!  It might seem like a good idea to get staff involved in creating mission statements only for the result to be an overworked, bland slogan.  Staff end up feeling that the business had no idea where it is going and asking them what the mission statement should be simply reinforces this.  Ownership in the business will come from the leadership that shares what the business strives to achieve, then asking staff how they can help them to get there.
  3.  Develop a set of metrics – quantitative and qualitative – that are indicators of progress towards your goals.  These are not personal key performance indicators (KPIs) which only encourage staff to focus on themselves.  Staff should see a clear link between these metrics and company objectives.  They can also see a distinct connection with the customer experience.  The two criteria that are important here are: 1) the staff must be able to access the updates without relying on a manager to issue a report or collate figures – it gives them instant feedback on how they are going and what they should do next; and 2) the measure must be something the team contributes to – even if it is not their primary job, but they can still influence indirectly such as helping someone else with their workload.  (This does not mean you should share your business financials as much of it is irrelevant to staff, it serves no purpose and can make them feel uncomfortable.)

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