· 2 min read · Features

Employee ownership delivers a workforce that feels valued and motivated by having a real stake in their company’s future

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The holy grail of delivering a motivated workforce and healthy balance sheets might be more achievable than many CEOs think.

There are many organisations out there that help other companies succeed through change management.

Employee ownership can be a powerful motivational tool but what is employee ownership actually about? Empowerment yes, but sometimes that can just be a means to an end. Employee ownership means more because it gives staff more responsibility to contribute to the success of their organisation. With it comes accountability. Not a line accountability to your boss, but real accountability to your peers and to yourself.

Empowerment on its own can lead to people doing their own thing and losing focus in an organisation. But with real ownership everyone is in the same boat and has a common direction and common aims. Personal aims become aligned with the aims of the organisation.

But can employee ownership work on all levels of a firm? Yes, because everyone is valued. You create an environment where people want to take personal responsibility for making things happen, in line with the aims of the organisation.

The result is empowerment combined with strategic thinking. Staff know where they fit into a firm and they have the tools and skills to do their jobs properly. The synergy is real.

It's essential to share everything with staff, such as letting everyone in your company see the monthly results.

Interestingly the organisation I work for is currently discussing how our associates can benefit from some kind of ownership through the trust - even though they are not employed by the company. We see this as a possible way of including them in the future of the company, giving them some benefit and therefore raising their personal commitment and motivation by being part of something that is more than just a transactional relationship.

If you believe that everyone has something to offer, then it stands to reason that the more they can input into something the more value you'll get from them. The more they can input into something the more commitment they'll have, and the greater the commitment the better the performance.

It doesn't take a genius to work out that if you take that to its logical conclusion the more ownership people have, the better the company is going to perform. Employee ownership is an idea whose time has come if you want to unlock the intrinsic value of people. Working hard and working smart (because of the alignment of aims) becomes second nature to such staff.

Once up and running they give us back the start up costs with no profit to us. We don't sell them the company; we simply give them the company. They need to own it and we grow our international brand as a result. We all benefit.

Throughout my working life I've seen both ends of the spectrum when it comes to running a business. In the early 1980's I had the misfortune of being fired by Robert Maxwell from a publishing company, seconds after he offered me a promotion because I dared to ask about the fate of the person I was replacing. He was not so interested in employee engagement or ownership!

My belief is that the way to real engagement is to allow people to have a say in the decision making process of a company. Those decisions will be much more thoughtful and the outcomes much better if they have to live with the consequences of the decisions. And if they own the company then the consequences impact directly. Input = commitment!

Mike De Luca (pictured) is chief executive of Coverdale UK, and managing director of organisational development firm, Coverdale International. He is also an Employee Ownership Ambassador for Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), and on the board of the Employee Ownership Association.