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Six Steps to Create a Culture of Ownership with Your Employees

Posted September 9, 2015 by EnerBank USA

own it

If you find that your employees are treating their work like it’s just “another job,” you might be wondering how you can get them to care about the business as much as you do.

The culture of ownership is a mindset that develops as employees feel empowered to do their work, where they accept responsibility for their outcomes, and where they feel accountable and make their jobs personal. The company culture becomes the power source they plug into every day. It enhances their wellbeing when they feel they can make a difference in the quality of service, the product and the cost. Everyone, then, feels valued and respected.

Does that describe your company?

A woman in the accounting office of a daily newspaper made a significant mistake on a major advertiser’s invoice. The publisher of the paper called the woman into his office, slammed his fist on his desk and said, “Give me one reason why I shouldn’t fire you.” His was a knee-jerk reaction to an inadvertent mistake that was easily corrected, but it filled the office with a gloom that remained for days. Developing a culture where your employees take ownership means you have to learn to let them lead – and fail – and learn from their mistakes in the process.

Ask yourself: How important are my employees to the mission of the company?

When a company culture has little to offer employees besides a paycheck, they will tend to sleepwalk through the day, uninterested in their work and unmotivated to give their best effort. In such cultures, employees can become careless and wasteful, turnover is high and morale is low. They don’t care about the company’s bottom line because they don’t feel like the company cares about them.

There’s a mantra that pervades many high-growth, entrepreneurial-type businesses, which is to “fail often so you can succeed faster.” In such organizations, the employees are highly engaged and feel a sense of purpose. Their jobs are in sync with their lives, and their personal missions have become intertwined with the company’s mission.

When employees feel that their employers care about them, productivity increases, turnover drops, the company is more competitive and the financials reflect the culture.

One construction company demanded long hours from its employees that consisted of intense physical labor. However, the employees readily accepted the demands day in and day out because they knew that they would be rewarded. At the end of each year, if the company met its financial goals, the entire organization was taken on a Caribbean cruise. The trips became a focal point – a goal to reach – but they also helped the employees build comradery and company culture. Naturally, it’s not reasonable to think that large businesses can take every employee on a cruise. Nonetheless, even large companies can reward their employees in a variety of ways when milestones are met or financial goals are achieved.

The first step in creating a culture of ownership is to understand that you can’t assign ownership like you would a task. Ownership has to be taken.

Second, help your employees feel valued and respected. Every job in the company must have meaning and value—and be treated that way.

Third, allow your employees to think creatively about their work. Encourage them to share their ideas, and make room for them to fail forward. You’ll be creating a culture where the company becomes a power source that your employees will plug into, where they can take pride in their work and offer their best.

Fourth, emphasize accountability. Help your employees feel responsible for their outcomes, and nourish their understanding of what you expect. Seek for clarity throughout the organization.

Fifth, destroy any invisible walls that make employees feel like management is not accessible. Help them feel like they can go straight to the top of the company, if necessary, to make their voices heard. In the process, you will learn a lot about your company, and your employees won’t feel that their concerns fall on deaf ears.

Sixth, emphasize transparency in your business, especially with regards to the company’s financial performance. On a quarterly basis, meet with your team and review the quarterly income statement and balance sheet as well as year-to-date profit sharing progress. This will help keep them motivated as they are kept informed and can better grasp how numbers drive the success of the business.

To be sure, ownership drives results. When you have created that culture of ownership, you will be happier, your employees will be happier and it will be evident in your bottom line.