I'm continuing to tackle the need for organizations to focus on employees and the employee experience because, as you know by now, they are critical to the organization's ability to deliver a memorable customer experience and, ultimately, to the success of the company. Today, I'm blogging about employee ownership. What does employee ownership mean?



I'm not referring to a financial stake in the company. Not technically. People haven't invested in the company, financially. But they are invested in the company, emotionally.

From the company perspective, employee ownership is about setting expectations and laying the groundwork. (Have I mentioned Brand Promise lately?) Communicating expectations; providing the right tools, training, and resources to execute and to deliver; empowering your people and expecting accountability; and stepping back and letting employees create the culture and the experiences based on those expectations. It is iterative, not stagnant; as the business evolves, so must the culture... and dare I say, vice versa. Of course, you must also begin with the right people.

From the employee perspective, they think and act like they own the business. It's about being passionate about what you do, not standing at the sidelines waiting to be spoon-fed; it's about taking the horse by the reins and running with your directive (the brand promise), being accountable for your role in the execution of the customer experience and in the success of the business, working together with others who are just as passionate and who share a common goal, and feeling like you are a part of something bigger, something you want to see grow and flourish.

What your employees are creating and supporting is a customer-centric culture. This is a culture in which the customer's perspective and viewpoint is ingrained in the company DNA, is at the center of every decision, conversation, process, strategy, etc. The best customer-centric cultures are built at a grassroots level; they are the most sustainable because your employees are the ones responsible for creating them, own the outcomes, and understand the implications of any missteps. Yes, there must be support and guidance from the top, but when the troops are rallied around this cause, great things will happen.

It probably goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway. The organization must also be employee-centric for employee ownership to occur.

(c) CattLeLogos.com

I came across this definition of ownership on the CattLeLogos website, and I think it encompasses the essence of what I'm referring to, as well:

Everyone in your company should take OWNERSHIP of your brand, starting from the top down. Management should set an example for all employees by owning the brand image, providing guidelines, and training in use of the brand, and then holding all employees accountable for proper brand management.

Let's look at another definition of employee ownership. Herb Kelleher, co-founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines, doesn't even say this is employee ownership, but he doesn't have to. This one is powerful.

“Engaged employees are not just committed. They are not just passionate or proud. They have a line-of-sight on their own future and on the organization’s mission and goals. They are ‘enthused’ and ‘in gear’ using their talents and discretionary effort to make a difference in their employer’s quest for sustainable business success. I’ve never had control and I never wanted it. If you create an environment where people truly participate, you don’t need control. They know what needs to be done and they do it.” –Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines
Wow! The executives are no longer in control; the employees are. That's a strong culture, a strong customer-centric culture. Everyone working toward a common goal, with a common perspective in mind.

Is this happening in your organization?

Culture does not change because we desire to change it. Culture changes when the organization is transformed; the culture reflects the realities of people working together every day. -Frances Hesselbein