How ESOP Culture Spurs Innovation for a Strong Post-Pandemic Economy

Posted by Jason Wellman on Tue, Jan 11, 2022
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Early on in the pandemic, 90% of executives surveyed by McKinsey & Company said they thought COVID-19 would lead to fundamental changes to business. Leaders across industries saw these pivotal changes as a growth opportunity. Yet at the same time, only 21% felt prepared for the challenges involved to grasp it.

This urgent need for innovation and creativity points to a potentially huge moment for employee stock ownership plan companies that embrace an employee ownership culture. Why?

When employees engage deeply with the vision and mission of the business, and when leadership shares information to help workers understand how their contributions support a stronger future, that creates a growth culture — even in challenging times.

Businesses of all sizes now face a convergence of challenges: the pandemic, supply chain disruptions, climate impacts, the Great Resignation, a Silver Tsunami, changing expectations for how and where we work, and much more. 

Adaptability and creativity remain primary keys to growth and resilience. An employee-owned company can certainly foster the innovation needed for continued success — but your employee ownership culture doesn’t suddenly flourish when you close the ESOP sale transaction. Rather, that’s where you begin creating an ownership culture.

So let’s take a closer look at the ways innovation is key to post-pandemic success, and how you can nurture and support an employee ownership culture that makes innovative thinking second nature throughout your organization.

Empowered Employee Owners Build Bridges to Post-Pandemic Success

Profitability comes down to a pretty simplistic formula. On one side of the equation, businesses can cultivate more or larger opportunities to deliver value to customers, and charge accordingly. On the other side, businesses need to keep costs down. 

It’s tempting to think of such an operational focus as the realm of management or leadership only, but in an effective ownership culture, every employee-owner understands how their work can enhance (or eat away at) productivity and profitability. When all employees engage deeply with a shared company culture, they share that focus and are more willing to embrace new ideas and pull together for the sake of continued success.

Ownership culture can help businesses discover, develop, and maintain a competitive edge by elevating every employee owner’s voice. Empowered employee-owners help leaders discover, investigate, and analyze data from all over operations, to drive continuous improvement and service excellence while reducing waste and costs associated with production.

Engaged employee-owners may be more likely to speak up when they see opportunities. In a fast-changing economic landscape, that can make the difference between capturing opportunities to acquire new customers — or even additional businesses — and missing out on those opportunities.

Another cost sink many businesses are grappling with is recruiting and retention. In November 2021 alone, more than 4.5 million U.S. workers quit their jobs — and many companies had been struggling to fill positions well before the pandemic began.

An ESOP qualified retirement plan offers just one employer compensation edge for companies competing for workers. Along with it, ownership culture can empower employee-owners to engage in creating and upholding a work environment based on shared values.

You Create the Scaffold, and Engaged Employee Owners Will Build the Business

No two company cultures are the same, nor should they be. One key to establishing and nurturing an ownership culture that resonates with employee-owners and supports long-term business growth is a holistic approach. Full-time work accounts for a major percentage of employees’ lives, so it’s hard to overstate the value of an environment that promotes:

Safety and health. Whether it’s ensuring access to and use of personal protective equipment, comprehensive training on equipment, or a remote-work policy to help promote safer distance between employees, leaders play a pivotal role in enhancing employee safety. Notably, a large proportion of the 2021 quit rate involved workers with concerns about safety on the job.

Investing in employee health doesn’t start and end with insurance benefits. Building a health-focused culture can include company-wide fitness initiatives, healthy activities, time and/or stipends for physical activity, healthy meals, and more.

Mental well-being. Women, workers with disabilities, younger workers, and those without college degrees report higher levels of anxiety and depression in an ongoing CDC study. Overall, the study reported recent overall U.S. rates of anxiety and depression hovering near 31% at the end of 2021. 

Open communication, a commitment to creating an inclusive workplace, and proactive norm-setting by leaders who engage in their own mental health self-care can all contribute to better workplace mental health.

Shared purpose. Early pandemic lockdowns gave many people a firsthand experience with the destructive quality of social isolation. Fortunately, ownership culture can be a powerful tool in the fight against it. Candid conversations about income statements, balance sheets, relationships with key customers, and other important aspects of your business can cultivate a sense of transparency, accountability, and trust throughout the company. 

The right level of sharing can make every employee-owner feel like an insider — and that builds a sense of shared purpose that makes work better for everyone. When employees understand the basics of how your company works, what performance numbers mean, and how their roles can have an impact on the bottom line, they’re more likely to act like owners.

Community engagement. When you encourage employee action in the greater community, you nurture a sense of solidarity with neighbors, while also strengthening your company’s identity as a benefactor. That empowers employees to contribute to societal solutions while also reaching out as a company to prospective candidates, clients or customers, and the community at large.

Start With Your Culture & Communication Committee 

Your ESOP culture committee serves as a foundation for building a strong and widespread sense of shared ownership. With solid ESOP planning, communication guidance from an experienced third-party administrator, and the commitment of leadership, your company can maximize the benefits of an ESOP and continue to thrive, even in challenging times.

Find out more and get started building a strong culture of employee ownership and engagement. Download our free guide, Maximize the Business Advantages of ESOP Ownership Culture. Click the link to claim your copy today.New call-to-action

Topics: Building Culture

Jason Wellman
Written by Jason Wellman

Jason, the Director of Ownership Culture, helps employee-owned companies by developing a comprehensive Ownership Culture through proactive educational resources for all participants to improve their understanding of this unique, nontraditional benefit we call an ESOP.

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