You may think the link between employee ownership and employee engagement was well established. Yet, if you judge by the ongoing research into the subject, this does not appear to be the case. Such research suggests there are many who still have to be convinced. For that reason, if no other, the latest findings from a study carried out by Loughborough University are a welcome addition.
Of course as an employer, manager or HR professional you would jump at the chance to improve your organisational culture to that extent. After all if 71% are more likely to consider the cost implications of what they do and 66% produce as higher quality of work, you inevitably have to benefit from a performance improvement, don’t you?
Yet while no-one in their right mind would refuse an opportunity like this, perhaps the most interesting aspect of this research is, “Why does share ownership only have this effect on 75% of the employees?”
Could the answer possibly be in the term “share ownership?” You see there are several problems with shares that could diminish their desirability for the lower echelons of employees.
- They come at a cost. This means that for lower earning employees the marginal income they have to forego – even if they understand the longer-term advantages – is too great for them to be able to sacrifice the income. For them cash is king.
- They may not have the educational or social background to understand the benefits of share ownership.
- Share schemes are complicated to set up and administer and thus they might not understand all the details of belonging, or they might even feel it is not worth the hassle.
- The inequitability of the scheme. It may be all very well offering shares to employees, but if the relative offerings are disproportionate or are perceived to favour managers and high-earners, they may simply fuel or exacerbate resentment. This will certainly do nothing for employee engagement.
There can be a huge conceptual difference between share ownership and employee ownership. The former may be a nice to have, but does it engender the empowerment that comes with a true the sense of ownership and belonging? The likelihood is that the disengaged employees in the survey are members of share schemes that do not create such a sense of empowerment. If you are looking to engage your employees more you need to come up with an ownership scheme that is:-
- Fair and equitable; and
How does your employee ownership scheme measure up against those criteria?