How to Measure Employee Ownership
People often ask me how to measure employee ownership in a company. Before we get into the suggestions that I offer, let’s first consider the question itself. Why is it important to have high levels of employee ownership? To some, this might sound like a silly question. Conversely, there are people out there who really don’t care if the levels of employee ownership in their company are high or not. Why do I believe that high levels of employee ownership are important?
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The Need for High Levels of Employee Ownership
To begin with, I believe that we measure and focus what we consider to be important. Does your company measure ownership to some degree? Are strategies in place to improve key ownership metrics over time? If not, I would question the degree to which employee ownership is important. Over the past twenty-plus years, I have served as an Examiner for the national Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award and also assisted multiple state award programs. I have read many applications over that time. Through this process, I now see employee ownership and engagement as synonymous. Both are also much more than mere satisfaction.
Secondly, I continue to observe how people are treated in those companies I cross paths with over time. With some I encounter, I would have a hard time taking much ownership in those organizations. If we allow systems to exist that hinder, or actually decrease, ownership levels as each day goes by, we probably don’t care that much about ownership levels.
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The Link Between Employee Ownership and Great Service / Quality Outcomes
Still, the question begs for an answer. Why do we need high levels of employee ownership? First of all, is your goal to make a high quality product or provide a high quality service, but you cannot control the quality of those product or service attributes totally by machines? If so, ownership levels directly affect the quality of your product or service.
If you expect people to move at a fast pace, control quality and costs, and keep customer loyalty high, then work team ownership levels affect work output. Do you count on your people to let you know when problems exist or improvements are needed? If this is the case, please recognize that their desire to tell you what you need to know is directly proportional to the level of ownership in the company that they feel.
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How Can We Measure the Feelings of Employee Ownership?
Yes, we are talking about feelings. Ownership is a feeling. It is a state of mind or an attitude. This makes it tougher to measure. I believe that all companies rely on ownership to some degree in order to make money and keep the customer happy, whether they recognize that fact or not. How our people feel does affect the quality of our products and services.
Feelings of ownership also affect the pace of their work, the degree that they work safely and follow the rules, and their willingness to let us know when improvements are needed. How do you measure ownership in your company? Do you think you might benefit from improving your ownership measurement practices?
Here are some possible approaches that I have used, and seen used, to measure employee ownership levels:
#1: Internal Customer Survey ‘Ownership’ Statements
The most tangible measure of ownership that I have seen used involves the inclusion of an ‘ownership’ statement on the ‘annual’ internal customer survey. Top box response rate trends for that statement are analyzed over time, across all internal customer segments. Example statements include “I take ownership in the success of my company” or “I feel a strong sense of ownership in the products we make.”
Unfortunately, not all companies consider their employees to be internal customers. Too many think internal surveys are either a waste of time or something that a company does only every other year or so. Ownership levels typically don’t improve over time without systemic influences of some type. Example system influencers include compensation plan changes, recognition system changes, leadership development, and personal development opportunity enhancements.
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#2: Internal Customer Survey Response Rates
The survey response rate itself is an indicator of ownership. This is especially true if you give this type of survey more than once a year. Yes, there are companies that measure internal customer (employee) attitudes MORE than once a year. In fact, as intranet and social media use grows in companies, it is now more cost effective to do this. Your survey response rate – the number of completed surveys you get back versus the number distributed – is key. The response rate is a direct reflection of your peoples’ belief that the survey will make a difference. It also reflects their desire to make the company more effective.
The design of an internal survey, and the survey administration process itself, also affect response rates. Improve your survey process each time you use it if you want to increase your response rate over time. Ownership levels, however, do significantly affect this rate. Low survey response rates reflect low ownership levels.
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