The idea of employee ownership is provocative.
The cultural definitions of ownership in the United States suggest a link between ownership and decision making that go beyond the boundaries specified by federal law and most plan documents. When they become employee-owners, people have increased expectations about their voice in decisions.
These expectations are at the root of many of the challenges companies experience with ownership, but company leaders who successfully manage these expectations have found that the investment pays off: three decades of research indicates that companies with employee-participation programs experience tangible benefits to their corporate performance and job satisfaction. Our research shows that these companies find employees accepting heightened levels of ownership responsibilities.
Companies have different needs regarding employee involvement, and the first step for each company's leadership is to determine the criteria by which it will evaluate its involvement systems.
Frontiers and Boundaries
Over the past ten years, Ownership Associates has developed Frontiers and Boundaries, a set of tools, training programs, and ready-to-use templates designed to help employee-ownership companies plan, communicate, and manage the process of involving people in decision making.
The tool our clients have found most useful is the Decision Zone Chart, which provides a simple one-page overview of primary responsibility for various types of decisions made in a company. Zone Charts help companies create management systems that are inclusive, efficient, widely understood and broadly supported.
Zone Charts also serve as the starting point for companies who want to use other parts of Frontiers and Boundaries, including the training programs, Decision Grids, Decision Reports, and other advanced tools. For an example of how clients use these tools, see the case study.
Some of the tools in Frontiers and Boundaries are available online, but the majority are part of consulting services from Ownership Associates: see OA Services for more information.
The rest of the pages under Participation and Decision Making, starting with Ownership and Decision Making, describe the research, theory, and services in Frontiers and Boundaries in more depth.
Ownership Associates also offers a number of free articles and resources about employee participation. See the Index of Articles on Participation.