Assets don’t exist, only people
If business leaders genuinely believe that their people are their best ‘assets’ and make their brand so special, then why do so few employees get to input into management-level decisions? Why are most boardrooms made up of a tiny handful of people who do not even come close to representing the wider make-up of the workforce accurately?
From recruitment adverts to marketing campaigns, time and time again, I see companies boasting about how ‘their people are their biggest asset’ and how much they are loved by the business leaders. But when you scratch beneath the surface, quite quickly you can see that the ‘love’ of the workforce rarely evolves to ‘trust’. And if you have a relationship where one side isn’t trusted to affect the bigger decisions, then I’m afraid that relationship probably isn’t going to last very long, and definitely won’t be very healthy.
The problem can be seen in the term ‘asset’ itself. If you separate the notion of ‘Business’ with the notion of the ‘Employee’ you can quite easily begin to see your people simply as business assets – to be used, exhausted and replaced like batteries. The employee-owned business structure recognises that employees are not at all like business assets but are the business itself. There is no separation here for the employee owned business.
Is there a better way?
Back in December my article on mastering governance and engagement , I argue that there is a business risk in creating a gap between the employee and the ‘business’ and a risk that can be reduced with some bigger thinking and a whole lot of tangible trust that goes beyond social media boasting and useless rhetoric.
I also cite that employee ownership counters risks by establishing formal approaches to engagement and governance and in the case of an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) structure, this requires an external independent Chairperson.
The other key element is transparency, because as owners key financial information is shared with all which also helps to build trust and understanding of what the business needs.
It’s definitely not rocket science when you step back and get the bigger business picture. Involving the employee in top-level decisions doesn’t just inspire an excellent work ethic, but in fact incentivises it. When the gulf between the employee and the business is closed, staff no longer see the directorate as ‘them’ and vice versa.
Real involvement and business engagement changes things. The culture of the brand no longer harbours a series of silos where land grabs and power plays are the order of the working day, but instead sees a galvanised collective carrying out the values and unique nuances that make a company stand out in its market.
For more information on the employee owned approach to business, please get in touch.