Here’s how you get employees to take ownership over their work (part II)

Last week I wrote about getting employees to take ownership in the workplace and defined the difference between accountability, ownership, and trust.

This week I want to take a closer look at what ownership in the workplace looks like, why it matters, and how to achieve it.

Why does taking ownership matter?

Taking ownership means treating the business and its resources as if it was your own. You are thoughtful, responsible, and careful when making decisions that affect the company. By taking ownership, you are more driven, motivated, and have more initiative. You seek creative and innovative ways to improve and develop what the company is doing as opposed to going through the motions and fulfilling the minimum.

A company with employees who take ownership is one that’s moving forward. It also creates a more positive and fulfilling working environment for everyone, including managers.

Taking ownership and having ownership

Something that many companies do to motivate employees is to offer them stock and involvement in the company. This helps incentivise employees to do what's in the company’s best interest versus looking only at what’s in their personal best interest. It encourages employees to take initiative where they may otherwise not, and this of course is very close to what taking ownership is about. 

Define what success looks like

An important factor in encouraging employees to take ownership is establishing expectations and defining what success looks like. It means defining what the end goal is, what you want your employees to achieve. It's important to note that this should be communicated without dictating what the employees should do to reach the goals.

When focusing on the end goal, you are placing trust in your employees, and that trust empowers them. Trust is a key part of getting employees to take ownership of what they do so that they care about the outcome. Employees who are given responsibly are more likely to take responsibility.

Avoid micromanaging 

Micromanaging an employee creates resentment and stifles initiative, and makes people feel like they are just a cog in someone else’s wheel. Taking ownership over someone else’s recipe/playbook when things are already too narrowly defined is difficult. It creates a negative cycle where taking initiative is punished because how the task was completed, or the particulars of the result are criticised. Problem-solving is fun, and creating some space for people to use other areas of their brain is more engaging than just executing orders.

So when assigning work, set the overarching parameters in a way that leaves enough space to give your employees room for decision-making, problem-solving, creative thinking to achieve the outcome.

Listening is a two-way street

Communication, like ownership, cannot be one-way. If you want employees to take ownership of their work, then you must create an environment in which they feel free to express themselves openly and honestly and share their ideas with you. As mentioned earlier, ownership does not mean employees will own the project, or that others won’t be included. But it does mean taking the initiative to point out problems or opportunities. That type of initiative needs an outlet. There is an accountability to listen to ideas and act on them. Doing so builds trust. They are the ones working on the front lines and are likely to have valid input. Generally speaking, the more ideas coming your way the better, and you can harness their ideas for a better outcome.

So listen to employees, and show them that their ideas matter, even if you may not apply them in every instance. This creates trust and mutual respect.

Stayed tuned for the final part of this series on ownership in the workplace.

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