How to instill a sense of ownership in employees

HRKatha speaks to industry experts to understand the hurdles faced by the management as well as the employees in fostering a sense of ownership

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Building a culture of ownership within the workforce is a gradual process, as it involves trust, patience, empathy and a deep understanding of skill sets that will garner long-term results and growth.

Although fostering a culture of ownership within an organisation may appear to be a Herculean task, if done with the right intent, it can do wonders for the organisations in terms of achieving their goals.

It’s all about trust

As Ramesh Shankar S, senior HR leader, Hrishti, puts it, “Ownership culture in any organisation is based on day-to-day behaviour rooted in trust and empowerment. This permits both the managers and the subordinates to take risks to accomplish the tasks given to them, with the role of the managers being to guide the employees without interfering”.

Agreeing with Shankar, Sudipta Marjit, group head – HR, TATA Autocomp Systems, says, “By creating a culture where your employees are as invested in the organisation’s success as you, great things can happen”.

“If one wants one’s employees to take ownership at the workplace, one must treat them with respect and invite them to be more than just ‘resources’”

Jayesh Sampat, senior HR leader

Empowerment is essential

Marjit points out that employees who feel more empowered in their respective roles tend to be more motivated when it comes to resolving customer issues and coming up with innovative ideas for improving their areas of expertise.

Training can ensure retention

Marjit believes that inculcating an ownership culture in the teammates will require training programmes to improve the employees’ role-related key areas of work. This will lead to employee retention and contribute to a more stable working environment.

Involvement in decision making

Meanwhile, Jayesh Sampat, senior HR leader, advises, “To encourage employees to take ownership at work, involve them in developing the vision of the organisation. This helps them feel part of something bigger than themselves”.

Sampat goes on to suggest, “Invite employees to help make important decisions. This will not only encourage them to put their best foot forward, but will also make them emotionally invested in the outcomes of these decisions”.

It is Sampat’s belief that employees’ jobs should be given a context in the bigger picture of the company’s operations.

They should be allowed to understand that the ‘Why’ will help them overcome the ‘How’ cropped from a problem. “Trust employees before you must. Your trust in them will give them the much-needed confidence and sense of ownership” advises Sampat.

How can managers ensure that work is being executed correctly?

Create trust: Shankar S says, “The work of the managers is to provide the required security cover, otherwise, the employees will not take risks. However, this can happen only when the managers create trust in their subordinates”.

Explaining further, Shankar says that the management provides a safe environment till the time the employees do not deliberately attempt to sabotage the work, in which case the management needs to step in and take action against the employees.

“Ownership culture in any organisation is based on day-to-day behaviour rooted in trust and empowerment”

Ramesh Shankar S, senior HR leader, Hrishti

Reward good work: “When managers are allowed the freedom to give monetary rewards to their teams, say in the form of bonuses, the employees remain motivated and determined to accomplish their tasks. This, in turn, makes them realise the importance of ownership. However, in some cases, employees are unwilling to take ownership. This creates a problem, and the team suffers”.

Shankar reveals that in his career, he has seen many managers who don’t promote the ownership culture. When a teammate fails to deliver, instead of taking the onus, they do just the opposite. On the other hand, when it is time to give credit to a teammate or the team, such managers often hog the credit for the success of the task”.

Respect individuals: As correctly pointed out by Sampat, “If one wants one’s employees to take ownership at the workplace, one must treat them with respect and invite them to be more than just ‘resources’. This lays the foundation of a culture of ‘humans first’.”

Why is ownership important?

Long-term benefits: On being asked what makes ownership so important for the employees, Ramesh S explains, “Taking care of employees is essential and advantageous as they are able to take risks and deliver value services to the customers in the long term.”

Personal investment: In Sampat’s view, “An ownership culture is when employees take initiatives, solve problems and demonstrate personal leadership. It encourages them to have a stake in the organisational outcomes, even failures. One can say that the ownership culture keeps employees more invested in the organisation’s success.

“Inculcating an ownership culture in the teammates will require training programmes to improve the employees’ role-related key areas of work”

Sudipta Marjit, group head – HR, TATA Autocomp Systems

Employee motivation: It can be a powerful driver of employee motivation, employee performance and longevity in the organisation, feels Sampat. He also adds that trust in employees will give them the much needed confidence and a sense of ownership.

According to Ramesh S, ” The team leaders delegate the powers and give them a free hand in taking decisions. Therefore, the risk of failure is low”.

Bigger picture: Sampat says that a sense of belongingness makes the employees realise that they are bigger than themselves, and hence, “they strive to work hard to understand the ‘Why’ to overcome the ‘How’”.

They come to acknowledge the fact that these little steps will make them ready to face the issues well and they are willing to take ownership without any hesitation.

Citing the example of the crew of an airline, Ramesh S says, “The airline crew owns the airline the moment they begin their duty. This shows in their behaviour towards their passengers on the airplane”.

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