“I wish my team took as much ownership of their work as I do with mine.”
In our experience, getting employees to take agency over their work is a difficulty that many leaders face, but there are steps you can take to overcome that challenge.
1. Openly communicate your vision, strategy, and progress
Leadership that effectively communicates with its employee base is not just a ‘nice-to-have’; it’s imperative for attracting and retaining top talent. In fact, a recent survey of millennials by Deloitte Consulting indicates that open and free-flowing information is the number one differentiator between employees who plan to leave an organization within two years or stay more than five.
2. Let your managers give their employees a substantial say in their work
Ritz-Carlton, Nordstrom, and Southwest Airlines are consistently cited by employees and customers as companies of choice in their respective industries. A major part of this is that individual contributors have broad authority to solve customer issues. This freedom empowers employees, giving them the latitude they need to provide an outstanding customer experience.
3. Build a culture that promotes development and addresses shortcomings
Like most, if not all large companies, Davita Health has a set of values. Unlike most, if not all large companies, Davita’s values were developed and voted on by employees. Because of the broad buy-in, employees call each other out when behaviors fall short. Additionally, Davita tracks developmental goals monthly, not yearly, so employees know what they need to do to improve.
“What do employees experience when they ‘own’ their work?”
We call their experience the ‘Virtuous Cycle of Ownership’, and once present, it yields lower turnover, greater engagement, and more effectiveness.
The virtuous cycle of ownership is a feed forward loop, one that is enabled by strong leadership, culture, and management systems. Once engrained into your company’s culture, it will drive engagement, productivity, and overall effectiveness.
A software developer turned technology consultant, “Elizabeth” recently accepted a position with a new firm. Read on to see what the cycle looks like and how it allows Elizabeth to take ownership of her work.
Last month, Elizabeth started a new job. During her first week, her boss handed her a list of company objectives and asked her:
“If you could wave a magic wand and do anything you wanted at this company, what would it be?”
Putting aside that a perpetually stocked ice cream sundae bar in her office is unrealistic, Elizabeth has several reasonable requests: the chance to learn about everything that her firm does, the opportunity to drive a social impact project, and the time to engage with the local business community.
“Great,” her boss says. “Let’s get started.”
Elizabeth learns that her company has a monthly company meeting. In her second week, Elizabeth goes along to observe. A project team briefs the company on a successful digital strategy engagement. The company’s president reviews goals by geography. There’s Elizabeth’s territory! A VP discusses the company’s work with disaster relief organizations. Elizabeth now has clear line of sight into how her work impacts her company’s overall strategy.
After the meeting, Elizabeth reflects on her objectives. She doesn’t feel anything has been thrust upon her – she can plot her own path, and she knows with the help of her colleagues, she’ll accomplish her goals. She’s accountable to that which she’s identified, and as she learns and grows, she’ll set new goals, and the process begins anew. Elizabeth owns her work.
Judy partners with executives and leadership teams to engage and inspire employees in a way that delivers sustainable strategic results. She brings deep expertise and creative ideas to solve organizational effectiveness issues and closely collaborates in a way that builds internal capabilities. Judy has spent over 25 years consulting in a variety of industries, bringing her expertise in behavior to a wide range of organizational issues including organizational behavior change, leadership, change management, culture and engagement.