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Building Quality Jobs Through Ownership

Building Quality Jobs Through Ownership

by Areen Jalajel

Story Highlights

  • Gallup and Ownership Works create a win-win culture for employees and leaders
  • The benefits of giving employees a voice and stake in the company
  • Employees and leaders enjoy a trusting and ownership-based work culture

We live in a world of widening wealth and emotional inequality -- and the lack of having a great job is a big part of that inequality. Unfortunately, according to Gallup data, only 23% of people are thriving at work.

Further, four out of 10 U.S. workers report that their job has an extremely negative (7%) or somewhat negative (33%) impact on their mental health. Young workers are struggling even more: Nearly half (47%) of employees aged 18-29 say their job has negatively affected their mental health.

The economic cost of low employee wellbeing is steep: Poor mental health diminishes performance, engagement and loyalty.

Many organizations are already feeling the negative consequences of the wellbeing crisis, as evidenced by concerns with quiet quitting and continued unrest reflected in employee engagement. Retention is a common challenge, as many workers leave to find a workplace that invests in their future and pledges to protect their wellbeing.

If leaders don’t act quickly, challenges with turnover and attracting talent will only worsen.


Peter Stavros, the Founder and Chairman of Ownership Works and Co-Head of Global Private Equity for KKR, believed that change was possible, and all that was necessary was the right solution.

Stavros had spotted a foundational problem: low trust and poor incentive alignment between employees and leaders. He imagined a work culture where employees and leaders had mutual respect, equitable opportunities for growth and a shared sense of purpose. In this type of workplace, employees and leaders are united by a genuine desire to achieve the same goals. They are pursuing the same objectives.

After all, if leaders could build relationships with employees beyond the basis of money, they could gain their trust and cultivate intrinsic motivation. They could create a culture of shared ownership.

To make that vision a reality, Stavros established Ownership Works, a nonprofit organization designed to increase shared ownership at work. Ownership Works helps companies build an ownership culture where every employee has the opportunity to become an equity owner with a stake in their employer’s long-term success. In this win-win scenario, employees are inspired to perform because they are not only financially incentivized to promote the company’s success, but also motivated to do so by a culture of ownership.

Through partnering with Gallup, Ownership Works is creating great places to work that generate superior financial returns for businesses, investors and employees alike.

Ownership Matters

A culture of ownership involves rights and responsibilities on both sides -- for the company and the employee. In a culture of ownership, employees think and act like true owners -- motivated to help the company grow. They also benefit from the upside: They receive real equity participation. In other words, they’re psychological and financial owners.

For leaders, earning trust and psychological ownership requires listening to employees, valuing and responding to their input, and allowing them to reap the rewards of their discretionary effort. When leaders listen and share feedback, employees can understand how they affect outcomes through their work. Just as important, employees learn how the company’s success equates to their own personal financial gain.

Giving employees a voice also conveys respect and shows that leaders care, which promotes a culture of engagement. Ultimately, this creates quality jobs -- jobs where employees feel a sense of connection to their work and contributions.

Quality jobs fan the flames of engagement: People are more enthusiastic and committed when they have a quality job and workplace -- one with fair income, benefits and responsibilities. They take pride in their efforts. They don’t just perform better; they have better lives.

To get there, leaders need to start asking questions and involving employees. This means seeking employee feedback and ideas, delegating decision-making when appropriate, and providing employees at all levels of the organization with regular updates about company strategy, performance and achievements -- that is, treating and empowering employees as stakeholders. When you maintain an open, two-way dialogue, employees see how their contributions make a difference and how their discretionary effort meaningfully improves their outlook and financial wellbeing.

In turn, leaders gain a workforce of engaged employees who truly care about the company’s success.

The Outcomes of Ownership

Engagement and an innate sense of ownership for the company’s success go hand in hand -- and they drive key outcomes. Decades of Gallup research prove that engagement is highly predictive of business, employee and customer outcomes.

What’s more, companies that engage their employees experience dramatic changes in corporate culture and performance, including improved profitability, retention and safety outcomes. Engaged employees are 50% less likely to be watching for or actively seeking a job and seven times as likely to strongly agree they would recommend their workplace as a great place to work.

Employees also benefit: People with quality jobs have higher wellbeing, positive emotions and feelings of support. In fact, engaged employees are 46% more likely to be thriving in wellbeing. Simply put, a quality job can lead to a quality, thriving life.

Further, Gallup discovered a major additive effect of employee engagement and employees’ sense of ownership for their company’s success. When both employee ownership and engagement are low, only 21% of employees say they plan to stay with their current company. On the other hand, when employees feel a sense of ownership and their engagement is strong, 97% report they plan to stay with their company.

Because engagement and ownership are cumulative, investing in employees’ engagement can dramatically strengthen their sense of ownership and discretionary effort -- and ultimately, unlock incredible performance.

Change Requires Listening

Getting there requires asking the right questions: Leaders need to collect meaningful, actionable feedback from employees about their engagement needs. Understandably, many leaders are intimidated by the prospect of measuring every employee’s voice -- not to mention knowing what to measure. That’s why Stavros chose to partner with Gallup.

Gallup is proud to partner with Ownership Works to help establish shared ownership as a leading business strategy. The partnership focuses on building a culture of ownership through strong, sustainable employee engagement.

The Gallup Q12 survey is fundamental to this endeavor. The Q12 is a time-tested employee engagement metric that is proven to support lasting transformation. Measuring employee engagement and ownership is just the beginning: Using engagement data to spark manager-employee conversations that boost employees’ engagement is a major part of the journey.

Manager development is another best practice for cultivating psychological ownership and engagement. Managers are the single greatest driver of engagement: They account for 70% of the variance in team engagement levels. When managers receive transformational development opportunities, they can communicate more effectively and deepen employees’ sense of enthusiasm.

The best leaders strengthen managers’ abilities to purposefully plan, listen actively and take action based on engagement results. In fact, Gallup and Stavros found that managers who are skilled at creating engaging work environments are seen as stronger and more effective at encouraging ownership.

The “Ownership Works” Movement

Through Ownership Works, Stavros is scaling the ownership solution to other public and private companies. As a nonprofit organization, Ownership Works partners with leaders to increase prosperity through shared ownership at work. “This movement is about working in concert to create a future of work where employers and employees can win together,” said Anna-Lisa Miller, Executive Director of Ownership Works.

Every day, Ownership Works helps leaders shift from managing people as liabilities to empowering them as assets.

Ownership Works is advancing ownership in multiple ways, including helping leaders structure and implement broad shared ownership programs. And crucially, Gallup and Ownership Works help leaders build cultures of ownership that engage team members.

Globally, leaders recognize that employee wellbeing is central to providing engaging, equitable jobs. Compensation is vital; workers also demand a fair and empowering employee experience. That is, to inspire performance, companies need to support employees financially and give them a quality job.

The benefits speak for themselves: A culture of ownership improves employees’ quality of life and provides financial returns for everyone -- businesses, investors and employees. Ultimately, ownership contributes to a more inclusive and equitable economy for all.

The bottom line is that performance surges when you give employees a sense of ownership and align their interests with those of management and shareholders. Shared ownership is a win-win scenario that helps companies and employees grow together, become more engaged and build stronger cultures.

Learn more about Ownership Works.

Create a culture where employees can thrive.


Areen Jalajel is a Portfolio Director for Gallup’s U.S. Enterprise business and leads Gallup’s overall partnership with Ownership Works.

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