How Feelings of Ownership Motivate Your Employees

Employee engagement has been of foremost importance for most companies. While it is easy to engage employees that are naturally enthusiastic and excited about their work, it can feel like an endless struggle to engage uncaring and disinterested employees.Organizations can benefit from higher employee engagement and lower turnover rate by instilling the feeling of ownership in one’s company.
In the mid 1970’s The United States workforce faced all-time low productivity rates. Searching for a way to re-align employees with the mission of the company, led to the creation of the employee stock ownership plan. Said plan would give employees a personal stake in the company, and in turn, would motivate those employees to work harder. The concept seems like a reasonable and easy fix for employee disengagement. However, a series of studies conducted by organizational researchers found varying, and ultimately inconclusive, results.
These unexpected results sparked interest among researchers, which led to the finding that the perception or feeling of ownership was more important than actual ownership in the company. Therefore, any implementation of a stock ownership plan will fail if it does not elicit the feeling of ownership. This feeling, termed “psychological ownership”, is the sense that the company becomes apart of the workers self-identity. Studies found that even the most disengaged and apathetic employees felt some level of psychological ownership when certain job characteristics were present. Psychological ownership leads to greater customer satisfaction, higher quality products and services, lower turnover, and greater commitment from employees.
So, what are the necessary job characteristics to inspire psychological ownership? Autonomy and task identity. Autonomy is the extent to which an employee can use his/her own judgement and discretion in the workplace. When job autonomy is low, engaged and passionate employees feel 74% more ownership in their jobs compared to their disengaged counterparts. When autonomy is high, the difference between the two groups shrinks to just 9%. Task identity is the extent to which an employee carries out a project from start to finish. When high task identity is implemented, the gap between engaged and disengaged employees shrank from 45% to 11%. The simple introduction of these two workplace characteristics can impact a company’s productivity levels and overall financial performance. In short, autonomy and task identity created a sense of psychological ownership that did not exist before, and that can produce a plethora of positive attributes to a company.
Sources: Forbes