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Mini-cast 240: Talking to Young Workers About Employee Ownership

The EsOp Mini-cast: Talking to Youn Workers About Employee Ownership

Bret Keisling spoke by Zoom to an ESOP company's employee owners meeting and was asked for advice on how to talk to young workers about employee ownership. He shares his answer here.

Don't focus on the ESOP as a "qualified retirement plan." Instead focus on the fact that employee owners build wealth and equity over time. He suggests having young owners talk to their non-employee-owner peers who don’t get annual statements showing an increase in wealth and equity. Finally, EO often addresses many of the issues young people want in jobs: fair compensation, meaningful work, and the opportunity to participate in the workplace.

Want to get the conversation started at your organization? Bret Keisling can help. Click here to schedule a free, no obligation conversation.

... or watch the video below.


Mini-cast 240 Transcript

[00:00:00] Bret Keisling: Welcome to the ESOP Mini-cast. Thank you so much for listening. My name is Bret Keisling, and as it says on my business cards, I'm a passionate advocate for employee ownership.

[00:00:18] This week, I had the pleasure to appear, by Zoom, to a meeting of employee owners for a great company in New Hampshire. It's part of their monthly education series. And I was so happy as part of Employee Ownership Month to be asked to visit with them and share some thoughts.

[00:00:35] So, I spoke for a while about my view of employee ownership and how it fits into our communities and how it makes jobs better and a lot of things, if you're a regular listener, you've heard me talk about on various podcasts.

[00:00:46] But at the end, we opened it up for questions and I got a couple of great questions. And one of them in particular has led to this Mini-cast. I was asked, "How do you talk to young people about employee ownership?"

[00:00:57] There were a couple of people in the audience who had only been with the company for a couple of months, and I believe it was their first kind of professional job, if you will.

[00:01:06] So, here are my thoughts about how to talk to young people about employee ownership.

[00:01:10] First of all, let me tell you something that rankles me every time I hear it. Every time I hear someone disparage young people generally, not just in the workplace, but generally, it makes me crazy. When I hear things like they don't want to work, or they want everything handed to them on a platter, or they don't know how to dress for success, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Those are the same kind of things that people said about my generation when I graduated high school way back in 1981. So, we’ve got to give the young people a break. They're not that much different than everybody else when they were young.

[00:01:47] Second of all. It's very important when talking about employee ownership, particularly with young people, to back off from, "Well, it's a qualified retirement plan." Somebody in their twenties, sometimes in their thirties, sometimes in their forties, sometimes in their fifties, but definitely in their twenties are not going to be motivated by "This will be held for you for your retirement."

[00:02:12] The language that I use, and it seemed to resonate a little bit, is you're building wealth. It's in the form of a qualified retirement, that is true, but what you're doing is, really, is building wealth.

[00:02:24] And what I suggested to the young folks who were in the audience today is that they find their peers, people they grew up with, talk to those folks about the jobs that they have and you'll discover that if they're not at an employee-owned company, these other young folks, aren't getting any share statements, any value statements, et cetera, et cetera. So, I think it's really important to contrast the employee-owned jobs with the non-employee-owned jobs.

[00:02:49] And the other thing that I think is relevant to acknowledge: very few people work because that's all they want to do. We have to work. We need the jobs. So, we might as well have jobs that are fulfilling, but also provide for our long-term needs.

[00:03:07] Then here's the final point that I like to make, and I've talked about this in various podcasts. I believe everybody, regardless of their age, wants three things from a job. First. They want to be fairly compensated for what they're doing. Not necessarily asking to be made rich, but fairly compensated for what they're doing.

[00:03:27] They want to feel like they're doing something meaningful. This company I spoke to today is a manufacturing facility. They make things that they sell to their customers that go on other manufactured pieces. If they went to their customers, this employee-owned company and said, "Hey, is what we're doing important to you?" Oh, my goodness! It's critical. So, in other words, somewhere along the line, figure out what brings meaning to what you're doing. And they want to feel like jobs have that purpose.

[00:03:58] The third item is they want to feel like their voices are being heard. That doesn't mean in the workplace that they get their way every single time. If they have suggestions, they want the sense that they're at least being heard and oftentimes, responding to the suggestion yay or nay goes a long way to making people feel empowered. And with young people, as I hear what young people are talking about what they want in jobs today, work-life balance comes up a little bit and I'm a fan of that, but they want to feel like their voice matters and is respected. And that often takes place in an employee-owned company that has the right culture.

[00:04:38] So, of course, there are challenges with any segment of a group of how to motivate them and how to get them on the same page, so to speak. But I've got to tell you. I look at the young people today in generally I am optimistic. They're just as talented and as hardworking as my generation was and as every other generation. And by the way, all the old folks who are complaining about the young people, we were all young once, too.

[00:05:04] So, just wanting to share those thoughts with how to talk. to younger workers about EO. With that we'll wrap up today's episode of the Mini-cast. Thank you so much for joining me.

[00:05:14] This is Bret Keisling. Be well.


[00:05:19] Bitsy McCann: We'd love to hear from you. You can find us on Facebook at EO Podcast Network and on X [Twitter] @EsOpPodcast. This podcast has been produced by Bret Keisling for the EO Podcast Network. Original music composed by Max Keisling. Branding and Marketing by BitsyPlus Design. And I'm Bitsy McCann.

Standard Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are my own and don't represent those of my own firms or the organizations to which I belong. Nothing in the podcast should be construed as guidance or advice of any kind in any field and the fact that I mentioned an organizational website or an advocate or a company on a podcast does not reflect an endorsement, but if you've heard your name or your group's name mentioned on this podcast, I'd love to have you come on and talk about it yourself.

A note on the transcript: This transcript was produced by Descript, an automated transcription service. While it has been reviewed by The EsOp Podcast, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the transcription. Please refer to the original audio when citing sources.


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