Mini-cast 67: Engaging & Empowering Employee Owners

We turn to our archives for some great ideas from former producer Brian Keisling including idea boards, sharing information, and ways to make sure employee owners are appreciated and motivated.


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You can find the full, original version of this episode in our archives: Mini-cast 26: Ideas for Employee-Ownership Engagement.

Mini-cast 67 Transcript

Brian Keisling: 00:00 Welcome to The ESOP Mini-cast, a great way to wrap up the week.

Bret Keisling: 00:13 Hello, my friends. Thanks for listening. My name is Bret Keisling and as it says on my business cards, I'm a passionate advocate for employee ownership. In today's episode we're going to go back about one year to our archives and we're going to bring you some really basic but powerful ideas to encourage and empower employee owners. I hope you'll take the time to listen, but remembers this as an archive episode. You'll hear the voice of Brian Keisling who was our producer at the time and he worked for Cap Trustees. So as you'll hear the references to Cap Trustees know that they are outdated and at the end of Brian's segment we'll have new contact information. Thanks for listening. Hope you enjoy.

Brian Keisling: 00:56 Hi, everybody and welcome to The ESOP Mini-cast. This is Brian Keisling with Capital Trustees and on today's episode I just want to talk a little bit about ideas on how employee owners can become more fully engaged with their ESOP. The most successful ESOPs are the ones with participants who are completely involved and committed to making their company as good as it can be. And so I just wanted to go over some things that we've seen before that you can think about and ponder for your own company. Obviously none of these are things that you have to do, but maybe they can either inspire you to come up with something new or if they are things that you want to try yourself, you're certainly welcome to do that.


Brian Keisling: 01:36 So, in our travels with Capital Trustees, we see a lot of companies and we see a lot of what works and a lot of what doesn't. And so a couple of things that I've personally seen that I found to be really useful for an employee owned company is for example, an ideas board. That way an employee owner can come up with their own idea on how they can improve the company in whatever way they feel that it could be better and submit that idea to be taken seriously and have them feel like they're heard. Now, what was interesting about the ideas board that I saw at a company up in new England was that it left room for no rejection of an employee owner. So it was separated into different parts. First and employee owner would come and they would write down their idea on a piece of paper and put it in the section of the board. That was just a submitted idea. And then when that idea would get reviewed and every idea would get reviewed, it would be placed either in one section where yep, that's a great idea, we're able to implement it and no problem. Or if the idea needed work, it would be put in another section of the board where they would come back to the idea, find ways to tweak it, but not outright dismiss the idea as either good or bad. It's just something that was interesting. It needed a little more time to be thought over and so it would be considered. And I think that was a really interesting way of having every participant feel as if there was no bad idea. If you've got something for your job, you know you're spending your life coming to work and really trying to build something up with your ESOP family. It's important that you feel like you're heard and that upper management cares about what you have to bring to the table. So by letting people come forward with these ideas, with the understanding that no matter what that idea would at least be considered and talked about I think was a really encouraging way to get these participants to become a little more involved.


Brian Keisling: 03:31 Something else that might be interesting to you and your company is how much information is shared with employee owners. There's this concept of open book management that we've heard about on the podcast before. A couple of times we've heard from companies that engage with open book management companies that don't and some that do sort of a middle ground thing and basically the general idea that we've heard discussed on the ESOP Podcast before is as upper management, how much information are you going to share about The company with participants? We've talked to some companies who share pretty much everything. They say, these are the finances of the companies. Here's our balance sheets. Everything that you could know about what's going on financially with the company and how it relates to your job, we're going to share with you.


Brian Keisling: 04:20 And we've seen companies who do that once a year. They sit the employee owners down and say, Hey, this is confidential but it's important to the company and therefore it's important to you. And if you have any questions you can follow up and ask.


Brian Keisling: 04:33 We've seen examples where employee owners have this constant access to all of that pertinent information and we've seen examples where management comes together and decides, okay, what are things that we do feel comfortable sharing? What are things that aren't really relevant to an employee owners day to day job and coming up with their own comfort level for how much information they want to share.


Brian Keisling: 04:56 But something that we have seen is that when employee owners feel like they're really part of it, like they're in the know and they're not just coming to work and not really realizing how their role plays into the company as a whole. It can really improve how they approach their job, it can increase productivity, and it's an interesting thing to consider just to see if it's right for your company.


Brian Keisling: 05:19 And then one final thing that I wanted to talk about that it can help improve employee ownership participation is just do employee owner appreciation something. We've seen companies who once every six months we'll throw a party or every spring they'll have a barbecue. We've seen one company who when an employee owner becomes vested in the ESOP, they have a personalized bobble-head made. You've stuck with this ESOP, you've stuck with the company and now you have this little memorabilia for you to mark the level of time and commitment that you put in here. And what was interesting there is we talk to employee owners who had only been at the company for a year or two and they were already planning what clothes they would wear for their customized bobble-head. They got really into the idea, they were super jazzed about it, and it was a really unique and interesting way to keep that engagement, keep that interest, and really make sure that that commitment is there for the long haul.


Brian Keisling: 06:19 So obviously those are just a couple ideas, but hopefully that gets the gears rolling in your own mind for your company about ways you can make people say, hey, this ESOP thing is cool. I want to be a part of it and go from there.


Bret Keisling: 06:32 Okay. That concludes the segment from Brian Keisling. I'm so grateful to Brian. He's my son, as many of you know, and the fact that there's so much quality content in our archives makes me grateful with The KEISOP Group, but also proud as his father. So thank you very much for listening. Here's how to reach us.


Bitsy McCann: 06:51 We'd love to hear from you! To contact us, find us on Facebook at KEISOP, LLC and on Twitter @ESOPPodcast. To reach Bret, with one "T", email Bret@KEISOP.com, on LinkedIn at Bret Keisling, and most actively on Twitter at @EO_Bret. Again, that's one "T". This podcast has been produced by The KEISOP Group, technical assistance provided by Third Circle, Inc. and BitsyPlus Design. Original music composed by Max Keisling, archival podcast material edited and produced by Brian Keisling, 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.

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