Mukund Krishna: Unleashing a sense of ownership amongst your employees

Mukund Krishna is CEO of Suyati Technologies
Despite the leaps and bounds made in the efforts to drive employee engagement and advocacy globally, a 2015 Gallup Poll found that “less than one-third (31.5%) of US workers were engaged in their jobs in 2014.” This particular problem is not unique to the US, but is in fact a worldwide phenomenon. When I started Suyati seven years ago, employee retention and engagement was up there in my list of priorities, along with finding clients.

Over the years I’ve found that a key ingredient to getting your employees engaged is by helping them develop and take ownership of their work. This means helping employees form an emotional connection with their work, something that they feel responsible for. To unleash this sense of ownership amongst your employees, here are 4 key ways that will help:

1) Encourage smart risk taking

Today, to stay ahead of the game, you need to take risks to fuel growth and push yourself in front of your competitors. A great way to do this is by encouraging your employees to take smart risks, as they have the knowhow in their area of expertise to push the company forward. You can encourage your employees to do this by resisting the urge to say ‘No.’ 

Follow Amazon’s example where they have implemented ‘the institutional yes’, where If a person in a non-managerial role approaches a manager with a great idea, the default answer must be ‘Yes’. If the manager thinks otherwise and wants to say ‘No,’ he has to write a 2-page thesis explaining his reasons why. Naturally then, the inclination is to say yes and smart risks are encouraged. This results in employees taking on the responsibility of testing and implementing their ideas, making them feel a sense of ownership towards their work.

2) No penalty for failure

As mentioned before, a large part of feeling ownership is from feeling responsible for it. Therefore, when you are encouraging your employees to take risks, there is a chance that these could fail. After all, that is what the word risk implies. However, to keep your employees feeling happy, engaged and willing to take ownership, don’t penalise them for failures. Rather use this opportunity to help them discover what went wrong and learn from it. 

A great example of this is the Dare to Try award that is held annually by Tata. This showcases risks that were taken by different teams across the Tata portfolio, and recognises and rewards the ‘most novel, daring and seriously attempted ideas that did not achieve the desired results.’

Why is this important? It helps employees recognise what went wrong and where, so that it can be corrected in future ventures, but without them feeling that future risks taken will adversely impact their career. However, be clear that such mistakes shouldn’t be repeated again. This way, they’ll feel a sense of responsibility in future ventures.

3) Freedom to experiment

Stephen Covey, in his book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,’ described that each human has a circle of influence, that is the things we have influence over, such as relationships or the way we work. He noted that those who focused on these things rather than on things that they had no influence over (such as the weather, economy etc), helped people to feel in control of their destiny and had a positive effect on their quality of work. Applying this to employees - giving them freedom to experiment with their ideas will give them control over their ‘circle of influence’ making them feel happier, more responsible and greater ownership for what they do.

A key point to remember when it comes to experimentation is that although you and your employees have a common goal in mind, there may be more than one way to get there so don’t micro manage. FedEx for example, allows drivers to be in charge of figuring out how best to drive their route to serve their customers most efficiently. No one tells them how to do their job, they have the freedom to experiment and complete their routes right as they wish, as long as the end goal of on-time deliveries and customer satisfaction is fulfilled.

4) Transparent culture

Having a high level of transparency in the workplace is paramount for your employees to feel a sense of ownership. Ask them for their feedback, inputs and ideas on team projects and goals, both positive and negative. Encourage them to offer their opinions, especially on key areas that have direct impact on business. Giving them this voice will make them feel valued and will help align their aspirations to be successful with that of the company. 

Having a two-way open communication will also allow you to give them the guidance and boost they need, making it easier for them to take your suggestions on board. This is something that I am very proud of at Suyati, where we have an open door policy for anyone to come in and talk to us about anything, at any time.

Going forward, I believe the key to a united and efficient workforce is where each member feels a sense of ownership and responsibility to the work they have been assigned to do. When that is the case, each employee will produce behaviours that contribute to common goal of getting the job done, in the best way possible. I would love to know how you have been successful in achieving this with your employees; drop me a message.


in Asia Pacific by Deloitte

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