Action Items for CHROs: Driving Frontline Worker Ownership to Achieve Business Results

Action Items for CHROs: Driving Frontline Worker Ownership to Achieve Business Results


One of the most potent strategies HR leaders can employ to drive business results is fostering a sense of ownership among frontline workers. This concept was thoroughly explored in a recent roundtable in Atlanta at the Transformational CHRO Assembly. HR leaders from diverse industries, including companies like Mercedes Benz, Hostess Brands, REI, Compass Group, and more, shared their insights and strategies for cultivating an "ownership" mindset in their workforce.

Strategies for Cultivating Ownership

Successful strategies to instill ownership include equity programs, purpose-driven culture and empowerment initiatives. For instance, Hostess’s stock purchase program has engaged frontline workers by giving them a stake in the company's success. REI’s focus on shared purpose aligns employees with the company's values and mission, fostering a unified sense of direction.

However, CHROs must navigate challenges such as cultural barriers to delegation, generational differences in motivations and the complexity of equity compensation across global workforces. Tailoring these strategies to the unique needs and values of the workforce is essential.

Potential Benefits of an “Owner” Mindset

An ownership mindset can significantly boost discretionary effort, instill a continuous improvement ethos, and enhance employee urgency and accountability. This mindset can drive business results by creating a workforce that proactively seeks opportunities for improvement and takes responsibility for their roles.

However, CHROs must also manage potential downsides, such as employees feeling overly entitled to have all their ideas implemented or needing help to accept necessary organizational constraints. Clear communication about organizational priorities and constraints is crucial to balancing this mindset.

Employee Ownership Models 

At its core, “ownership” among employees encompasses a sense of financial equity, accountability, autonomy, urgency and responsibility. For frontline workers who often feel disconnected from the outcomes of their efforts, fostering ownership can transform their engagement and performance. Traditional incentives like pay raises have proven insufficient at creating a deeper connection between employees and their work outcomes.

Traditional employee equity ownership models often exclude many American workers, especially frontline employees employed by private companies or companies unable to offer shares. These models typically benefit only those in larger, more established firms, leaving a significant portion of the workforce without access to financial ownership opportunities. 

Salt Labs presents a unique solution by offering an ownership model that any business can implement, regardless of size or structure. This inclusive approach ensures that all frontline employees, irrespective of where they work, can participate and build for their future by just working, all at de minimis cost & burden to the employer.

Action Items for CHROs

  1. Align Ownership Strategies With Workforce Values: Explore purpose-driven initiatives, empowerment programs or financial ownership models like Salt Labs, tailored to the workforce's unique values and motivations.
  2. Address Cultural Barriers: Assess and mitigate cultural barriers that hinder the delegation of decision-making authority. Foster an environment of psychological safety where employees feel empowered to take ownership.
  3. Solicit and Act on Employee Feedback: Continuously gather and act on feedback from frontline workers. Demonstrating that their voices matter and their efforts lead to tangible outcomes can significantly boost their sense of ownership.
  4. Balance Ownership With Organizational Constraints: Promote an ownership mindset while clearly communicating organizational constraints and priorities. This balance helps manage expectations and avoid potential conflicts.

By embedding these strategies, CHROs can cultivate a workforce with a deep sense of ownership and drive significant business results. The journey to instill this mindset may be complex, but the potential benefits to engagement, accountability and overall performance can drive bottom-line impact.