Building a Culture of Ownership in the Workplace

By Gema Sundstrom

March 19, 2021

Culture of Ownership in the Workplace

Fostering a Sense of Ownership in the Workplace

There are certain personality traits you can never quite see from an interview with a potential hire. Responsibility and a sense of ownership for the work you do can, however, be fostered when an employee has a sense of purpose and finds joy in what they do. Here are some tips for you to foster a sense of ownership in the workplace, helping your team work towards goals successfully.

Taking Ownership

When employees take ownership of their work, every project receives the same care and attention of a passion project. They take pride in their work, taking on projects knowing that they’ll serve as a reflection of their abilities rather than evidence of their obedience to superiors. A sense of ownership in the workplace promotes accountability and innovation, saves time and produces quality results. Here’s how to cultivate one.

Define Your Values

From the start, every company should define their values, inform their employees of them, and work them into day-to-day procedures, from hiring and firing to workflow and attendance policies. Building a culture of ownership requires giving employees a certain amount of independence, so you’ll want a strong value-based foundation for them to build upon.

Say you assign an employee to redo a page of the company website. They’ll need to know whether you prioritize innovation or professionalism. They should already know whether it’s the type of environment where teamwork and active participation in the office demonstrates commitment or if the bare minimum is sufficient.

If your goal is for employees to be independently motivated representatives of your company, they’ll need to see the company values in action around them. Employees can’t live out a company’s values if they’re not sure what they are.

Don’t Micromanage

Micromanaging is the antithesis of an ownership culture. It kills innovation, discourages independence, and wastes time. When someone is signing off on your work every step of the way, you lose a sense of accountability, and they waste time checking over your work. Only by giving your employees the freedom to work independently will you see them take the type of pride in their work that inspires higher quality end products.


You can’t do it all, and you shouldn’t have to try. By delegating tasks you allow employees to take ownership over projects. Giving employees increased responsibility will motivate them to impress you, take ownership, and cultivate their leadership skills for the future.

Focus On Ends, Not Means

Ownership in the workplace is all about quality end products, not monitoring when or how employees work towards those goals. If you interrupt their every move to tell them how you would do it, they’ll learn to follow directions, instead of problem-solving.

Instead, let them chart their own path towards the end goal. Maybe that means a lot of trial and error. Maybe it means working remotely once in a while if that helps them focus more. The goal is to have employees that are motivated to do whatever it takes to accomplish their goals, not employees sitting at a desk doing what you tell them to do.

Measurable End Goals

Create clear, attainable goals for employees to work for. Having a clear picture of the endgame encourages problem-solving. Without these metrics, employees can get confused and discouraged by a lack of direction.

Explain the Why Behind Tasks

Employees are not children. If you want something to be done well, the “because I said so” explanation is not the best route. Obedience may get things done, but it won’t inspire innovation, creativity, or problem-solving. Employees need to understand the purpose behind a task if they’re to be motivated from within. Explaining the “why” behind a task can transform it from something they have to do because they were told so, to something they’re excited to succeed at.

Positive Reinforcement

Never overlook the power of recognizing success. When cultivating a sense of ownership at work, congratulating employees on a job well done will reinforce that they should take pride in the good work they did.

Plus, it can create a ripple effect. Employees will see how their colleagues are praised for taking ownership, and be inspired to do the same.

Constructive Feedback

Give your employees space to problem solve on their own, but don’t hesitate to offer suggestions for future work. If you give zero feedback employees may end up feeling lost and discouraged. Instead, compliment what they did well, and empower them with the tools to do better.

Lead By Example

This one’s a no-brainer. Mission statements and emails from HR can only do so much. If you want employees to be independent and accountable, you have to do the same.

Listen and Coach

Creating a sense of ownership is all about cultivating leadership. If you want independent employees, you can’t spoon feed employees all the answers. Listen to their problems, and instead of solving them for them, pose questions and offer examples of similar problems you’ve overcome. Nudge them towards a solution while resisting the urge to take over for them. It may be hard in the moment, but it will pay off in the long run.

Promote Teamwork

Ownership doesn’t mean employees shouldn’t use each other as resources. It means only that individuals take responsibility for their work, knowing that the end product will reflect back on them, instead of completing tasks only because they’re told.

Encourage employees to bounce ideas off of each other, share resources, brainstorm together and collaborate. Two heads are better than one.

Rethink Performance Assessment Metrics

Many experts recommend using Residual Cash Earnings (RCE) to determine an employees compensation. According to , RCE “measures profits after cash operating costs, taxes and a required return on the assets used by the business...If they spend wastefully, RCE will decline and a portion of the value destruction will come out of their compensation without any ability to negotiate out of it. And if they generate wealth, they will get a definitive share of that too.”

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Give Employees a Stake in the Company

One way to promote ownership is literally giving employees a piece of ownership in the company. When they’re personal financial success is tied more deeply to the company’s success, they may just think twice about submitting a mediocre project or upgrading their expensed flights.

Got all that? Let’s review:

  • Define Company Values
  • Don’t Micromanage
  • Delegate
  • Worry About What Not How
  • Attainable End Goals
  • Make The Why Clear
  • Positive Reinforcement
  • Constructive Criticism
  • Be An Example
  • Be A Coach
  • Teamwork Makes The Dream Work
  • REC
  • Offer Stock In The Company
Gema Sundstrom
Gema Sundstrom

Office Manager at Kisi