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Developing Ownership and Commitment in the Workplace Published: Monday, February 8, 2010 8:00 am By: Ramón L. Rivera, President & CEO

When leaders at every level know, grow, inspire, involve and reward people in the right ways, they will be much more likely to foster a psychology of self responsibility and ownership in their respective organizations. Under such circumstances, people exhibit a tendency to give more value-adding discretionary efforts.  That extra effort is the difference between good and great customer service, and between good and great results in general. It is the difference between playing around the problems and solving them, and between wasting thousands of dollars and saving millions.  In other words, commitment and ownership are key independent variables that make the difference between ordinary and extraordinary performance. 

For any organization, the most valuable source of high performance and competitive advantage is a workforce that consistently performs at its best.  But this happens only if people are engaged in everything they do.  For around twenty (20) years, we at QBS have researched what it takes to achieve high levels of people's ownership and commitment and helped companies unlock people's potential for improving business results.  Today, more than ever, people's attitudes and actions are unavoidably linked to how well organizations perform.

Ownership and commitment are deep and broad connections that people have with an organization that results in a willingness to go above and beyond what is expected of them to help the company succeed.  The connection has to occur at three levels: the rational - how well people understand the needs of the organization and the expected roles and responsibilities; the emotional - how much passion and energy they bring to their work; and to what extend positive feelings emerge from the work experience; the motivational - how important, challenging, and meaningful people perceive their work is.

Our own research and practice reveal that all the above three connections have to happen to create true ownership and commitment.  We have also looked deeply into what drives those connections. Although the evidence states that the relative importance of some factors may change across organizations, there is a core set of common elements. Those are: 1) The senior management's sincere interest in people's well-being,  2) The opportunity that people have to improve skills and capabilities,  3) The organization's reputation for social responsibility, 4) The opportunity people have to participate in decisions that affect their work, 5) The quality of the relationship with immediate supervisors, 6) The existence of a fear-free work environment, 7) An individuals own readiness to set high personal standards and to accept challenging work assignments, and 8) The organization's encouragement of innovative thinking.

Today's employees want to be challenged, they are willing to work hard; and they are coming to understand that they must take an increasing degree of responsibility for their own employment experience.  Most organizations have a ready, willing and capable reservoir of talent, energy, and dedication.  But it's up to them to tap it in meaningful ways. Discretionary effort doesn't just materialize.  It is largely up to organizations themselves and their leaders - to elicit that effort.

Our research clearly shows the primacy of the organization as a whole (versus the individual manager) in creating the conditions that drive commitment and ownership.  A systemic approach is required to enable an array of engagement drivers that can unleash people's energy in ways that are meaningful to them and to their organization.  Commitment and ownership are the fuel that will drive your people and your organization to succeed.  As the world of business becomes increasingly complex and competitive, those emerge as key independent variables.


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