When you hear the word co-op, a farm or college campus likely comes to mind. But these seemingly rudimentary business structures may be on to something. According to synthesized research by an Economics PhD at Leeds University Business School, giving employees a direct stake in the company actually makes businesses function more effectively. People work better and smarter, making the organization as a whole more efficient.
You don't need to be a worker-owned co-op to benefit from its perks. Here are three co-op inspired ways to engage your employees to inspire productivity and pride in your organization.
1. Involve employees in strategic decisions.
In a co-op, workers share management and ownership of the business. This means that every employee has a voice in the way the business operates. Of course, while designing by consensus has its downsides, the structure actually helps the business avoid friction that might exist at conventional organizations when managers or leaders are posing directives to their staff.
While it may not be feasible to include every employee in every decision, try to include specific employees or teams in discussions about initiatives that may impact them. One way to do this might be to share outcomes of meetings with them in a way that invites feedback. This gives employees a deeper sense of responsibility over decisions and how they pan out. Another tactic could be to offer bonuses based on company, rather than individual performance.
2. Choose talent over short-term goals.
Because co-ops are run by their employees, every hire is a long-term investment. Business decisions keep employees' best interests in mind. According to the research, co-ops are better at preserving current jobs while making long-term strategic decisions. In a situation where a company needs to cut costs to meet a quarterly goal, a co-op may choose to slow down production rather than cutting jobs .
When making decisions for the company, put people first. Imagine that your employees are your most important customer, and determine how you might serve them to in turn serve the company.
3. Give back to your local community.
The United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives creates programs to train and incubate new U.S. co-ops. The organization has seen how co-ops benefit not only the employees within their organization, but also helps develop the communities in which they operate. Involvement in local communities gives co-ops a positive image (rather than being a faceless corporation), and gives employees of co-ops a sense of pride in the work their organization is doing for the local environment.
Whether through frequent volunteering efforts, longstanding relationships with a community organization, or company match programs, facilitate relationships between your employees and local communities to emphasize the human side of your organization.
Though every company cannot turn into a co-op, there are certainly reasons for every company to get inspired by them. Consider bringing co-op-like operations into your company. As employees understand the benefits, they are highly likely to cooperate.