Here's a development that should trouble you as a CEO: More than half of employees across the United States are not engaged with their work.

That stat comes from a Gallup survey from last year. It's a problem because poor employee engagement hurts productivity and can end up hurting your bottom line. Fortunately, Harvard professor Francesca Gino writes in Harvard Business Review, there is a surefire way to improve engagement: Make your employees feel like owners

You should certainly think about substantial changes like employee stock options, paying employees for their ideas, and revenue sharing models. But Gino's research finds that smaller, more personal changes can also create "psychological ownership," or "the experience of possessing and being psychologically tied to an entity." 

To help increase psychological ownership--and in turn, engagement and productivity--you should encourage your employees to personalize their workspace with family photos, allow them to choose their title and role, give them their own teams, and allow them to own ideas, Gino writes.

Another benefit of fostering an ownership mindset in your employees: It makes them more generous. In one study, Gino and colleagues designated some subjects as owners and some as residents, and assigned them to cubicles. The owners were asked to choose posters to hang in their cubicle, while the residents didn't get to choose a poster. Next, each participant was asked to split $10 with another subject, and told they could keep whatever money they didn't offer. The result was that the students designated as owners gave out more money--$4.08 on average, while residents gave $2.94 on average.

The outcome resulted "because ownership satisfies basic psychological needs we all share as human beings (such as having an identity and feeling [of] belonging)," Gino writes. "When that need is satisfied, we're more generous towards people and more likely to offer them help if needed."

Published on: Dec 8, 2015