6 Steps to Getting Employees to Take Ownership

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Are your employees doing the minimum required to get the job done? Or, do they own the work, their projects, the outcome? Are they on the lookout to do things better, faster, cheaper?

The employee who takes ownership goes beyond what is required. You would trust that person to not just complete the task assigned, but to identify obstacles, notice results, adjust when needed and make you aware of these things without being asked.

Why do some employees take ownership without much encouragement?

How can a manager encourage ownership in everyone?

  1. Make sure skills and resources match expectations. Does the employee have the skills needed to do the job? Do they have the time? Do they have the authority? The confidence? The resources? Consider if there are missing elements blocking a successful outcome. Don’t undermine confidence by putting employees in situations they can’t control or don’t have the skills to complete. Additionally, when you’re hiring, identify job candidates who understand what ownership is and can give examples of times they’ve displayed this quality in previous work or school experiences.
  2. Clearly identify objectives and checkpoints. This gives everyone a clear understanding of where you’re headed, suggests themuse.com. Involving employees in outlining those objectives can also help with ownership. Setting priorities and establishing processes without getting input from the workers involved, shows them their input isn’t important. A two-way conversation, followed by your asking the person to summarize the outcome and how he or she is going to achieve it helps ensure you’re both on the same page, suggests hbr.org. Establish measurable milestones and checkpoints along the way that keep you in touch with progress. Help the person stay on track.
  3. Delegate authority, not just work. Ericchester.com suggests that you give employees a leadership role when possible so they can practice leading. If they’re the expert on a particular component of a project, let them take the lead in a meeting where that topic will be discussed. Also when you delegate, be clear about expectations, explain why the task must be done and where decision-making authority lies.
  4. Let employees solve problems. “There is a strong temptation as a manager to help your employees by taking on their problems and solving them for them,” suggests hrzone.com. Resist. By tackling these issues themselves, employees develop confidence. The next time someone shows up at your door to unload their latest problem (assuming it’s not the newbie on your team), ask “what were you thinking of doing to solve this?” Obviously they’ve come to you because they’re not sure what to do. But your goals are two-fold. Set the expectation that you’re looking for solutions and help build their decision-making confidence. (Remember to be open-minded—there’s usually more than one way to solve a problem, and an employee will quickly become frustrated if you reject every idea they have.) If they need a little guidance, help them consider small steps that will get them headed in the right direction.
  5. Express trust and confidence. Naming the qualities and experiences they have that will be useful in finding a solution will build their confidence.
  6. Hold them accountable. Reward success. If you’re reasonably certain you did everything outlined above and the person doesn’t deliver, there needs to be a consequence, particularly if this is a pattern of behavior.


Getting employees to take more ownership of their work begins with finding the right people and making sure you both clearly understand the objectives and the “why.” Then agree to keep tabs along the way and resist the temptation to solve every little problem that crops up. Show trust. And reward a successful finish.

Agree? Disagree? Add your insightful comments here.