Ellie Mirman's Startup Marketing Blog

How to Make Your Employees Feel Like Owners

Posted by Ellie Mirman

Jan 5, 2015

key-stockIn my seven years at HubSpot, I felt more like an owner than an employee. It might sound a little strange, as I started as a junior marketer and it’s always been clear who the founders and executives are, and I was neither. But I felt like an owner. I was committed like an owner. I thought about HubSpot in my off-hours (if you could even call them that). I worked so passionately that, when one of my projects didn’t get launched, I was legitimately heartbroken.

HubSpot was masterful in establishing this incredible commitment from its employees - remarkable in today’s age of no-bullshit millenials. Looking back, here are the key elements I experienced in making employees feel like owners.

1. Make every employee a shareholder. Well, here’s a simple one. Make the employees actual owners. It might be a small degree of ownership, but it is ownership nonetheless. When I started and got my initial stock grant, I knew nothing about its (potential) value. But I got it regardless. Letting employees take part in the company’s success in a real way aligns them towards creating long-term value, which is exactly what the owners want as well.

2. Listen to ideas from all levels and roles. To this day, HubSpot listens to and takes ideas from any employee, regardless or tenure or department. Say you are a new employee coming right out of college, having that type of impact on the company is remarkable. If you are one of the employees whose idea is made a reality, you feel incredible ownership (including a sense of commitment and pride) over that piece of the business.

3. Give ownership over projects. This level of commitment over a piece of the business can happen not just for those projects that came from employees but also projects that are given to employees. At HubSpot, whether you’re an intern or an executive, you likely have complete ownership over at least one major initiative. Again, this cultivates commitment and pride over something significant in the business.

4. Measure every project by bottom line metrics. As the company gets bigger, it’s easier and easier to forget how XYZ project relates back to overall business growth. That’s why, as much as possible, each project is still measured in relation to its bottom line impact. On the marketing team, that means measuring the result of a single nurturing campaign on revenue, or measuring the impact of appending data to our database on productivity per rep. This can make the value of each project much more real to each employee working on one seemingly small piece of the business.

5. Celebrate wins together. From 10 employees to 750, the company celebrated hitting major goals together. Whether the goal was a sales target or a product launch, every department came out to celebrate because every department was acknowledged in contributing to that achievement. This created a bond between all employees and a pride in the business that exceeded hitting your own targets. 

Altogether, these factors contributed to employees feeling more like owners than hired help. This inspired people to work harder, innovate more, and rave about the company nonstop. Everything a true owner could hope for from their employees.

Topics: startups, work life, leadership, management

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