What is Employee Ownership?

Employee ownership distributes the rights and responsibilities of ownership more broadly.

Employee ownership is transforming America’s economy and it’s easy to see why.

Good for Workers

Employee-owned companies create life-changing wealth for workers and employee-owned certification ensures that companies put people first.

Good for Businesses

Employee owners are committed to the success of the business. This results in higher productivity, stronger customer relationships, and faster growth.

Good for Communities

Employee-owned companies are rooted in local communities, providing stable jobs and strengthening the local economy. Even when times are tough.

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There’s more than one way to be an employee-owned company

Businesses of all types and sizes have become a part of the employee-owned movement.

Thanks to its flexible and adaptable nature, it’s easy to find a way to build an ownership culture. Whether your business boasts thousands of employees or just a few.

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Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs)

Most American employee-owned companies are ESOP companies. An ESOP is a retirement benefit plan…

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Employee Ownership Trusts (EOTs)

EOTs, also known as Employee Ownership Purpose Trusts (EOPTs) are quickly gaining traction as an innovative...

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Worker Cooperatives

Worker cooperatives are democratically owned and governed by their employee-owners. Typically, a company has...

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Direct share ownership and equity compensation

Across America, more companies are turning to direct share ownership or equity compensation structures to...

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Ownership Concepts

Ownership can create wealth and success for your employees, and in many cases, it contributes to a higher quality of life for them and their families. But it’s not always just about the profit—there are rights and responsibilities to consider, too. Typically, these fall into one of three categories.


All ownership structures are about sharing the wealth with the workers who make a business successful. In an employee-owned business, a worker gets their own piece of the pie either through profit sharing, share or option grants, or company stock ownership.

A key notion across all forms of employee-ownership is that wealth sharing must be broad-based. In other words, access to ownership must be open to every employee in the company on a reasonable timeline, and concentration of ownership must be limited.

Operational Decision-Making

At some employee-owned companies, workers play a role in nominating, electing, and potentially serving on the board of directors. At companies with majority employee governance, workers effectively control the organization and management is formally accountable to the workforce. For instance, worker cooperatives are governed by workers who elect the board democratically (on a one-person-one-vote basis). Some companies take this even further and have employees vote on major strategic decisions, though today this approach is rare.


Many employee-owned companies set up practices that expand employee participation in decision making. These practices may increase the role of employees in setting the company’s overall direction, encourage employees to generate new product and service ideas, or simply offer greater autonomy over day-to-day work.

Often increased involvement in decision making goes hand in hand with education about financial literacy and open book management. The idea is that providing workers with transparent access to information about the business and the knowledge required to use this information can help them better think and act like owners, which ultimately improves the company’s performance.

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