Ownership at Work: A Discussion on Designing and Growing Employee Ownership - CLEO Skip to main content


We continue to fail to adequately compensate most essential workers even as corporate profits remain high and wealth inequality and race and gender wealth gaps persist. Employee ownership has continued to emerge against this backdrop and across party lines as a potential strategy for building an economy where prosperity is more equitably shared. Awareness about employee ownership, however, remains a challenge. Designing jobs and workplaces that include employee ownership can also be difficult and complex and many opportunities for growing the approach remain unrealized in the US.

Businesses looking to start or transition to an employee-owned business face a number of design choices. Employee Stock Ownership Programs (ESOPs), Employee Owned Trusts (EOTs), worker-owned cooperatives, and equity compensation programs each hold different advantages and disadvantages. They can differ in their profit sharing, costs, flexibility, and how workers are involved in decision making. Designing a workplace culture that fully leverages employee ownership’s strengths also requires intention. What drives businesses to choose employee ownership? What factors affect the design and structure of employee ownership and what workplace culture is needed for it to be effective? What lessons can we learn from employee-owned firms about improving job quality and worker engagement? What supports do employee-owned businesses need and how can philanthropy and government help more businesses find opportunities to build ownership into the jobs they provide?

This virtual discussion includes expert perspectives from: Chris Van Hollen, Jennifer Briggs, Todd Leverette, Frank Lindsey, Gina Schaefer, and Jeanne K. Wardford.