Job Quality Tools Library > Section 4: Strengthening Practices to Improve Job Quality > Tools: Worker Voice
Originally posted: September 22, 2023
Last updated: September 22, 2023
Section 4, the core of the library, includes tools designed to address specific components of job quality. Once organizations have determined their job quality priorities, they can turn to these tools to shift practices in the areas they have deemed most urgent, either in their own organizations or in the businesses with which they partner.
We’ve organized tools into categories that reflect the job quality attributes most commonly cited across the job quality frameworks and definitions included in Section 1. These attributes include wages, benefits, scheduling, legal rights, equity and inclusion, opportunity to build skills and advance, supportive work environment, worker voice, and employee ownership. Each attribute also includes sub-categories for ease of navigation.
↓ Tools and Resources Below the Box ↓
- Job Quality Tools Library Homepage
- About This Library
- Section 1: Understanding Job Quality
- Section 2: Assessing Job Quality
- Section 3: Engaging Businesses on Job Quality
- Section 4: Strengthening Practices to Improve Job Quality
- Benefits: Health
- Benefits: Paid Leave
- Benefits: Education
- Benefits: Retirement Savings and Financial Wellness
- Legal Rights
- Equity and Inclusion
- Opportunity to Build Skills and Advance
- Supportive Work Environment
- Worker Voice
- Employee Ownership (you are here)
- Section 5: Monitoring Improvements in Job Quality
- Special: COVID-19 Response Tools and Resources
- Index of Tools by Field
Tools for Employee Ownership
Too many Americans feel left out of our nation’s economic growth. Employee ownership, including employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) and worker cooperatives, offers a pathway to an economy based on more shared prosperity, in which workers profit more off of their own labor. In addition to supporting higher job quality for workers, a large body of research shows employee-owned companies have greater resilience, higher employee productivity, and less turnover. Interest in employee ownership is growing due to its potential to improve job quality and drive business performance, and as millions of owners prepare to retire and sell their business.
Many different types of organizations support employee ownership through outreach and education, business advising and coaching, technical assistance, financing, training, and more. The following tools are intended to help users gain a broad understanding of employee ownership, become familiar with the steps involved in employee-owned startups and conversions, learn about how companies can build a strong ownership culture, and help users identify opportunities to support ownership at their organization.
Learn About Employee Ownership
What’s It For: This is a framework for helping business owners understand three main ways to transition a business to employee ownership: worker cooperatives, employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), and management buy-outs. This tool may also be used by practitioners who work with businesses — especially small businesses — to increase awareness of employee ownership as a tool for transitioning businesses as owners retire. It can also help inform employees seeking to join or push for values-based workplaces.
What’s It For: This interactive guide helps business owners understand the role an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) could play at their company. It provides a general overview of the structure of ESOPs, links to external resources, and describes the nuances of ESOPs in different corporate structures (C-Corp, B-Corp, or other form). Users of the tool are able to customize the path through the guide in accordance with the type of corporation they want to transition to employee ownership.
What’s It For: A directory of key organizations and working on employee ownership. It includes governmental and nongovernmental organizations, including at the state, national, and international level.
Who’s It For: Employers
What’s It For: This free educational program is intended to help minority and female business owners understand the role transitioning to employer ownership may play in succession planning. Course modules cover employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) and worker cooperatives. Registrants will gain a broad understanding of employee ownership, including transition financing and facilitating an ownership culture that maximizes employees’ capabilities.
What’s It For: This 15-hour course, which can be completed over three weeks, provides an overview of employee ownership, including its benefits for employees and businesses, utility in succession planning, and effect on the economy. Enrollees can track their understanding through quizzes and a final assessment. A shareable certificate is provided upon completion.
The Nuts and Bolts of Becoming Employee-Owned
What’s It For: This toolkit complements the Democracy at Work Institute’s “Becoming Employee-Owned” guide. It provides a basic overview of employee ownership and its benefits, including brief examples of businesses that operate under various forms of ownership. A checklist allows owners to self-assess their progress toward moving a business to employee ownership, from the exploration phase to the completion of the transition.
What’s It For: This is a high-level, generalist guide for starting a worker cooperative or transitioning an existing business. In addition to providing an overview of the principles and function of cooperative ownership, the guide provides an explainer on developing business ideas and decision-making processes. This guide is useful to workers, advocates, and those engaged in outreach to existing values-based employers.
What’s It For: The Innovative Finance Playbook provides an overview of the financial fundamentals of an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) conversion. Users can access case studies of capital funders and companies that underwent transition. The playbook also lays out what criteria a company should meet to be viable for employee ownership.
What’s It For: The Employee Ownership Toolkit is a step-by-step guide for transitioning a company to cooperative ownership. The experience of Smith Mountain Company is described in detail, helping bridge the gap between theory and practice. Definitions of certain technical terms, particularly concerning finance, are also provided.
Tools To Build Ownership Culture
What’s It For: Central to effective employee ownership is active, genuine engagement of employees in workplace decision making. This guide from the Democracy at Work Institute provides an overview of the pillars that cooperatives should center when framing an engagement plan. Brief examples are provided, as well as links to further information.
Who’s It For: Employers
What’s It For: This guide can help managers and employee-owners at cooperatives, employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), and firms seeking to improve democratic practices. Users may focus on specific topics within the guide, or they may follow it from beginning to end. It is divided into themes, with each section including activities, meeting tips, an assessment, checkpoints, and case studies.
Tools for CDFIs
What’s It For: This brief provides an overview of the role of impact investing for employee ownership, including the role of community development financial institutions (CDFIs). It shows how employee ownership transitions advance environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles and should therefore be supported by impact investors. Case examples model the effectiveness of CDFIs in financing employee ownership.
Tools for Workforce and Economic Development Organizations
What’s It For: This tool provides step-by-step guidance for economic and workforce development agencies to think through implementing an employee ownership strategy. It details the different forms of employee ownership, linking out to resources that allow readers to deepen their understanding. It also contains a repository of resources and case studies for interventions to support employee ownership that economic and workforce development agencies are uniquely positioned to make.