Employee Ownership in America

Actually, there is rather more to this book than a mere relation and analysis of the study (which consisted of questionnaires given to workers, interviews with company officials, and the measuring of firms’ performance by such standards as growth in number of employees and in sales). The authors begin by explaining the concept of employee ownership, which they define in a broad way to include everything from workers owning nonvoting shares of stock to worker cooperatives where each worker has one vote in electing directors or making actual business policy. They then summarize previous research on employee ownership before they describe the methodology and results of their own study and draw conclusions. Throughout, the authors are at pains to be clear and precise. They even include a short discussion of basic statistical concepts so that readers without a knowledge of statistics can understand their methodology and results.

The main conclusion is that the feature of employee stock ownership plans (ESOP’s) that most determines their success is the amount of shares contributed by the company to such a plan: in other words, the amount of remuneration, in the form of shares of stock, which an employee receives from his employer. This is not the only factor that positively affects workers’ attitudes (worker participation, for example, also plays a role), but the basic ingredient to a successful ESOP is rather substantial and regular company contribution of stock to their employees through an ESOP.

This result, while surprising to the authors, does not disappoint them. Their attitude throughout is one of pragmatism, of moderation, of trying to show how employee ownership can be practically implemented and how it can improve a company’s performance. While the authors are believers in employee ownership (they all are or were connected with the National Center for Employee Ownership), they are reformers rather than revolutionaries. Everyone interested in the concept of employee ownership, no matter where he or she is on the political spectrum, should find this book to be of value.