Guest Blog: Beyond Employee Engagement…

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According to a recent study here in the UK, only around a third of employees are ‘actively engaged’ at their place of work, with more than half of them (64%) feeling like they have more to offer in terms of both skills and talent.  From our point of view, this seems like a huge waste of potential, productivity, resources and will of course have a knock on effect to the wellbeing of these employees – after all, we all enjoy feeling appreciated and valued.

Imagine for a moment how engagement levels could soar if everyone within a company understood how their business worked, what the collective goals were and how exactly how profits were generated, just as the business founders do; in other words, if all employees behaved as owners with a real stake in the future of the company.  Pretty exciting when you think about it in those terms isn’t it?

Some thirty years ago, an American named Jack Stack, along with 12 of his colleagues, bought out a failing division of the company they worked for, International Harvester, in the US. The company they bought was Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation (SRC).  Stack and his colleagues quickly clocked that traditional management practices would not be enough to save the company in the timescale available to them and that new thinking would be needed to generate success.  And although SRC became 100% employee owned within just a few years, Stack realized that the mere act of holding shares in the company was not enough to make people think and act like owners.

A new management methodology was thus born.

Stack felt that running a business was akin to competing in a game: the elements are indeed similar when you look at them.  Every game needs a team, rules, scores and results, just like a business.  There’s a playing field: the market, and there are competitors, and winning and losing! Stack used this analogy to explain to his staff how they were going to turn this failing division around and make it profitable.  He called his method ‘The Great Game of Business’ (GGOB).  His team were excited by this prospect and using the GGOB methodology he was able to tap in to their enthusiasm, creativity and on the job intelligence.

And if holding shares was not necessarily bringing out ownership behaviours in the SRC workforce, sharing the financial side of the business with them and “playing the Great Game” certainly did.  If an employee owner understands how his company generates its profits and what part he or she plays in that, they will naturally have a very tangible grasp of what needs to be done to keep driving the business forwards.

The SRC story is testament to the success of the GGOB methodology. Stack and the team have transformed the company from failing division to thriving enterprise with a share price a staggering 34,800 times higher than when it was bought out of International Harvester.  Which means if you’d invested $1,000 in SRC 30 years ago, your investment would today be worth more than $3.4m!

It worked for Stack and SRC and it could work for you too.  GGOB has a strapline “unleash the entrepreneur in every employee”.  Is it time for your business to do just that?

(It is worth noting that this methodology can be applied to non employee owned companies too, so long as employees are able to share in the benefits through a well devised bonus system.)

The Great Game of Business UK is led by Arend Welmers and uses tried and tested Great Game tools and methods to deliver tangible improvements in business performance.  If you are interested in learning more about The Great Game of Business and how it could benefit your business, please contact Arend to arrange an initial no-obligation chat:

Jack Stack will be the key-note speaker at this year’s Employee Ownership Association annual conference.