When we founded Verit Advisors 12 years ago, we intentionally embraced five values established over our 20 years of advising companies driven by the culture of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). These values - Integrity, Partnerships, Excellence and Commitment And cooperation – Listed prominently and proudly on our website overview page. Many clients have told me that they chose us as an ESOP consultant because we lead and live by our values.
Two recent surveys concluded that ESOPs and their employees have weathered the pandemic better than comparable private and public companies. This stronger performance, I believe, demonstrates the value of the principles and standards that many ESOPs live by. Together, these values are a huge advantage in today’s more dangerous world, especially since a third new survey indicates that employees are attracted to “faith-driven” values and employers.
Organizational psychologist Jack Wiley, for example, believes that we are in the midst of significant quitting, with 55% of people in the workforce reporting an intention to look for a new job within a year. But his research in the past 10 years suggests that ESOP personnel may not be qualified to look elsewhere. His research covering 10,000 American workers found that nearly 40% want support, understanding, and appreciation from their managers and their companies. Research has found that employee ownership meets employee needs.
As I’ve written in the past, today’s business environment might be ideal for making the 2020 decade an “ESOP decade” — for demographic and economic reasons. The pandemic has prompted Baby Boomer owners of successful private companies, many of whom have reached or reached retirement age, to consider selling their company or withdrawing a stake in it. Economically, the positive elements include abundant equity, low-cost debt financing, attractive valuations for private companies, and the potential for higher tax rates to sell a tax advantage to the ESOP.
More on that later. First, though, consider how ESOPs and their staff have fared better during the pandemic. A study done by the SSRS Social Survey for the Rutgers-funded Employee Ownership Foundation found that employees of ESOP companies with 50-500 employees experienced fewer economic hardships than those in traditional companies:
Employment decreased only 4.8% in ESOPs versus 19.5% in other countries.
· One-third of ESOPs cut hours for two-thirds.
Twenty-seven percent of ESOPs cut their salaries, compared to 57% of others.
· ESOP companies were more likely to embrace work-from-home options, with 81% of ESOP sending workers home versus 60% elsewhere.
ESOPs were better able to maintain work allocation prior to the pandemic, with 20% of ESOPs adopting work sharing versus 41% in the others.
In addition, the research confirmed that insistence It is a better performer, noting that ESOP programs outperformed non-ESOP programs during the Great Recession of 2008.
A second survey, conducted by John Zogby Strategies on behalf of employee-owned S Corporations of America, found that ESOP employees experienced significantly less financial distress during the pandemic and had more stable jobs, better housing security, and better retirement savings than other ESOPs. his peers. This study documented that non-ESOP employees reported downsizing or job losses six times more than their ESOP counterparts. None of the ESOP employees surveyed were late in paying their mortgage or rent compared to more than 25% of their non-ESOP counterparts.
In articulating the values that drive their responsibility to employees and their communities, ESOP programs are at the forefront. A new study by Edelman, an authority on behaviors that builds trust, finds that today’s dominant employee is “belief driven,” as amenable to seeking employment and staying with a company because it is driven by values as much as a consumer is to buy and hold on to a brand for the long term.
In the current talent wars, this values-based approach proves an advantage for employee ownership. Given the statistically superior track record of ESOPs against non-ESOPs in bad times and retired business owners considering selling all or part of their business, it is best that they seriously explore the value – and differentiation of values - of an ESOP.