Sharing a Culture of Ownership: What it Means to be 100% Employee-Owned

We hear it all the time in company communications: employee-owners, 100% employee-owned, and employee ownership. But, what does it mean?

At Swinerton, we are all owners. Being an owner isn’t just about owning stock.  Employee ownership is a mindset. And an ownership mindset is an integral part of Swinerton culture, of which employees are all a part, regardless of title or tenure.

“An employee ownership mindset recognizes that top managers and executives aren’t the only ones who make a difference to a business,” said Aaron Yamasaki, Hawaii Division Manager. “I love the concept that every action and interaction I make has a tangible impact on the outcome of our team’s future success.”

Employee Ownership Culture

Our culture is built from the exceptional people that make up our organization. Talk to anyone from coast to coast and you will begin to hear the same key words emerge: safety, open-door policy, idea sharing, innovation, partnership, best-in-class, talent development, passion, operational excellence, etc. And this collaboration, camaraderie, and communication among employees and leadership only continues to improve and strengthen over time.

“I have seen the connections across business units, divisions, and departments grow exponentially,” said Lauren Nunnally, Chief Talent Officer. “I love seeing initiatives where people from various levels and areas of expertise, located in different geographies, come together to solve a problem or capitalize on an opportunity and form long-lasting connections with each other as a result.”

Whether you reside in Hawaii, Texas, or Atlanta, local flair set aside there exists a strong One Swinerton thread of culture. When given the chance to build an office from the ground up in the Southeast, employee-owners moved and steadily built up the culture based on our core values with the support, strength, and resources of a national company.

“When I started at Swinerton in the Denver office almost four years ago, I was immediately impressed with the entrepreneurial spirit shared amongst the local team, across divisions, and with our corporate office,” said Senior Marketing Manager Lonni Grattan, who has since moved to Charlotte.  “As employee-owners, we’re motivated to develop and support our people, encourage new ideas and innovation, and provide best-in-class service no matter our role within the organization. Because of this, there’s unlimited opportunity to grow.”

“Over seven years and three very different offices later, the core components that make us Swinerton are the same wherever I’ve had the pleasure to work. I believe this is the result of our shared vision and values,” added Project Executive George Denise, who recently moved to Hawaii. “We put each other first and strive to do the very best we can, and in doing so we create a unique working experience that more closely resembles a group of old friends or family members than a bunch of coworkers.”

If anything, the increased communication, video conferencing, and the other ways in which employees have stayed connected with each other during COVID-19 has brought us closer together in a collaborative sense than ever before.

As an employee-owned company, our people not only have a personal interest and stake in the success of every project, but a sense of ownership over decisions, results, and performance. This has been critical to our success as we spent a large part of our time this year exploring new methods of working together from social distancing on a jobsite to working from home.

Swinerton’s Employee Ownership

According to the National Center for Employee Ownership, Swinerton is one of the largest majority employee-owned companies in America; of this top list, only 55% of companies are 100% employee-owned. Certified EO describes employee-owned companies as “relatively rare” in their estimate that employee-owned companies like Swinerton represent .

And that’s why, looking back at past vision statements from the turn of the century to the present, remaining 100% employee-owned is always at the top of our list. Employee ownership serves many different goals from building employee’s retirement security to giving employees a greater voice in management of the business.

In our structure, employees have the opportunity to participate in ownership in two different ways.

Collectively, all participants eligible for our retirement program receive company stock contributions made annually to our Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).  They may also be eligible for additional stock contributions sometimes made as part of our 401(k) match. When an employee separates from the company, as in retirement, the value of this stock is distributed to them along with any contributions they have made to their 401(k) plan.

Individually, employees can also be nominated to participate in direct ownership of Swinerton stock through our annual discretionary bonus program.

All Swinerton stock is valued at the same share price and all shares are included in the voting process that ratifies decisions made by the company, including the election of our Board of Directors.

Direct Shareholders, Shared

Being a direct shareholder is not belonging to a secret society.  Currently there are over 600 employees who have been nominated to participate in this ownership program.  While concentration of ownership by any one individual may be capped, all employees are eligible to participate.  The selection process involves a number of criteria including years of service, company profitability, operating group results, and individual contribution and performance, including demonstration of our core values of integrity, leadership, passion, and excellence.

“Becoming a new shareholder, for me, is the recognition of our hard work and positive impact on the company,” said Chad Lewis, Director CRM Operations.  “Most notably though, it is an affirmation of our support of Swinerton’s culture where what we do day to day, is in support of every employee at all levels of our organization.”

Every year since Swinerton first became employee-owned our direct owners have gathered in the city of our headquarters, San Francisco for an annual shareholders meeting.  The year 2020 will be remembered as the first time ever for both a virtual online meeting and for the largest class of new shareholders in our history.

As the executive leadership team gathered together in a broadcast studio live in California, shareholders gathered at their computer screens across the states, texting, messaging, and cheering each other on in true Swinerton style.

No matter where we were, the reinforcement of the core message – being able to affect the company as an owner, rang through clearly and consistently.  Bringing shareholders together, acknowledging our rich past, presenting outside of the box new ideas, and together pointing in the direction of our future.