Herman Miller: Ownership Culture Done Right

February 21, 2017

While stock options and collaboration are not unusual concepts in business these days, Herman Miller perfected these ideas and emerged as the leader in ownership culture. Learn how this furniture company turned employees into “working stockholders” and positioned itself for success. 

When well-executed, a culture of ownership breeds higher productivity, lower turnover, better hires, and bigger profits. Top executives at Herman Miller know this first-hand and credit employee ownership for their own success. The furniture company, with a net income of $98.1 million, offers its employees discounted stock purchasing, companywide stock options, 401(k) stock contributions, and a generous profit-sharing program, to name a few. In doing so, it nurtures a culture where the focus shifts away from budget and onto long-term improvements and economic value. 

In stark contrast to some of its competitors, employee-owners receive monthly updates on company performance and frequent reports on projected quarterly bonus payments. Additionally, employee-owners have a strong voice. In the 1980s, when lagging company sales threatened to shut the company down, employees designed the solution that turned it around. 

For the mid-sized business, a true ownership culture, like the one at Herman Miller, can fuel strategy by providing an environment where employees have a personal, financial stake in performance. Instead of an environment where rules guide individual behavior, employees in an ownership culture are influenced by values and the cumulative impact of their actions on the bottom line of the company. This owner mindset breeds intuitive self-regulation, cost-consciousness, and a firmer understanding of how personal performance affects overall
company success.