Mary Ann Beyster Explains How Empowered Employees Translate Into Business Success


How can organizations allow employees to contribute to and benefit from the company’s success?

What happens when workers are empowered in their work environments?

These questions and more were addressed when Mary Ann Beyster, president of the Foundation for Enterprise Development, guest spoke in Dean Susan J. Schurman’s labor studies and employment relations course, Leadership in Work Organizations on April 17 at the Labor Education Center.

Ms. Beyster explained to students that organizations can give employees the freedom to create the kind of business and environment they would be passionate to work in while also giving employees ownership of that same organization and the rewards commensurate with their contributions.

Mary Ann Beyster speaks with students in the Leadership in Work Organizations course about empowered employees. 

"Having stock ownership doesn't automatically transform an organization into empowering employees to participate via voice or vote," states Ms. Beyster. She believes that “if you give employees the benefit of the doubt and ask them to raise the bar, they will.”

Lisa Flynn, a graduate student majoring in Labor and Employment Relations shared her takeaway from Ms. Beyster’s talk. She says, “When employees have an ownership stake in a company and know that their opinions and ideas are valued and that the decisions they make will affect the bottom line, they exhibit a higher degree of loyalty, commitment, and productivity. It seems to me that this is a win-win situation for companies and employees.”

The basic premise behind employee empowerment and the success of employee-owned companies is captured in the film, We The Owners, which was produced by the Foundation for Enterprise Development. The documentary highlights the success of several companies and their empowered employees. Scenes from the film were shown to the Leadership class.

“I really enjoyed the film and points they wanted viewers to understand,” says Rebecca Cushing, a first year LER graduate student who is originally from Colorado, where two of the companies highlighted in the documentary are located. She believes that companies need to take into account their geographic location and company culture when considering profit sharing.

Mary Ann Beyster and Dean Susan J. Schurman. 

“I think the working environment of the east coast will have to slow down and focus more on the employees than the profits in order for profit sharing to work here,” says Cushing.

Ms. Beyster was pleased with students’ response to the film. She says, "SMLR students recognized the essential need for leadership throughout the companies highlighted in the film and discussed many practical HR implications such as sharing business and compensation information, designing bonus structures, and linking ownership to high-performance work practices."

For more information on We The Owners, visit For information on The Foundation for Enterprise Development, visit http://www.fed.orgThe Foundation for Enterprise Development (FED) was founded by Mary Ann Beyster’s father, Dr. J. Robert Beyster, in 1986. FED promotes the concept of broad-based, participative employee ownership and entrepreneurism. Programs include inter-disciplinary research and curriculum development; program management and technology transition support to government research and development agencies; publications, training and tools for small business and entrepreneurs. In addition, the Beysters have been generous supporters of SMLR’s Beyster Fellowship program as well as creating the J. Robert Beyster Chair in Employee Ownership occupied by Professor Joseph Blasi. 

Leadership in Work Organizations is taught by SMLR Dean Susan J. Schurman. The graduate course provides an in-depth examination of leadership theories and their practical application —with a focus within work organizations, including labor unions. For more information, visit