Employee-owned companies are somewhat rare in Indiana, and rarer still within the tech community. Out of 183 reported Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) companies in Indiana, only a handful are recognized tech companies, notably Cummins, Markey’s, SEP and Telamon.

As of this summer, however, a new employee-owned company is joining the ranks—data analytics and business intelligence consulting firm Onebridge.

What is an ESOP?

Employee Stock Ownership Plans are similar to 401k retirement plans where the primary investment is in the stock of the sponsoring employer. Employees are not usually required to make out-of-pocket salary contributions to the ESOP, but the better the company does, the better each employee’s retirement savings does. So the plans are often viewed by management teams as natural incentives that are a very powerful employee engagement and motivation strategy.

Currently, there are 6,243 U.S. companies that have an ESOP totaling nearly $1.4 trillion in value, according to The ESOP Association based in Washington D.C.—a fairly small percentage of the 5.6 million total U.S. employers. The impact is not small, however, because more than 10.6 million people participate in ESOPs nationwide, which is larger than the combined workforce of the U.S. auto industry.

The Onebridge ESOP story

Onebridge has more than 300 professional consultants deployed across the country focused on arming businesses with the skills they need to boost their business intelligence strategy and turn their data into a valuable and usable asset. They are official partners with top BI and Data Analytics technologies such as Tableau, Microsoft Power BI, and Snowflake.

The company was founded 15 years ago in Indianapolis by Paul Rothwell and Karen Cooper, who both wanted the flexibility to prioritize their families and to work with the people they choose. It’s a purpose that has earned Onebridge six consecutive “Best Places to Work in Indiana” awards since 2015.

Onebridge celebrates its 2019 “Best Places to Work in Indiana” recognition (photo taken prior to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic).

“We have worked hard over the past couple years to become the kind of collaborative and transparent workplace that fits naturally into the ESOP model,” said Co-founder and CEO Rothwell. “We are committed to building the kind of organization that attracts and retains the best people in our industry—and nobody cares more about service and success than owners.”

A talent attraction advantage for Onebridge

Employee tenure at tech companies nationally ranks at or near the bottom depending on the source. Even most of the household name tech giants struggle to achieve enough loyalty among employees to get them to stay more than the average of about 18 months. There are exceptions. According to Business Insider, Netflix, Alphabet, Salesforce, Oracle, Apple, Adobe and Cisco all have average employee tenure over three years, but most companies are only able to keep talent for between one and three years before they leave for better opportunities.

Kymberli Findley, vice president of talent acquisition, and Christina Nash, chief people officer at Onebridge, explained that their goal for the company is to build long-term strategies for talent retention, which have the potential to strengthen overall company growth. They also believe that the ESOP model naturally resonates with those who have a vision for long-term financial stability.

“Typically, those attracted to ESOP companies such as Onebridge are also those who desire to be part of a bigger picture, who strive to understand the value of their contribution and effort, and who thrive in an environment where they can impact the future direction of an organization giving greater meaning and reward to the work they do,” wrote Christina Nash in an emailed response.

“Culturally, the ESOP unifies a sense of purpose, offering a connection from our day-to-day work to the organization’s strategy, and allowing team members to hold themselves and each other accountable for results,” she continued. “This perpetuates a high-performance culture, ultimately creating success for all members of the value chain: our people, our company, and our clients.”

Kymberli Findley acknowledged that there are very few ESOPs within the tech sector locally and throughout the Midwest. “Data science and analytics talent is at a premium here due to rapidly growing demand” she wrote. “Given the market saturation and competition, an ESOP provides a unique advantage to attracting top talent and retaining top performers in a rapidly changing tech-ecosphere. An ESOP further accelerates outcomes for employees and clients, because all members are deeply connected, committed, and incented to deliver world-class client experiences and outcomes.”

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