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Participatory Management Initiative

¡Para información en español, haga clic aquí!

Do you wish that your employees could see how their actions impact your bottom line? Are you worried about keeping or finding good, motivated workers during the "Great Resignation"?

The Participatory Management Initiative (PMI) is a free program for small businesses in Massachusetts. We've designed it to help you engage your workforce and improve profitability.

If you are a business with 2-20 employees, we invite you and your managers to take part in the spring PMI cohort. Training sessions and 1:1 coaching will be available in both English and Spanish. Full details below.

The Participatory Management Initiative is a 6-session, 4 month virtual training program that helps develop worker participation in small businesses. It’s goal is to strengthen and improve management practices, resilience, and leadership of small businesses in Massachusetts. This training was launched by the Cooperative Fund of New England (CFNE) and the Cooperative Development Institute (CDI).

What is the general concept of Participatory Management? It is a set of democratic, value-based management practices that brings workers into decision-making roles where they organize with other employees and management around shared values, aligning the business with its mission, and creating a vision for the future. It differs from traditional top-down hierarchical management styles, in that workers are encouraged to think about their work goals and responsibilities as part of a larger picture – where everyone's work contributes to the organization's success.

The Participatory Management Initiative is a training program that provides tools for groups to explore the attributes of participatory workplaces: clear mission statements and values, visible and meaningful financial reporting; supervision that develops people; and regular opportunities for input into key decisions.

The 6-session virtual series will

  •     Be accessible to established businesses, regardless of where they are in their management development process. Empower businesses to advocate, plan and implement participatory workplace strategies with the support of peers, mentors, and technical assistance.
  •     Provide a framework that business owners and managers can use to facilitate meaningful employee engagement.

Training Overview

Who is the Training for?

This training is for owners, managers and employees of small, established businesses (2-20 employees), regardless of where they are in their management development process, who want to improve their communication, teamwork, and productivity. It will be helpful for those wanting to build a more democratic workplace.

The 6-session virtual series will is designed to:

  •     Provide training on practical skills and resources that will help trainees develop the knowledge, skills, and relationships necessary to be successful.
  •     Provide a framework that all workers can utilize, and provide tools for employers with a goal to facilitate meaningful employee engagement.

Over the course of six months, we'll work together on five key components:

  •     Communication: Clarifying Roles and Responsibilities
  •     Managing People and Developing Leaders
  •     Open Book Management Part I: Teaching Employees the Books
  •     Open Book Management Part II: Engaging Employees Towards Profitability
  •     Feedback and Review: Learning from Mistakes to Build Innovation

Training consists of:

  •     Five 1.5-hour sessions, once a month (Feb – June, 2022)
  •     Four 1-hour personalized technical assistance/coaching sessions
  •     30 min required homework in between sessions

How Can Participatory Management Training Help Employees?

Participatory management has three main benefits:

  1.     It helps create a culture where people feel invested in and can, in turn, invest in the business.
  2.     It boosts productivity by helping staff see how they benefit when the business succeeds.
  3.     It helps build a sense of workplace camaraderie by valuing workers as individuals who have insight insight and ideas to contribute.

Training Takeaways

In this course, participants will learn to use participatory management processes in small or micro-businesses. In training, you will be able to:

  •     Create a culture that is more participatory by giving employees ownership in decision making
  •     Give employees a voice by using brief but regular meetings where employees from different departments share key data to make decisions and solve problems
  •     Empower employees by providing them with greater responsibility for their work (that is, increasing the span of control)



What is participative management?

Participatory Management, a philosophy and framework for fostering employee engagement, has proven to be an essential management tool that helps business owners, managers and employees to work together more effectively.

Why participative management?

Research shows that participative leadership can help improve performance. In addition, a participative style of management fosters trust and solidarity among employees. This is especially important when there is a great deal of job stress or uncertainty about the future of the organization. Participative management can also help improve employee retention and a sense of well-being. Employee engagement improves when people are involved in decisions and feel like their work has meaning.

When does participative management work best?

Participative management works best when an organization faces problems that require innovative solutions. Teamwork, mutual trust and respect, and clear communication will enable employees to effectively address these issues. People who have a voice in their workplace will be more committed to their jobs, motivated to take the initiative, and more likely to take on new challenges.

Advantages of the Participative Management Style

Initiatives like this can improve efficiency and morale. Employees who feel they have a stake in the business are more likely to feel loyalty toward it, which will result in higher employee retention rates for your company. The conversations this creates about what's working and what isn't also help stop problems before they grow into something bigger.

Is this program only for cooperative or worker-owned businesses?

No! While we encourage co-ops to participate, any business with employees can benefit from more employee engagement. This training allows business owners and managers to learn from the successes of worker-owned businesses, including increased profitability, reduced turnover, and faster growth.

I’m a consultant for small businesses.

Is this course for me? We’re so glad you are supporting small businesses! This program is designed for owners, managers, and key employees of for-profit small businesses, in order for them to benefit from peer support and real-world experience. We encourage non-profit business support professionals to check out the many participatory management tools at the Democracy at Work Institute and the Great Game of Business. Please send a messenger to if you’d like to be notified about our train-the-trainer programs.

I am a business owner with Spanish-speaking employees. Can I get them involved?

Absolutely! We are running this program in English and Spanish, and businesses can mix and match. We encourage Spanish-speaking managers, supervisors, and other leaders to join the Spanish cohort. Spanish-language information and registration are here, or contact