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3 Gifts for Your Stock Plan Education Efforts (and One BIG Bonus)

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3 Gifts for Your Stock Plan Education Efforts (and One BIG Bonus)

By Emily Cervino, Fidelity Stock Plan Services

As we enter a popular gifting season, I’m packaging up some gems uncovered in the most recent NASPP and Fidelity Equity Compensation Outlook survey. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve been working together on a series of dynamic surveys to help stock plan professionals better understand some of the biggest challenges they are facing.

In the most recent survey, we addressed a perennially favorite topic – stock plan education.  With hot off the press data, I’m sharing three things that you can use right away.  And like a great gift, I hope you’ll think fondly of us every time you pull out these gems.

Email, Email, Email Everywhere

Email continues to be a core channel for stock plan education. Other than email, we see about half of companies using video.  After that, other mediums drop off dramatically, with less than a third using internal collaboration tools, about a quarter taking advantage of company or HR blogs, and single digit use of text, social media, and interactive content.

Companies that report using additional communication channels, like video, internal collaboration tools, and blogs also report that participants have a better understanding of their equity programs. Among companies that use these channels, the percentage that report a high level of understanding among participants doubles for equity awards and increases by 1.5 times for ESPPs, compared to those that do not use any additional channels.

I get that opening up a new channel of communication with your plan participants is a long-term project. For today, I want to focus on quick improvements to your education program that could have a big impact. And given the heavy lift that emails are asked to take in stock plan education programs, it is important to do as much as possible to enhance their effectiveness. So, my three gifts will focus on email effectiveness.

1. Make a List!

Lists aren’t just a great way to keep track of who you want to buy a gift for, lists (or listicles!) are an easy way to improve your stock plan communications, yet only 16% of companies employ a listicle format in their emails. That means that 84% of you can put this nugget to work right away. 

What’s a listicle?  It is content presented in the form of a list (like, for example, “3 Gifts for Your Stock Plan Education Efforts” – see what I did there?) Listicles organize content in a way that requires minimal effort to consume and sets the expectation right up front (everyone has time to read about just three things.)  The opportunities abound:

  • 3 Things You Need to Know about ESPP
  • 4 Steps to be Ready for Vesting
  • 5 Tax Mistakes Employees Make with Stock Awards        

When using a listicle in your emails or other stock plan communications, remember… short and sweet.  Everyone has time to read 3, 4, or 5 things, but “32 Things to Know About Your Stock Award” might not have the same result!

Learn how the listicle format has been a “game changer” for T-Mobile in the Summer 2021 issue of The NASPP Advisor newsletter or check out our podcast with Aftab Ibrahim of T-Mobile.

2. Picture Perfect

You’ve all heard it… pictures speak a thousand words.Yet only 18% of companies are using images in their emails.Images can lead to significantly better email performance. And, think about your young employees, who have been surrounded by image based social media for most of their lives!Consider how an image can be used as an example of a concept, like vesting or purchase frequency, and let your image do double duty.

3. Test for Success

Just 4% of companies use a subject line tester (even though such graders are plentifully available for free on the internet and take less time to use than reading this blog!)  What is a subject line tester?  It is a handy little tool that assesses your proposed email subject line by several criteria that improve results… like helpful vs. negative words, action words, character count, word count, and scanability.  I just ran a sample subject line through and quickly improved my score from 67 to 82 to 93!

Bonus! Aim for the Right Target

I hope the three gifts above make your stock plan education (and all your communications) more effective.  But it wouldn’t be fair of me to not share a major disconnect that we spotted in survey results.  Nearly all respondents ranked “Improve participant understanding of equity compensation and how the plan works” as the top objective of their educational programs, while “Help participants make the most of their equity compensation to meet financial goals” ranked last. 

Yet, research shows that when employees understand how their equity awards can help them accomplish their financial goals, the equity programs are more effective.  When employees include equity in their financial planning, they are far more likely to feel loyal to their employer, to value the plan highly, to have improved financial confidence, and even to accept awards.*

Is it time that we rethink stock plan education to help employees better connect their stock awards to their own personal financial well-being? 

​P.S. —While many companies use managers to assist with their education program, this usage does not correlate with increased participant understanding. Learn more about this and the rest of our findings. You can still complete the survey to get full access to the results.

As head of Fidelity Stock Plan Services' Industry Relationships and Thought Leadership, Emily drives connections with the stock plan industry and focuses on developing data-driven insights on equity compensation plan design, usage, and effectiveness based on quantitative and qualitative research to help plan sponsors make more informed decisions about their equity plans and processes.

With over 20 years in the industry, Emily is recognized for deep knowledge of and enthusiasm for equity compensation. She is a frequent speaker and author on topics to help educate employers, advisors, and the media. Emily is a board member for the Certified Equity Professional Institute, member of the NASPP Executive Advisory Committee, and a recipient of the NASPP Individual Achievement Award. She is a Certified Equity Professional and holds Series 7 and 63 securities registrations.

*Fidelity Stock Plan Services, Unlocking Success, participant research June 2020
The NASPP and Fidelity Investments are not affiliated

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