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5 Tips for Communicating with Stock Plan Participants in 2021

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March 25, 2021 | Jennifer Namazi

5 Tips for Communicating with Stock Plan Participants in 2021


The dramatic changes in workplace format over the past year likely have staying power. As a result, one of the top priorities within organizations for 2021 is employee communication.

It’s not surprising that communication with employees is more important than ever. With workers scattered away from the central office hub, there’s a reliance on digital interactions and electronic avenues to share information and collaborate. There are side effects of increased electronic messaging and interaction, though. Among them: oversaturation and exhaustion. A whopping 83% of employees report being disengaged at some level.


"A whopping 83% of employees report being disengaged at some level."


The migration of the workforce home is not the only driver behind the need to evolve communication strategies. A powerful combination of generational workforce changes and technology enhancements introduced a pressing need for communications to adapt even prior to the pandemic.

We know that communication is vital in keeping employees engaged. But do you know exactly what tactics to incorporate into your participant education strategy for 2021? The following are practical tips you can implement to develop modern communications that are sure to resonate.

 

5 ways to engage your employee stock plan participants in 2021

 

1. Facilitate instant access to information, resources and action steps.

Various studies report that employees spend an average of 2.5 hours a day searching for what they need and this translates to frustration. Your stock plan participants are tired of the hunt – even if their interest is initially captured.


"Employees spend an average of 2.5 hours a day searching for what they need and this translates to frustration."


Start with the end in mind. Is there a digital enrollment form to complete for your Employee Stock Purchase Plan? When and how does that grant need to be accepted? When you craft your communications, think ahead to the final action that you want the participant to take and make THAT information easily accessible from anywhere.
 

2. Think mobile first.

Millennials now comprise 50% of the worldwide workforce. That number is projected to be 75% by 2025. Internal communications need to adapt to the news consumption habits of millennials. Forget the long emails and PDF FAQ documents. Think mobile content first for your stock plan communications.


"Millennials now comprise 50% of the worldwide workforce. That number is projected to be 75% by 2025."


3. Make video a must component of the communication approach.

Employees are 75% more likely to watch a video than read text. If video hasn’t found a dominant spot in your communication tool arsenal, it needs to take that leap in 2021.

The good news is that it’s easier than ever to make engaging videos. There are many external firms that specialize in innovative videomaking – some may already have relationships with your organization via Marketing or other departments.


"Employees are 75% more likely to watch a video than read text."


If budget is a concern, modern technology makes it easier than ever to pursue a DIY path for creating videos. If you choose this route, you’ll need a decent camera (Go-pro and newer cell phone cameras could do the trick). In addition, give attention to your audio and lighting so you can deliver the quality necessary to connect with your audience. Finally, video editing sounds intimidating, but there are a number of free and low cost services that make editing intuitive for the average person.

The DIY path is great starting point, even if you intend to engage an outside partner for long term video production.


4. Get visual.

Beyond videos, make sure your communications include visuals and infographics. Aim to tell a story, not just send a stream of one-way text.  


"Aim to tell a story, not just send a stream of one-way text."


One note on storytelling: while the term “visual” represents the literal – actual images or things to look at, visual can also mean creating a story through a combination of modes to bring a message to life.
 
What stories from stock plan participants could you bring to life? Perhaps its an image, video and text with an employee’s story about how the ESPP helped them achieve a financial goal. Or, a participant who shares their initial confusion about what restricted stock units are, but then describes how gaining that understanding led to the realization of their value as an employee. The storytelling possibilities are endless, and bringing those experiences alive through visual formats will elevate participant engagement.
 
At the NASPP, we are conducing a series of issuer case studies, where we are hearing real-life stories behind equity compensation practices – including challenges and successes. Have you found success in communicating with stock plan participants? Share your story with us.


5. Tailor communications to avoid overload.

Yes, an easier path is the one-size-fits-all approach: send everything to everyone. But, if your participant doesn’t engage with the information, what good will that do?  

Tailoring your communication to the audience’s specific situation can increase the chances that they will digest it. For example, instead of a broad email message to all employees about the upcoming ESPP enrollment period, perhaps there are three versions of the communication that aim to cut directly to the specific status of certain employee groups:
 

  • Communication Version #1: Employees who have never enrolled in the ESPP
  • Communication Version #2: Employees who are current participants in the ESPP
  • Communication Version #3: Employees who used to be enrolled, but are not current participants in the ESPP

"Tailoring your communication to the audience’s specific situation can increase the chances that they will digest it."


Tailoring communication to these three groups is fairly simple. Create a “main” resource that addresses all the facets of enrolling in the ESPP. Then, make modifications in messaging based on each audience’s specific needs.

The first version is sent to employees who have never enrolled in the ESPP and is likely to contain more information about the plan and how to enroll.

For employees who are already enrolled in the ESPP, their version may need only minimal details about automatic re-enrollment into the next offering period and what they need to do to make changes.

The third group of employees, who have previously been enrolled, may simply need an invitation to re-enroll.

Rather than have all participants read or skim through a lengthy communication sent to all three groups, some minor changes in messaging can eliminate a hunt for information and give the participant a concise message that is relevant and engaging.


BONUS TIP: Don’t be afraid to make communications entertaining. 

Insights about your stock plan don’t have to be mechanical and boring. Brainstorm ways to bring some fun to the message. One idea is to invite your C-suite executives to make an appearance. While this may take some convincing, the reality is that employees like to see their leadership. Even better if there is some lighter humor involved.  

Some of the best communications I’ve seen include messages and videos where executives make an appearance in a creative way.
 
Using these actionable tips can drive momentum in updating your approach to stock plan communications in 2021. Don’t forget, I’d love to hear your story in overcoming communication challenges and engaging with your stock plan participants.
 

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