A Tale of Three Employee Education Programs

September 29, 2020

As the last days of the NASPP Conference draw to a close, you may be thinking about which sessions to watch in the time you have left. Allow me to recommend two great sessions that presented a total of three case studies of innovation in the areas of employee education and financial wellness.

Nvidia’s Onsite Financial Consultant

Suzie Bentley discusses Nvidia’s financial wellness program during the session “Empowering Employees to Make Better Financial Decisions with Their Equity Awards.” A key component of Nvidia’s program is an onsite financial consultant at their Santa Clara office. He meets with employees every day both onsite and virtually and has also started offering webcasts for employees.

The financial consultant provides equity compensation consultations for Nvidia employees and can also help them review their financial goals and determine what actions to take to meet their retirement and other financial needs.

Nvidia’s stock plan administration team hosts open office hours along with the onsite financial consultant once a week for two hours, during which employees can ask quick questions (either in person or virtually). Employees that need more in-depth assistance are encouraged to schedule consultations.

Suzie’s team started the office hours program last September. Since then, they’ve had over 150 employees participate. Most of these employees have gone on to work with a dedicated financial consultant. Just over 20% have undergone an equity award consultation and 16% have implemented a retirement/financial plan for the first time.

Nvidia also offers a well-rounded set of educational programs for employees, including:

  • Quarterly equity overview sessions
  • Programs that are targeted to specific types of employees, such as recruiters, employees just starting out in their careers, and a newly developed program for mobile employees
  • Specially timed programs such as Financial Wellness Week or sessions on cost basis during tax season

Cisco’s Tailored Education Program

During the same session, Wendy Jennings presents highlights of the education program she implemented for Cisco’s stock plans. When she joined Cisco in 2017 (Cisco acquired the company she previously worked for), she was surprised to learn that they didn’t really have an education program for their stock compensation plans and she set about implementing one. The program has many interesting facets, here are a few that intrigued me:

  • Tailored education: Wendy notes that her team offers customized education programs for countries or internal groups that request this. For example, when Wendy presented to Cisco’s employees in Poland, she arranged for a tax advisor to present with her to explain the tax considerations in Poland. Wendy’s team also presents to various employee groups at Cisco, such as the Women in Cisco and Women in Tech groups.
  • Train the Trainer: Wendy’s team conducts train-the-trainer sessions for Cisco’s money coaches and HR support reps, who are now able to answer most questions employees have about their equity awards. Only the most complicated questions are escalated to the stock plan administration team.
  • Online vs. In Person: Interestingly, Wendy’s team has found that Cisco’s employees are more likely to attend webinars vs. in-person sessions.

Since implementing the education program, case volume for Cisco’s stock plan administration team is down by 70%! Imagine what you could accomplish if you could reduce your employee inquiries by 70%. In addition, participation in Cisco’s ESPP has increased to 77% (up from around 63% before they implemented the education program). Even more significant, they are seeing employees enroll in the ESPP earlier in their careers—new hire enrollment is up from around 34% to 66%. It’s hard to argue with those results!

Training on Request

One strategy that both Nvidia and Cisco employ is to provide training on request. Rather than trying to offer presentations in all locations—something that would be challenging given Cisco’s tailored approach—Cisco first targeted locations with low participation. As they delivered those trainings, the stock plan team found themselves receiving requests from other locations or groups. Suzie indicated that Nvidia also offers some educational programs on a request basis.

Nike’s Engaging Education Program

The last case study I want to highlight is presented by Shelli White of Nike during the session “Before and After Examples that Will Make You Rethink Your Stock Plan Communications.”  Nike recently implemented an employee choice program (in which employees can choose what type of equity award they receive). In conjunction with implementing this program, they redesigned their educational materials for the plan.

One of their goals for their educational materials is to grab employees’ attention. Sure, they want to inform employees, but they also want to engage. They want the materials to be appealing, irresistible (not a word often used in the context of stock plan education), digestible, and motivating.

One tactic they use is to leverage the Nike brand. Think about how enticing Nike commercials are: that’s the look and feel that their new educational pieces have. Instead of pictures of stock price charts, they feature pictures of athletes. They also focus on simplifying the content and breaking it into smaller, more digestible pieces.

A centerpiece of Nike’s educational materials is an interactive modeling tool that enables Nike employees to visualize the potential outcomes of the equity vehicle they choose.  Employees can select an assumed growth rate (positive or negative) and calculate their potential return. The session includes a demonstration of this tool in action.

  • Barbara Baksa
    By Barbara Baksa

    Executive Director