What’s at the heart of successful share plan communications? Is it eye-catching creative, engaging messages or choosing the right channel?
Paul Stoddart from Equatex, Pat Sims from AstraZeneca and Emma Dawson from Stitch Communications recently sought to answer these questions at the GEO Global Communications Forum in London. Together they discussed the history of share plan communications, what we used to do, what we’re doing today, and how new technology may change how we get our messages across in the future.
“The best discussions involve people with passionate and well-informed interests in the subject matter, but preferably all viewing the subject from slightly different angles,” says Paul. “Our panellists at the GEO Global Communications Forum were in exactly that position and so were able to give a three-dimensional view of communication challenges and opportunities through three different lenses.”
Emma adds: “You wouldn’t expect to launch and market a product without investing in marketing it – and share plans are no different. A well-crafted communication strategy will help you to meet your plan objectives and deliver a return on the overall investment you make in your share plans.”
Here, Paul, Emma and Pat share nine key insights from their panel discussion on what makes share plan communications effective and employee focused. “And remember, communication isn’t just to your participants,” adds Pat. “It’s as important to provide exciting and robust comms to all relevant teams both inside and outside your company.”
1: Communication requires investment
Historically organisations often had big budgets to spend on comms, partly because of the high costs associated with printing and postage. Now, companies don’t account for as much spend on comms, often seeing the rise of electronic channels as an opportunity to cut expenditure. Yet, when considering the cost of setting up and implementing a scheme, not to mention its objectives, it’s critical to invest in communications, especially (you could argue) when talking about Executive Plans where the per capita cost of the plan is often very high and therefore, it’s critical to ensure properly understood. Retention, motivation and performance enhancement can’t be communicated effectively without a well-considered strategy and the investment of time and money.
2: Introduce standardised metrics
Measuring return on investment is vital. Today, there is a wealth of digital comms available but we are not good at measuring the ROI our comms deliver. The more data you have, the more you can evaluate the success of your comms and what is and isn’t working. Use your year one analytics to set your benchmark and then measure metrics, such as the number of log-ins, page visits and time spent on your site, against this.
3: Avoid unnecessary jargon
Words such as ‘vesting’ and ‘grants for employees’ can be difficult to understand. If organisations can’t simplify terms like these, employees won’t understand their awards and employers won’t get value on their spend. Employees don’t need to know about the work that goes on behind the scenes – simply say, “When you can sell your shares.” This is especially so if you are translating comms, or if English isn’t the first language for the reader.
4: Are you making the right assumptions?
We, as an industry, often assume that executives know all about shares and understand how their plans work but this is often not the case. That is perhaps why they, more than others, need targeted and segmented comms.
5: A microsite can used as a comms hub
An Intranet is a good tool but employees don’t always know where to look for information and it often can’t be accessed outside of the office. Leavers may also still need to access information about their plans. A microsite that has all the information in one place is currently one of the best solutions and can become a hub for all share plan communications. It can be used for employees as well as for internal use with local plan administrators.
6: All internal teams should understand the benefits
Share plans can be complicated so try to ensure that other areas of the business and third parties understand the benefits so they can communicate them effectively on your behalf. The way we communicate to internal teams is as important as how we directly communicate to employees. This is particularly important if the plan comms to employees are wrapped up in information provided on other benefits, such as pensions or childcare vouchers.
7: Choice will be key in the future
Some people prefer to read on computers; others want information on the go. The key is to provide simple information in accessible chunks in different formats so the user can determine how they consume information. They should be able to customise their experience to decide which channels they receive communication in and the frequency of the communication.
8: Financial wellbeing is our responsibility too
Some companies are increasingly thinking about how to help employees take care of their finances more effectively and efficiently. As an industry, we are always cautious about giving financial advice. However, it is a fine balance, and we should be looking to provide information that helps people make informed decisions and enjoy ‘financial wellbeing’.
9: Get a real time grip on participation during the invitation period
For broad based plans with an annual invitation period, it’s a great idea to track take-up in real time, by business unit and compared to the previous year, so that appropriate tactics can be deployed.