Employee understanding and engagement with share plans has always been a challenging area to navigate, long before the global pandemic of Covid-19 hit us and changed the way we go about our daily working lives.
The good news is, the situation we all find ourselves in now hasn’t changed what these all too familiar barriers are. The bad news is, it has made them more significant and complex. Shareworks by Morgan Stanley believe that if you can navigate through these barriers and complexities, a crisis like this is an opportunity to make a real difference to your employees and achieve your share plan goals in the long-term.
Barrier 1) Share plan information can be complicated. Often employees don’t have enough understanding or knowledge on the subject to enable them to be fully engaged.
Like it or not, share plans are complicated, and this often comes through in communication.
People switch off when things are hard to understand, which means they don’t consciously contribute and manage their share plans. In times of crisis, they won’t necessarily know the options available to relieve some financial pressure. They may panic, leading to uninformed decisions.
For example, do members of all-employee plans who’ve been furloughed or asked to take a reduction in pay, know they can pause or reduce share plan contributions, rather than leave the scheme entirely? Do your employees understand the value of their savings? Do they appreciate these contributions could be better value as an investment instead of bank savings when they’re choosing to leave the plan? Similarly, do participants of discretionary incentive plans know about the possibility of a scale-back or understand that as a result of share price uncertainties changes in performance conditions could be a possibility?
Barrier 2) It’s hard to reach people to communicate about share plans.
Effectively getting your share plan information to colleagues is difficult in many businesses, especially where there isn’t an effective online platform for share plan participants to self-serve and access the information in one place.
At the moment, physical and print communications aren’t an option in a lot of cases. So digital channels, like intranets, internal social media channels, easy to use share plan software and mobile apps, as well as email, come into their own.
Keep in mind that accessing company-wide channels isn’t going to be easy when urgent crisis-related communication is being shared. And if you do get access, your messages could get lost in the noise.
Barrier 3) The share plan management experience isn’t responsive, transparent or empowering for employees.
If participants have to email someone in payroll, for example, to make a change to how much they contribute into their plan, that takes time and feels like hassle.
And you can triple this inconvenience when there’s a crisis going on. It’s also not very empowering for a colleague and gives you practically no insight about overall engagement.
If you offer someone the lifeline of reducing or pausing their share plan contributions while times are tough and make it easy, they’ll be your advocate. But if the process is slow and painful, it could do more harm than good.
What are the solutions?
Start with the immediate challenges for employee financial wellbeing
● Directly address potential changes in perceived value, ideally with support from internal or external communication experts – and continue communicating little and often
● Ensure information is clear, consistent and set in the right tone for current challenges
● Avoid ‘investment advice’ but make sure the facts and modellers are in there to help guide and support informed decisions
Get all employee education and financial wellness materials right
● Annual tax communications may contain incorrect information (tax deadlines, etc.)
● Financial wellness materials will potentially need revision, including strengthening related to disclosures on a down market and falling share price
● Re-launch the information to colleagues and include in any ‘reboarding’ programme or pack being produced for colleagues returning from being furloughed
Use insight to make processes better and more agile for the future
● If you have an online share plans system with user access, combine usage data with a colleague survey to see which features are working and what they’d find useful. Don’t be scared to review your share plan administrator and feedback on what they could be doing better.
● Prepare for the need to be flexible – model email responses to share price declines or increases of varying levels, or see if your platform includes automatic notifications
● If you’ve got a manual process, you can streamline it or consider the benefits of using a digital solution to improve employee experience and achieve your objectives
Looking for expert support?
We’re here to help you engage your employees. Discover how our share plan software makes it easy for participants to review their plans, see estimated values and stay informed with personalised notifications, by getting in touch.