Is Your Equity Plan Ready for the New Year?

February 7, 2020 Sara Pinkus

As the calendar turns to a new year, many people reflect on what worked (and what didn’t) the previous year.  While most of this thought focuses on personal and lifestyle goals, why not spend the same energy reflecting on how you can try to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your equity program?

A little time spent at the beginning of the year may save you some time and stress later on, so use this checklist as a guide to identify areas of potential improvement for 2020!

  1. Do a 2019 debrief.

Before you dive in head-first to 2020, stop and think about what happened in 2019: what went well?  What didn’t go so well?  What did you earmark as ‘something to improve when you get the chance?’ The start of the year is a great time to make those changes, large or small.  However, the first step is taking inventory of what happened in 2019. Don’t just rely on your own memory for this, you should ask members of your team or other stakeholders to give their feedback as well. Unique perspectives are always helpful for identifying pain points (or victories) that have easily escaped you. They may also have ideas for solutions.

At the end of your debrief, make a list of ten things: five things that were awesome (and what you’re going to do to keep them going) and five things that didn’t go well (and what you’re going to do to address the bumps in the road).  Use this as your guiding light throughout the year, and revisit it often.

  1. Mark the big milestones of 2020.

This is likely part of your planning process already, but it is helpful to do it in a concentrated manner.  Look at key milestones in your plan administration (e.g., vesting dates, new grants, releases, retirement dates, tax and/or payroll deadlines) and align them against both a standard calendar as well as your internal calendar. Figure out if any of the dates fall on federal holidays, pre-scheduled employee PTO, or if there’s overlap with other busy times in your organization’s schedule (e.g., an annual conference, a quarterly board meeting). You may not remove all conflicts, but with some advance planning, you may mitigate some potential negative impacts.

In addition to marking the key work days, note when you plan to (or, would like to) celebrate! For more on this, see item #4.

  1. Examine the holes in your data movement.

Equity plan management typically includes a vast array of data, often from different systems. Moving this data can often introduce risk or errors into the process, and the start of the year is a great opportunity to identify areas where you may shore up some of this risk. How, you might ask? Automation is the simplest answer, although it may have its own complications (e.g., getting systems to communicate, field mapping issues). 

Another part of the data piece is figuring out the data that you don’t have: the start of the year is a great time to do an audit to find out where you are missing key data points (to prevent additional hassle at the end of the year, or when times are busy). Another great time? Halfway through the year, as this can help you identify ongoing issues. The need for an audit is also something that may have arisen when you did your 2019 debrief, so keep any data-related items from that assessment in mind.

  1. Plan a fun engagement event.

Often it is easy to get swept away in the tactical elements of your plan.  However, it’s important to keep in mind the reason why you’re doing what you’re doing: your employees! The equity plan is one of the benefits that employees get to enjoy, so it is helpful (and fun) to set aside a day to focus only on the good stuff.  It might seem daunting to plan an event centered around engagement, especially if you don’t have an event management background (or even know what ‘engagement’ truly means), but it’s really an opportunity to flex your creative muscles! Is there someone on your team who has been looking for additional responsibility? Put them in charge of planning! Set the date for your event and make sure you focus on making it fun for your employees.

You may hire a food truck for a lunch hour outing, plan an in-office scavenger hunt, host a company potluck, or even distribute office bingo cards so people can compete to win a small prize (or just bragging rights!).

  1. Document your processes (or do an audit of existing documentation)

Oh, the tedium of process documentation!  Boring though it may be, it has an important place in office operations. Documenting all of your processes helps put transparency at the forefront, for both you and your team, and it helps the rest of your organization get visibility into what you do (and how you do it, if it’s shared that broadly). It can also help with some of the other items on this list, as it can reinforce existing suspicions about inefficiencies in various workflows.

If you’ve already starting a library of your process documents, start off 2020 with an audit – things (or responsible stakeholders) have likely changed since you first drafted it.  Doing a quick refresh can help save massive time in the event of a sudden organizational or personnel change.

  1. Make a wish list

Is there anything you wish you could do (or that your company could do) to make your equity administration process run a little smoother? You may never get an unlimited budget or an extra week at the end of the year for processing, but maybe you could get an additional headcount? Or perhaps assistance from the marketing team on your plan communications?

Make a list of some realistic items and their corresponding cost savings or other benefits.  Circulate this list through your department and choose one or two items to generate a proposal for during the year.  You never know, your wish may come true!

As you dive into the new year, try to incorporate the items above as you set the foundation for success in 2020. To learn more about how Shareworks can help you manage your equity plan, take a guided tour today.

About the Author

Sara Pinkus

Sara is a content marketing manager at Shareworks by Morgan Stanley, with over five years of experience in the equity compensation space. She helped redesign the Shareworks Certification program in 2016, and is excited to help share the organization's knowledge expertise with the industry.

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