ESOP Town Halls go virtual

At ESOP Builders, we know there is value in doing things face to face, however certain circumstances require conducting business virtually. And why not conduct more and more business virtually? It’s almost more challenging to not conduct work virtually since there is motivation to do so in the form of COVID restricting in person contact, and ease or convenience to do it in the form of user-friendly technology.

As our previous ESOP clients will know, a key step in our implementation process is to have a Town Hall with employees to describe and explain the program, as well as educate and answer questions. Recently, however clients in the middle of the implementation process in March 2020 were suddenly thrown a completely unexpected curve-ball. One client moved forward with their ESOP, although delayed, and conducted our first ever virtual Town Hall. This client had moved all company meetings to virtual and said that overall it went well, but they found the need to significantly reduce meeting durations because people just can’t pay attention on a screen for that long. We worked with them to cut down the content from a 1-2 hour session to 30 minutes (including time for questions). However, the management team also did informal communication to ensure everyone understood the program, pushing to get everyone to ask questions, which was key when having such a short minute meeting for something that does require more. Also a key part of the Town Hall was having a detailed and straight forward employee info package for employees to review and contemplate after hearing about the plan during the Town Hall.  This is something we always provide, but it is particularly useful when dealing in a virtual environment.

This particular client experienced a 60% and 70% participation rate (they implemented ESOPs in two different companies) which is excellent given the norm is 60-75%. Under the circumstances we revised our expectations to around 50% participation, therefore we are very pleased with the result and commend the company for making it happen!

Fortunately, technology made it easy to adapt and work through a different way of doing things.

By Joanna Phillips, CHRL, CVB, Vice President


The magic ingredient for creating a successful ESOP

ESOPs, participative management

Employee ownership works. It makes companies, on average, better, faster, and stronger. The typical employee-owner stays with his or her company longer, and many of them come up with the kinds of creative ideas that can push expenses lower than managers thought possible, or that open up new lines of business. Overall, the statistics show that, on average, everyone comes out ahead with employee ownership.

Not surprisingly, some companies do far better than their peers, and some employee-owned businesses do not get any performance benefit at all, or may even do worse. 

What separates the companies that outperform from the ones that underperform?

A successful ESOP requires open communication. The Plan itself creates the conditions for company success, however strong communication and participation make the plan successful long-term in order to experience the benefits everyone expects. 

Employee ownership

Studies have shown that participative ESOPs that are fully and clearly communicated enhance employee engagement (rather than their desire to control the company) leading to high productivity, increased profits, and increased wealth for all. 

If people are going to think and act like owners, they need a basic level of understanding of the plan through which they have that ownership. Here are some of the methods our clients have used to communicate an understanding of their ESOP to their employee-owners.

Hold meetings: Bring everyone together in large groups to announce the ESOP and to cover some of the most common questions about the plan. Do not go into great detail just yet. 

Set up a peer-to-peer training group to further communicate the ESOP in small groups. People can be elected or invited to join a training group and given the time and resources to create a training program. The most successful groups have the active support of the CFO, who can make sure that they have accurate information and can answer all of the group’s questions. These communication groups may even talk with similar committees at other companies so they can share PowerPoint slides, handouts, and agenda items.

Have written materials: Provide information about the ESOP in written format for the people who need to see things in black and white. Employees’ spouses can read them as well.

Let the ESOP sell itself: Most employee ownership plans are good deals for the employees. If they trust the information they receive, rather than suspecting it of being sugar-coating or emphasizing only the positive, they will likely come to their own conclusion that the plan is a good thing. 

Target “just in time” information: People learn best when the learning is digestible and repeated. Young employees who have just joined the company do not need to know all the details about the timeline on which they will be paid out when they leave the company, but they probably do want to know the eligibility rules.

Share stories: Not much is as persuasive to human beings as stories. Talk about people who have retired from your company with substantial value in their ESOP accounts, or, if your plan is newer, use examples from other employee-owned companies. Tell the story of why your company became employee-owned. What were the other options? Why did the company choose employee-ownership over those other options?

Use statistics: Some people prefer to see the numbers, so don’t hesitate to show them research—but only the highlights– on the implications of employee ownership for employee-owners, your company and ultimately the community. Good sources of data, even though most are from American companies, are the National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO), the ESOP Association (US) and the ESOP Association Canada.


How Does Neuroscience Affect Employee Engagement?

What is the foundation for effective employee engagement within your ESOP?

Trust. 

Actually, trust is the foundation for every relationship, in any area of your life.  And the only way to create a workplace environment for greater connection, collaboration, innovation, creativity, and success, is by building incrementally higher levels of trust every day.

A basic understanding of neuroscience can allow us to have a simple, understandable dialogue about some of the elements that instill trust, employee engagement, and can lead to an even more successful Employee Share Ownership Plan (ESOP).

Continue reading


How Does an ESOP Fit for the Millennial Generation?

Canadians born between 1979 and 2000 now outnumber baby boomers for the first time in history.  The Millennials (or Generation Y) form a distinctive segment of the work force, aged 16 to 37 years old.  There are two types of Millennials:  those aged 16 to 27 have been called the iGeneration Millennials since they were raised with iPads; while those aged 28 to 37 are called the Net Generation Millennials as they were brought up on the internet.

Continue reading