Getting colleagues excited about share plans, when the cost-of-living crisis looms over us all, might sound like a tough gig. But with a bit of creative communications planning, it might not be as hard as you think.
It’s a subject our own clients are wrestling with more and more: how do you create a buzz around your share plan when everyone seems to be counting the pennies?
We get it. Traditional share plan messaging tends to be hooked around the financial gains to be had – put a little in now, for a chance to get more back later. But that kind of messaging goes against the way most people are feeling right now when:
- Many feel they don’t have ‘a little’ to spare in the first place, and
- Uncertainty in the stock markets is enough to make even a hardened investor jumpy, let alone a more novice one.
It might seem like an uphill struggle engaging employees around share plans when there is so much economic volatility in the world. But at Eximia we like to be bold and #ChallengeTheProcess, and that means thinking outside the box and coming at clients’ share plan messaging from fresh angles.
Here are just three you might want to try on for size.
Less about ‘success’
Share plan communications often focus on how everyone can share in a company’s ‘future success’ by taking part. And there’s nothing wrong with this message – it’s aspirational, it’s motivational and it can help employees understand the link between their hard work and how they might be rewarded for it.
But in the current climate, it might not hit the right notes. If your colleagues are worried about their own personal circumstances right now, they may not be receptive to communications around how well the company hopes to be doing in five years’ time.
Think about words and sentiments that are more in tune with the mood music. People want to be able to save. They want security. And they want to feel there’s a light at the end of all this doom and gloom that will benefit them directly.
For example – imagine you’re launching a share plan called ShareGrow. There’s a few ways you could communicate it to your people. Let’s take two options.
Both options have merit. But it’s all about context. Know your people, and make sure you speak the right language at the right time.
Transparency is more and more important. That goes for your customers, and your employees too.
With share plan communications, the possible benefits and risks need to be portrayed in a balanced way. It’s easy to focus too much on one or the other. There’s sometimes a tendency to bury the less shiny bits – such as the risks involved, or what happens if the markets tumble – in the small print. Sometimes, the opposite happens and we highlight the risks so much that they don’t appear proportionate to the potential benefits.
So how do you find that balance?
We help our clients use internal communications channels to create educational pieces outlining how the stock markets work – the good, the bad and the ugly. It means their employees have all the information they need, so they’re empowered to make the decisions that are right for them.
Think about your share plan like you would a marketable product. Your employees – your market audience – will want to weigh up all the information to hand so they can make an informed decision. Our clients are very happy with the take-up they receive, and we believe this is because openness – and education – form part of the mix.
Tell them something they might not know
For those of us clued up on share plans, it can be all too easy to forget that other people just don’t know what we know.
For example, we know share prices might go up, down and sideways like a plane caught in dodgy turbulence, and that often this is due to external factors beyond a company’s control – pandemic, war, and the overall performance of the global economy can have a direct impact on financial performance. We also know it’s often good to buy shares when prices are low, because the potential for growth over the longer term is higher.
But your employees might not know any of this – and why should they? Think about how you can weave this kind of stuff into your communications planning. It doesn’t all need to be loaded into your upfront messaging – you can layer it in over time. Education around how the stock market works, things that affect market performance and the risks (as well as the benefits!) of being a shareholder can all be presented in a creative and informative way – think blogs, factsheets, webinars, town halls or workshops.
This element of financial education can also help you keep the conversation going around your share plan even after the launch. It can create that longer-term engagement and interest, which helps participants stay involved – and gives you a head start on your engagement next time you launch a new one.
Humans are naturally cautious, and even more so when world events are making it hard to tell up from down – on all fronts, not just when it comes to the stock markets. Engaging employees in new things right now, especially if financials are involved, is likely to come with its own challenges. But with a bit of out-of-the-box thinking, your communications can still spark interest in your share plan.
Want to know more about making share plan communications land in tricky times? Come and chat to us, we’re full of ideas!