On May 20, Eximia attended Global Equity Organisation’s (GEO) UK & Channel Islands Chapter event.
It was led by a panel of global share plan pros who are passionate about employee share ownership and have a vast amount of insight and experience. In GEO’s words, this event was “a not-to-be-missed ‘therapy session’ on discretions, amendments and mistakes!” and it was just that.
So, what did we learn? In true Britney Spears style, they shared their mistakes and advice so that we don’t ‘Oops… do it again.’
Oops number 1… I did it again – the problem.
Uh oh – you’ve made awards to the wrong person.
Oops number 1… I won’t do it again – the solution.
Think about adjusting your share plan rules to allow for administrative errors.
Oops number 2… I did it again – the problem.
How often do share plan awards and grants go awry because of new joiners, incorrect leaver treatment or terminations? Fairly often, we imagine.
Oops number 2… I won’t do it again – the solution.
Stay close to your HR and management teams. Communicate with them regularly to advise them on best practice and the importance of getting their processes right.
Oops number 3… I did it again – the problem.
An example was shared about a company who had share plan participants in China – the whole system was paper-based, and the award letters were written in Mandarin. Despite numerous checks and cross-comparisons with the data, the team managing the process forgot to check against the award numbers — this resulted in the wrong award amounts being issued.
Oops number 3… I won’t do it again – the solution.
Think about negotiating against unrealistic time scales, to avoid being under similar extreme pressure. Also, if you’re still using paper-based processes, consider going digital.
Oops number 4… I did it again – the problem.
Loading the wrong award amounts to the wrong people is an issue that occurs frequently – problems can arise when using Excel spreadsheets and moving data around can be problematic, especially if several people with varying Excel skills use the same spreadsheets.
Oops number 4… I won’t do it again – the solution.
Learn as you go along and avoid repeating the same mistakes. Perhaps create some form of best practice guide for those using the spreadsheets to refer to if they need some guidance.
Oops number 5… I did it again – the problem.
The issue of people putting incorrect information into the system or not keeping it up to date in terms of leavers and redundancies, causing numerous problems.
Oops number 5… I won’t do it again – the solution.
Educate managers on how to keep the system updated and if that doesn’t work, consider sending any recharges back to the relevant cost centres if they just won’t listen to guidance.
Oops number 6… I did it again – the problem.
Another issue that crops up is receiving short notice when it comes to corporate transactions such as initial public offerings (IPOs). Administrators are often told last minute that these changes are taking place.
Oops number 6… I won’t do it again – the solution.
If any corporate transactions are taking place, share that information as soon as possible with administrators. The sooner the administrator knows, the sooner they can manage the plans and lessen the impact on employees.
Oops number 7… I did it again – the problem.
An example was given relating to a telephone number being placed in incorrectly and not checked – it turned out to be a dear old lady who was getting pestered, so the telephone number was purchased off her to solve the issue.
Oops number 7… I won’t do it again – the solution.
Always call numbers and check them before they go out in communications!
Oops number 8… I did it again – the problem.
When it comes to discretions, some things can go wrong. We can learn from recent ones that have been challenged in court.
Oops number 8… I won’t do it again – the solution.
Consider increasing the discretions that are currently in plan rules. Investors are becoming increasingly disappointed if organisations can’t manage unexpected outcomes. Check that your documents, such as employment contracts, are consistent with your rules. Do they say the same thing?
Aligning your documents will allow you to stand up to scrutiny.
You know what they say – ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, and the GEO panel just halved a variety of the share plan problems many of us have faced in the past and will face in the future, so we’re sending them a big thanks.
We also asked you to share some of your recent share plan success stories, plus any hints and tips you might have. Here’s what you told us:
- “When rolling out any new plan, project management and having all stakeholders involved from the outset is key – this is then magnified when it’s a global plan.”
- “Seamlessly joining a new team is possible when you have strong and clear processes in place… never underestimate the importance of having written processes in place – they can be your legacy when you leave a company and the welcome party when you join another company.”
- “If you can make use of new technologies and tools, much better, to make it much more bearable for the young professionals of the future.”
Finally, from a creative perspective, the Eximia team would add:
- Oops, there’s just not enough time – the earlier you engage and collaborate the better as creativity needs time to evolve. Although great results can often be reached in short timescales, it’s always easier with space and time for ideas to mature.
- Oops, we’ve got content to change after translations have been actioned – ensure content is approved by all stakeholders before translating as it can be a painful task picking out the odd word or sentence to translate and place into a variety of assets in various places, taking up time and having the extra cost of another round of translations.
- Oops, our strapline and visuals just don’t seem to resonate – everyone is different, especially in a global context, so with diversity in mind, share your ideas for a theme with your international colleagues early on to get a global perspective.
If you’ve found these lessons helpful and want to share yours, feel free to add yours here.
And if you’d like to talk about ways of improving your share plan communications, feel free to reach out for an informal chat with us.