ProShare’s Celebrating Excellence 2022: communicating our way to share plan success

Two hands of a woman throwing confetti

Want to know what success looks like when it comes to share plans? Well we did, so we headed off to an industry event to find out…

Speakers from award-winning companies were gathered at the annual ProShare Celebrating Excellence 2022 event, where they revealed their approaches to optimal employee engagement and winning success.

One common theme was woven throughout, encapsulated in these words by one of the winners:
“Investing in comms was well worth it”.

Once again, communications led the way, as did strong CEO support to demonstrate sponsorship from the very top. This helped employees become aware, understand and engage with the share plans that were on offer to them.

We’ve compiled key takeaways of the strategies used by the winners, who picked up their awards last December, as well as a few tips from the judges themselves!

Ceres Power Holdings – Most Effective Communication of an Employee Share Plan: up to 500 employees

  • Simplified complex information
  • Focused on personal employee stories
  • Created a share plan brand, centred around their purpose and values
  • Included an interactive calculator so employees could easily model different scenarios

Here at Eximia, we’re big fans of interactive elements like calculators.

Saudi Aramco – Best New Share Plan

  • Early engagement with a strong communications plan
  • Held 55 virtual information sessions in English and Arabic to offer two-way conversations
  • CEO communications that focused on sharing ownership and leveraging the culture of employee pride
  • Articles placed in internal newsletter

Creativity needs space and time, so the Eximia team were happy to see early engagement on the list.

Wickes Group Plc – Most Effective Communication of an Employee Share Plan: 5,001-50,000 employees (highly commended)

The success of the Wickes’ share plan was achieved using tips and tricks that Eximia often advises its clients to follow. Employees were kept at the centre of all communications, and engagement increased through a range of measures:

  • Leveraging the existing Wellbeing Group to champion the share plan
  • Seeking advice from their internal comms team on how to connect with hard-to-reach colleagues
  • Share plan training for supervisors and managers so they can pass on knowledge to colleagues and help answer questions
  • Bringing a fun element through the use of a wordsearch puzzle with a prize
  • Emails with countdown timers to emphasise urgency and prompt action
  • Posters with QR codes to get a hybrid approach between print and digital
  • Set up a blog to make communication two-way, allowing questions to be submitted publicly for transparency
  • Held an in-person session at their distribution site, giving out chocolate bars and smoothies to catch attention
  • Created a short teaser video with a call to action to watch out for their invitation

BP – Best International Share Plan + Best Overall Performance in Fostering Employee Share Ownership: 50,000+ employees

  • CEO launched communications to give their share plan sponsorship from the top
  • Multi-channel approach to maximise engagement across their mixed demographic of employees, including:
    • Yammer
    • Intranet
    • Daily email newsletter
    • Animation
  • Included financial education, starting with simple questions like, “what is a share?”

We really love to see financial education form part of the communications mix, even better if you can keep it regular along the share plan journey!

Informa – Most Effective Communication of an Employee Share Plan: 5,001-50,000 employees

  • Partnered with their internal communications team to bring in the expertise
  • Focused on making animations and brochures simple
  • Created a share plan brand to make it stand out and be memorable
  • CEO video, blog and town halls to emphasise sponsorship from the top

With so much information to digest, having a share plan brand and simple language certainly helps the cause.

JTC – Best Overall Performance in Fostering Employee Share Ownership: 501-5,000 employees

  • Share ownership at the centre of the value proposition, with value and behaviours around it
  • CEO sponsored as a huge advocate

If you can connect your share plan to your values and strategy, all the better. It’s something we always do for our clients as it’s important for employees to have context to their journey and contribution in the organisation.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc – Most Effective Communication of an Employee Share Plan: 50,000+ employees

  • Communications given equal weight as legal and tax in the planning and budget
  • Employees placed at the centre of communications
  • Strong CEO support
  • A clear link made between strategy and the share award, as well as being announced at their first ‘Staff Strategy Day’

Eximia is a communications consultancy, so of course we would say communications are just as important as legal and tax – but it’s nice to see others agree!

RSA – Best Employee Share Plan Outcome Following a Major Corporate Change

It’s never easy to communicate change, especially when it comes to share plans and corporate actions. When time is of the essence, the key is to do just as RSA did and focus on the message and delivering it as simply as possible.

  • Clear and concise communication
  • Use of video to visualise the detail

Aviva – Best Overall Performance in Fostering Employee Share Ownership: 5,001-50,000 employees

  • Created strong share plan brand and message
  • Drew on the sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) to appeal to younger employees
  • Emails, Yammer and Yammer Live for an hour with the share plan team
  • Simple financial education

Having live sessions for colleagues to ask questions is an investment in time, but reaps great results, so it’s great to see it in action.

Judges’ tips – boost your chances of becoming the next ProShare award winner

The judges’ perspective is an important factor to consider. Here, judges Jeremy Mindell, Chair of Judging
Panel, and Janet Cooper OBE share their tips on how best to submit a winning entry:

  • Be clear about the category you’re entering
  • Prepare and submit your entry early
  • Be clear and concise and cut the waffle
  • Get your comms professionals to read your entry before submitting
  • Demonstrate what you did differently to previous activity
  • Show what your share plan means to employees
  • Set out how you achieved your results and don’t make unsubstantiated claims
  • Include participation statistics (evasion is suspicious) and link to objectives
  • Don’t submit the same entry for multiple categories.

Things to consider in the world of employee share plans in 2022

The event didn’t stop there – it also looked at the unprecedented challenges faced by employers in 2022. The combined effect of upheavals in politics, the war in the Ukraine, inflation, national insurance increases, the cost of living crisis and post-pandemic supply chain issues is creating labour shortages and competition for talent.

Share plans are increasingly being used as part of recruitment and retention solutions – the ‘glue’ to keep people. And in the US, they’re also being used to reward workers in the gig economy, so it will be interesting to see if this trend starts to take effect in the UK.

The Celebrating Excellence annual event is a chance to take stock and draw inspiration from best practice. With the constant shifts in the working environment, it’s important to adopt an agile approach in the way we communicate to employees.

We hope you’ve found this round-up inspiring, but if you need assistance in putting some of these communication takeaways into action, why not give us a call or send us an email to see how we can help? Whether it’s an end-to-end campaign or you just need a few tweaks, the team at Eximia can help you reach your goals and win a future ProShare award!

ProShare are currently refreshing the Awards criteria and will be opening for submissions very soon. To stay up to date, keep an eye on ProShare’s LinkedIn page; and save the date for this year’s ProShare Annual Awards 2022 on Wednesday 14 December at Hilton Park Lane, London – we’ll see you there!

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