Things I Learned: Successful Employee Communications

 

Synergy 2020 Icon This topic was initially delivered as a session at Synergy 2019 in Scottsdale, AZ.
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Deluxe Corporation, headquartered in Minnesota, is a company that offers technology-enabled solutions to enterprises, small businesses and financial institutions. When I first joined them in 2007, they granted equity to a small group of employees. In 2019, our new President and CEO decided to offer equity to everyone – all employees, at all levels. He believed that employee stock ownership was essential to Deluxe’s continued success and longevity.

While this was an exciting change, it now meant that a lot of people who knew nothing about equity would be receiving restricted stock unit awards (RSUs). It was imperative that employees understood how RSUs worked as well as how stock ownership benefited them.

Employee communications quickly became a top priority. But, with a quick timeframe for launch (approximately 3 weeks!), I had to collaborate with other resources to make it happen. I learned a lot throughout that process, and I wanted to share that experience:

  • Working with other teams can increase effectiveness:

With such a short timeframe, the success of getting key information out depended on teamwork. Without engaging members from other internal teams, like Marketing and Communications, it would’ve been an uphill battle to organize a messaging campaign that both made sense and included all the information employees needed. There’s nothing like a directive from the executive level to make teams come together. Once I found the right connections the project drove itself. Not that oversite was not an important key to the messaging campaign, but trusting that I could hand over some the responsibility with proper guidance allowed me to focus on the actual issuance of thousands of grants

Make a day of it:

As part of our messaging campaign (which included email, videos, and printed materials), we organized everything around an event we called Ownership Day. On Ownership Day, we invited employees down for a fair of sorts, with food trucks, activities, and fun takeaways (like newspapers printed with “Extra, Extra, Read All About Your Equity”).

  • Be fun:

My vision for the message was inspired by the cartoon educational videos that were often shown on Saturday mornings, (greatly dating myself) where cartoon characters simplified complex processes and topics in a fun and engaging way. Unfortunately, I was unable to create a catchy jingle, but my singing voice may have been a deterrent. The marketing team really took my vision and made it come to life. They created videos using my characters and script to infuse a light and entertaining presentation. I received positive feedback from employees who appreciated the fun and simple message.

Image: A sample of the characters used in our videos.

  • Use familiar language:

In each video and the messaging around it, we focused on explaining employee awards in a way that was familiar. A lot of equity terms get complicated quickly, so I replaced industry terms with concepts that are more accessible to people without a background in equity. For example, an RSU became an IOU, and the vesting for the RSU became an installment plan. Talking about award mechanics in this way was much more intuitive for the employees, and helped them gain a better understanding of what their equity award actually meant to them.

  • Segment the message:

Since we had two groups (one that received a small value of equity and one received a higher value), we tailored the message to each group in a slightly different way to help each with their distinct information needs. This meant two different videos for each concept, but we were able to leverage a lot of the existing content for the parts that were similar. Doing this ensured that people received a message that was relevant and helpful to them (without anything extra).

  • Track activity completion, and use that info:

Since we had ways of tracking activities in Shareworks, we were able to proactively reach out to employees before critical dates. For example, we could track who had activated their Shareworks accounts. We would reach out to all employees who hadn’t activated, remind them of the annual vesting, and encourage them to activate as soon as possible. It helped us keep a pulse on completion rates for key activities, and provide targeted follow-up.

  • Balance is everything:

With so much information to share, sometimes we had to be mindful of overcommunicating. We made a conscious effort to avoid overloading people, either with information or with frequency of outreach. When we did reach out, we made sure that the information was both relevant and concise. It was also important to us that we had a centralized location for everything, and that’s why the Shareworks Participant Portal plays such a critical role in our equity program.

  • Leverage Shareworks (ahem, your administration tools):

Like I just mentioned, Shareworks is an essential part of the success we’ve seen in plan engagement. The interface is intuitive for employees, and it gives them a total view of their equity along with all of the educational resources we created to help them learn more (like our videos, which we house in the Documents tab). It’s a place where employees can get a personalized and secure view of their equity and can transact when the time comes. Be sure your administration tool places your employees at the forefront, while still giving you what you need as an administrator.

So, what’s next for us? Focusing on the Shareworks mobile app (and helping our employees use it), while using social media more frequently to support our message. The response from our employees to our work so far has been amazing (I’ve gotten a few gift cards from people who are so grateful to finally understand their equity, and who doesn’t want a Panera gift card?!). We are always working to create new ways to educate our employees. It’s important that we can continue to help our employees learn and love their equity. As for the first vesting, that will be another chapter in this story….

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