6 Top ESOP Communication Committee Ideas to Foster Ownership Culture

Posted by Jason Wellman on Wed, Jan 05, 2022
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Whether your employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) is new or your company has been employee-owned for years or even decades, an ESOP communication committee is an important part of your plan.

Just as no two ESOP companies are alike, your communications committee is unique to your company and the employee-owned culture you create.

ESOP committees do much more than plan company-wide cookouts and celebrate Employee Ownership Month with games and giveaways. They serve as a key resource to educate and improve employees’ awareness of employee ownership retirement benefits, and how your ESOP works.

Improved ESOP awareness fosters a sense of shared purpose, which can convert plan participants into advocates — and that can impact not only company performance and ESOP share price, but also your recruiting and retention efforts.

ESOP leaders often ask how the communication committee can more effectively improve their ESOP culture. At ESOP Partners, we’ve seen companies make improvements in both culture and business performance by implementing ESOP committee practices that align with their values, support ownership culture, and empower plan participants. 

Here are a few proven ESOP communication committee ideas you can adapt to your needs:

  1. Create and/or update your ESOP committee charter
  2. Promote committee participation that represents all employee owners
  3. Ensure your culture or communication committee uses a calendar-based plan
  4. Get company-wide feedback after ESOP-related events or programming
  5. Take a continuous improvement approach
  6. Get expert help with ESOP communications

1. Start With a Solid ESOP Committee Charter

Your ESOP committee can go by any of a number of names: ESOP communications committee, employee ownership committee, ESOP culture committee — or another name that reflects your goal of promoting advocacy of employee ownership.

Your committee charter provides guidelines for the chair and members, to help ensure they meet or exceed the expectations of senior management and the board of directors. The charter should be reviewed annually. Be sure it includes a mission statement, eligibility requirements for committee members, election procedures (if members are elected), and a general outline of annual expectations.

Your charter may also require formal educational workshops for participants, to help ensure that all committee members fully understand the regulations and mechanics of your ESOP. You can also outline expectations for participation. This serves to minimize confusion and help promote unified messaging from members.

2. Promote Widespread, Inclusive Participation

Once your charter is complete, open the membership application process. It’s important to communicate the need and expectations, but it’s also important to attract diverse applicants who’ll reflect and represent the diverse interests of all employee-owners. You might hold an all-hands meeting, or send out a video invitation that explains the mission of the committee, along with a link to apply.

Keep messaging upbeat, direct, and straightforward about the vision, responsibilities, and workload expected with participation. Whether members are elected or selected by leadership, limited and staggered terms are a best practice to encourage widespread participation and bring fresh perspectives.

Members should represent various stages within the ESOP participant lifecycle, from newer employees to those close to retirement. They should come from different departments and/or locations, too. 

Leadership may step forward to make nominations and help promote elections, especially in the early years of your ESOP. Some companies hold elections as major events, and others simply appoint committee members. Committee members often serve for terms of two to four years. You can review and adjust the charter to make changes as needed.

3. Follow an Annual ESOP Committee Calendar

Once your ESOP committee is in place, the real work begins. The committee’s 12-month calendar of action items should include at least four touch points throughout the year, with results reviewed by management. 

Monthly meetings are typical, but you may find your committee needs to meet more or less often. Meeting agendas and minutes encourage discipline and provide an easy way to keep senior management informed.

Encourage ESOP committee members to contribute new ideas that appeal to employees, educate about the benefit, promote engagement, and foster a shared sense of employee-ownership. Some actions your committee might consider include:

  • Newsletters or regular email updates
  • Lunch-and-learn presentations
  • Wellness initiatives (whether physical, mental, or financial)
  • Holiday or founder’s day celebrations (catered meals, potlucks, games, etc.)
  • Employee gifts or swag bags
  • Q-&-A Events
  • Annual share price reveals
  • Employee ownership month celebrations
  • Community service events

4. Solicit Feedback from ESOP Participants

Getting periodic employee feedback helps you measure the committee’s impact. That’s why the committee should plan its feedback-capture mechanism alongside its planning for each event.

Many companies send out an electronic follow-up survey to capture employee responses. These surveys don’t need to take more than a minute or two to get meaningful feedback, so try to keep them under six questions or so. Leave a blank space for long-form responses to encourage questions and new ideas for future events.

Feedback should also be provided to senior management and the board of directors, since it offers a barometer of employee sentiment. This can help leadership gauge company climate and culture, and assess the performance of the committee on an ongoing basis.

5. Make Continuous Improvement an ESOP Committee Goal

Participant feedback, along with business performance indicators, serves as a measure of success for both the ESOP communication committee and the ESOP itself, so use it. What’s successful at one business can flop at another — so measure engagement, make adjustments based on feedback, and look for ways to improve every year.

Some company cultures are more enthusiastic about chili cook-offs or potluck events; others may respond better to an “ESOP Olympics” or an afternoon sorting food at a local pantry. Over time, your committee will have opportunities to revise and refine the annual calendar and bring it into closer alignment with your company and ESOP values.

One of the most important responsibilities of the ESOP committee is to help employees earlier in the ESOP lifecycle understand and value the long-term benefit of the plan. That early understanding can be vital to ESOP engagement, advocacy, and employee retention.

6. Seek Expert Guidance on All Things ESOP

Whether you’re drafting your initial charter, developing a strategic plan, or creating newsletter templates and feedback surveys, an experienced third-party administrator can help make sure you don’t miss important details. Working with an expert helps ensure regulatory compliance while also helping your ESOP achieve the greatest possible business impact.

In fact, a recent review of ESOP Partners clients revealed that those who get expert help developing their employee ownership culture alongside regulatory and administrative services saw a median year-over-year increase in share value of more than 24%. That’s proof employee engagement can have a direct impact on business performance — which, in turn, affects share value.

It might not be easy to create and support an ESOP communication committee that follows an annual process like this, but it is certainly worthwhile. By maintaining your focus on your committee’s mission statement and goals, you can make sure every communication and event is aligned with your company and ESOP values and supports employee ownership throughout the year. 

And don’t be afraid to try new things! When it comes to educating plan participants and building an engaged culture of employee owners, creativity and enthusiasm are key. Jumpstart your committee activities and get even more ESOP communication ideas and tips when you download our free eBook. Just click the link below to claim your personal copy.

Communications Committee eBook

Topics: Communications and Culture

Jason Wellman
Written by Jason Wellman

Jason, the Director of Ownership Culture, helps employee-owned companies by developing a comprehensive Ownership Culture through proactive educational resources for all participants to improve their understanding of this unique, nontraditional benefit we call an ESOP.

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