Employee AGM communications – why bother?

15 February 2018

Jane Darlington

Why should you care whether employee shareholders vote at your AGM?

We’re increasingly finding our clients are using the volume of employees voting at their AGM as an indicator of the success of their share plans.

Before we start working on any new share plan communication campaign we will always ask ‘Why do you run employee share plans?’

The question tends to elicit a similar response; ‘to attract, motivate and retain our employees’ or ‘to align our employee interests with those of our company and shareholders’ or ‘to improve company performance.’

It’s well recognised that shareholder returns are higher in employee-owned companies, and employers with significant employee ownership tend to have higher productivity. As Simon Osborne, Chief Executive of the ‘ICSA: The Governance Institute’ said in 2017 following a government announcement of reforms to enhance trust in business; ‘If taken seriously, stakeholder engagement will strengthen the business and promote its long-term success, to the benefit of stakeholders and shareholders alike.’

Everyone agrees that having employee shareholders is a win-win for the company.

What about your all-important employees?

Is it enough to simply invite your employees to sign up to your shiny new share plan? You might have enlisted Stitch to create some beautiful share plan communications for you, you may have beaten take-up records, won industry awards and are a regular panel speaker on the subject of your super-successful share plan.

But, does the journey end there? For many (see our Stitch Quiz Mostly A’s), yes. But here at Stitch we’re finding for more and more companies, the answer is no.

Being an employee shareholder brings with it a whole raft of complex and confusing shareholder communications; forms, voting requests, links to lengthy annual reports (did you know the average Annual Report is between 152 and 155 pages long?! Who has the time, or inclination to read all that?),  reference numbers, voting numbers and (are you keeping up) meeting control numbers, questions about tax, accounts, share price fluctuations and …responsibilities. Words and phrases like proxy solicitation, resolution guides, holding periods, ordinary shares (as opposed to..?), corporate governance don’t help. Sound a bit scary, and dull?

It doesn’t need to be like this

Here at Stitch we have worked with a number of companies to provide employee AGM communications to help them explain what it means to be a shareholder and ensure their employees understand the importance of using their vote;

• Colourful and surprising emails, with a clear call to action and direct links to vote, with all the information they need to log in
• Beautiful Annual Report summaries specifically written for your employees to give them the highlights and help them understand the company they’ve invested in
• Articles, animations, infographics and screensavers to create awareness and interest in this vital aspect of being a shareholder.

You gave them the chance to be shareholders through your plans; surely you owe it to them to help them make the most of that opportunity?

Here are my top tips;

1. Set a target – it’s good to have something to aim for
2. Be clear and concise, get someone to help you if you can’t trust yourself not to slip into jargon
3. Change your design and the words you use to make your message and call to action clear and easy to follow
4. Explain key terms and phrases
5. Try using countdown tickers, infographics, animations, consumer-style emails and guides
6. Implement a rolling programme of employee shareholder communications to help increase understanding across your population.

We can help!

The AGM season will again soon be upon us. Now is the perfect time to be thinking about your employee AGM communications.

Stitch are experts in taking tricky and complicated topics and delivering the results you need. Our communications are creative, and we deliver on time and to budget. To increase your employee shareholder engagement get in touch.