Communicating a share scheme can be a challenging exercise, so it is no wonder that some employers are turning to newer methods of communication.
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- Employers are moving away from paper-based share plan applications.
- Share plan communications technology should be tailored to each employer.
- Mobile applications are gaining popularity.
Perhaps the most tech-savvy tool to use is mobile technology, which enables staff to sign up to share schemes using SMS text messaging and mobile applications (apps).
Louise Drake, national sales manager at YBS Share Plans, says employers are using a mix of methods. “We’ve got the web, text and telephone systems and we still do traditional paper applications,” she says. “Our website portal take-up is highest, but text is up from 10% in 2012 to 25% 2013 for large retailers.”
YBS is now looking to complement its portal with videos to help staff make more informed decisions about joining a share plan.
“We haven’t launched any iPhone apps yet because our portal can be viewed on smartphones,” she says. “If staff want to sign up using SMS text messaging, they only have to send a line [back to the employer] agreeing to a scheme’s terms and conditions.”
Paper applications disappearing
While mobile technology is speeding up the share scheme process, paper applications are fast disappearing, says Drake. “[Employers] are getting rid of paper because more people are receiving things electronically,” she adds.
Mobile apps and text messaging are particularly popular with telecommunications organisations, says Peter Leach, director of Killik Employee Services. “Other employers do use these methods, but it’s quite costly, so they use other platforms,” he says. “For example, the internet is being used more and more by employers offering employees [an online portal], which they can use to sign up to a scheme quickly. We are now looking to develop an application for tablets.”
Online portal popular
John Collinson, head of employee share ownership at IFS Proshare, says mobile technology is being used increasingly for share plans. “Employers are using a combination of SMS text messaging and enabling staff to join a share scheme through an online portal, which is the most popular method at the moment.
“[Applicants] will be asked very generic questions, which are usually ‘either/or’ on mobiles. Some organisations have got it down to three or four questions. [The system] then double-checks it and texts back a referral number. It’s that simple to join. Portals tend to have more information and the terms and conditions are there, which is important.”
Legal and General places all its share plan information online. Rosemary Lemon, group head of reward and executive remuneration at Legal and General, says: “All our share scheme information is online, so we are as electronic as you can get. But our communication strategy had to take account of the fact that we had a very large [sharesave] maturity. The shares were worth 35p originally, but had grown and staff were in for a big gain.
“We felt it was important to give staff options as to what to do with the money. We also provided them with tax information because their payouts may have fallen under capital gains tax legislation.”
Legal and General wrote to staff asking what they wanted to do with their gains, depending on their short-, medium- or long-term aims.
“We also asked employees if they wanted tax information and how they wanted to be communicated with, including face-to-face presentations and our portal,” Lemon says. “An overwhelming majority said they wanted to speak to our team face to face. More than 2,000 people attended our presentations and we went out a second time to explain how the online portal works.”