Being ESOP-owned presents a compelling opportunity for companies to tap into the psychological power of ownership and create an environment where employees feel, think, and act like owners. An ESOP communication committee can not only provide basic ESOP education but also play an important role in building and strengthening this ownership culture. This book is a step-by-step guide to ESOP communication committees, designed as a core resource for both committee members and people who interact with committees. It is appropriate for people just getting started in the ESOP world, companies wanting to improve their ESOP committees, and professionals seeking to ensure they have covered all their bases. The fourth edition (2021) is a complete overhaul and near-complete replacement of the prior edition.
No matter what situation you are in, this book will give you tested ideas from successful ESOP committees and insights from seasoned advisors that will expand your thinking about the possibilities for your company’s committee. The book includes detailed examples from a variety of successful ESOP committees.
Table of Contents
1. ESOP Communication Committees: An Overview
2. Duties of ESOP Administrative Committees
3. Lessons from ESOP Company Communication Committees
4. Important Communication Tips for ESOP Companies
5. What and When to Communicate
6. Communication, Engagement, and Involvement
Appendix: NCEO Training Resources for ESOP Communication Committee Members
About the Authors
About the NCEO
From Chapter 1, "ESOP Communication Committees: An Overview"
Member selection can evolve over time. For the launch of a new communication committee, it is common for senior leaders to make the final selection of committee members, sometimes including volunteers and/or by inviting key individuals to join, in order to guarantee a good mix of skills and perspectives.
On an ongoing basis, ESOP communication committees can continue the selection process by senior leaders, or move to the committee itself selecting new members, or to some form of elections from the workforce (at-large, or by site, or other operating unit). Still other committees use some hybrid selection process, including nomination from the workforce and final selection by leadership, or vice versa. Many ESOP communication committees have a selection process that involves a combination of direct voting and appointments, or that reflect recruitment and selection practices of other committees in the company.
Selecting the ESOP communication committee members provides an important opportunity for employee-owners to have “democratic” input and builds credibility. However, direct elections with no prior skill qualification or skill development plan can potentially undermine the committee’s capacity. In the extreme, this may lead some to assume that because the committee is ineffective, democratic input does not work well.
A company can develop criteria and then solicit nominations that are restricted to individuals who meet the criteria. This “prequalification” ensures that only qualified employees are eligible to run in the first place, and allows the rest of the process to be more democratic. The final selections can be made either by senior leadership, by the committee itself, or by open elections (again, limited to the nominees who meet the criteria). Open elections create a greater sense of fairness and openness, while selection by leadership or the committee from among a slate of vetted nominees provides more control in ensuring the strongest overall final committee composition.
From Chapter 3, "Lessons from ESOP Company Communication Committees"
Our team is flexible, with members often taking on different areas of focus as time allows. We are a resource for the employees. If we can answer people’s ESOP-related questions, we do so, but often we are a reference to point people in the right direction of the answer they’re interested in. We often have ideas but pull other employee-owners in to implement the idea or initiative, or to help with the idea or initiative. This has also been a good way to get others more engaged. We take lots of notes to document discussions; we note action items and directly assign them with delivery dates when possible. We use Microsoft Teams to organize our documents, meeting notes, and discussions. We aim to foster an ownership culture by providing an alternate track for ideas; a place where people can share ideas on how the company works, how projects work, etc. The ESOP CC is not just about the ESOP stock and not just social—it’s a combination of the two, with a focus on the company’s core values.
From Chapter 4, "Important Communication Tips for ESOP Companies"
Awareness of what matters to employees is the first big step for both committees and leadership. The next step is to discuss the reality that both teams will have their limitations when it comes to effectively improving attitudes around various aspects of the company culture. For instance, when it comes to communication around the ESOP or ownership at the company, it’s important that such communication does not feel like it is being sold to employees by the leadership team. This is why communication committees can prove far more effective. Firstly, committee members are given the resources and time to become experts in the plan, which in turn can make their communication and education efforts feel far more sincere to employees, coming as it is from their peers and colleagues.
On the other hand, when it comes to employee empowerment or involvement in decisions that affect their day-to-day work, ESOP committees may run into obstacles that require action from leadership. This action is especially important when it comes to gaining the buy-in from managers at the company who will be critical in successfully making the transformation into an innovative, highly involved culture. It is rare for an ESOP committee to have any formal authority over the practices of management, so it becomes increasingly important for leadership to make their expectations and goals clear to those in management positions.
From Chapter 6, "Communication, Engagement, and Involvement"
More likely, you think about what you actually do every day. If you see a problem or have an idea that involves more than just you, what can you do with that? Is there a way to share that with your colleagues and take action? Do people solicit your opinion on issues that affect your work? Are there regular team meetings to discuss how things are going and what opportunities there are to move forward? And if the answer to all this is yes, does management listen to what you have to say and enable you and your colleagues to act on it? If these answer to all these questions is yes, then being an owner probably is very meaningful to you. If it is no, ownership is just another benefit plan.