Employee Benefits Awards 2011: Most effective all-employee share scheme strategy


Marks and Spencer, Sharesave 2010 entered by Equiniti

The tough economic climate, coupled with the Treasury’s decision to remove the bonus on three-year sharesave schemes, prompted Marks and Spencer to review its scheme to ensure it continued to be valued as an employee benefit.

he company took the bold step of stripping back its sharesave scheme as part of efforts to attract the interest of employees who might otherwise have dismissed the opportunity to participate.

Research showed that employees fell into three groups: serial applicants who recognise the benefits of sharesave; employees who view it as an easy way to save; and those who have never participated. Focus groups held with employees found that key messages around sharesave had been diluted the ability to have savings returned at any point was unclear; and terminology relating to sharesave was scary.

Taking into account ‘look and feel’ comments from focus groups, the design concepts for the scheme were finalised. Jargon was stripped out of communication materials, sharesave champions were introduced and internal editorial features were produced on previous savers’ success stories. A competition in which employees had to answer three simple questions on sharesave benefits was also used to increase engagement.

Marks and Spencer achieved its key objective – to increase take-up of sharesave among non-participating employees. The number of new savers increased by 61%, while participation overall rose by 10%.

One judge said: “Marks and Spencer have really thought about it. The killer set of stats was sharesave and turnover. They drilled it down to shop level. If there was a reward school, this would be a case study.”


Asda, Sharesave entered by Computershare
This entrant’s sharesave scheme is open to all employees, including those who work part-time or have six months’ service. Staff can contribute as little as £5 or as much as £250 a month. The retailer recognised that operating a UK approved sharesave scheme involving the purchase of overseas stock has risks because of potential changes in exchange rates. Asda therefore guaranteed to absorb any potential loss where rate changes move against employees. This feature particularly impressed the judges.

Cable and Wireless Worldwide, Cable and Wireless Worldwide Share Purchase Plan
After its demerger from the Cable and Wireless Group in 2010, this entrant faced the challenge of setting up a new share incentive plan (Sip). Communication was comprehensive and covered the demerger issues surrounding the old group Sip and the launch of the new one. It included online guides, individually tailored communications, posters and manager participation.

Talk Talk Telecom Group, Sharesave entered by Equiniti
Talk Talk introduced sharesave after demerging from Carphone Warehouse. It communicated its scheme in a number of ways, including a weekly blog from group chief executive Dido Harding.

Veolia Environnement UK, Veolia Environment Share Incentive Plan entered by Equiniti
This entrant has made joining its share incentive plan as easy as possible. Staff can save a minimum of £5 a month or a maximum of £300. More than 180 share scheme champions were used to promote the scheme.

Read more about the Award winners