Thought leaders 2010: The year ahead: YBS Share Plans insight: Sharing the challenges of a changing workplace

The post-recession landscape will be very different for many employers, and share plans are a benefit that must adapt to new requirements, says Jill Evans, head of YBS Share Plans

This year, YBS Share Plans celebrates ’30 years of sharing’. During that time, we have seen many changes in customer expectations, market trends and service offerings, as well as many suppliers come and go.

The coming years will be no exception. In fact, for many companies, the landscape will be significantly different from what might have been expected just two years ago. The financial crisis and global recession have altered the conditions for many organisations and posed new challenges for employers.

In times of economic recession, we tend to see the most intense periods of change. For employee share plans, there are two key drivers that will make a change to business as usual: changing trends in technology and the changing workforce profile.

Specialist skills

Businesses already face challenges in securing and retaining specialist skills, and this will continue. Therefore, as part of the overall staff remuneration package designed to meet the emerging requirements for flexible working, all-employee share plans will have an important part to play in building a company’s employee base across all skillsets.

Working futures 2007-2017, produced by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, estimates that an additional 1.3 million people with professional or technical skills, and 0.9 million managers and senior professionals will be required by 2017.

Sharesave and share incentive plans (Sips) will continue to sit alongside each other. However, unlike previous years, we will see the full utilisation of flexible plan designs to match companies’ workforce profile in terms of: recruitment of new skills, skills retention or, perhaps more importantly, ensuring companies capture individuals’ knowledge and experience effectively before they retire.

These challenges will not be overcome by simply changing the share plan design or contract terms. Businesses will also need to look at how they engage and gain the trust of their employees so they clearly understand the two-way benefits of the rewards available.

Businesses must contend with the challenges of managing their employees as four different generations, with different motivations and expectations of work. For example, Generation Y will be the first generation that makes extensive use of new technologies, social networking sites and other exciting ways of sharing knowledge. This is the generation that expects such technology in every avenue of their lives – they are the digital natives.

Keep employees engaged

To ensure employees are kept engaged and feel they are working with a company that fully understands their social needs as well as their commercial needs, businesses will have to ensure they are working with internal and external suppliers that can deliver these media for all employee communications.

In addition, because more businesses operate on a global basis, if the Western markets remain depressed or volatile because of the recession, rewards delivered through employee share plans are likely to become more popular in the developing world, and companies’ reward strategies needs to address this.

Internal and external suppliers of share plans will not only have to support the UK market, but must export their service offering globally, maximising technology to manage resources and costs, and communicate effectively and efficiently with their corporate clients and their employees.

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