Esop Centre’s Newspad All-Employee Share Plan Awards 2022 Announced

Friday, 31 March 2023

On Thursday, 30 March 2023, at the Esop Centre’s Sixth British Isles Share Plan Symposium, hosted by Macfarlanes, Centre President and Founder, Malcolm Hurlston CBE announced the results of the Annual Newspad All-Employee Share Plan Awards for 2022.

He thanked our judges: Damian Carnell, founder and director of CORPGRO, and Anna Watch, Senior Manager Corporate Governance Legal, Regulatory & Company Secretary at BT, for dedicating their time and unique expertise to judging the entries.

We had a broad and fascinating range of topics in what was another exceptionally challenging year, and there was much to be distilled. Overall the quality of the entries was outstanding. They showed that companies are looking at employee share plans as an important aspect of how they present themselves as a company, both internally and to the outside world. And companies are successfully finding new ways of using shares or equity of one kind or another, both to bring the company together and to make it stand out among others. The Judges were encouraged by the greater diversity in share plan take up, shown by stats reports of higher numbers of female employees taking part; and we noted that most of the entries featured far more references to company CEOs than previously.

For the Esop Centre’s 2022 Newspad All-Employee Share Plan Awards there were four categories:

  1. Best all-employee share plan in a large company (more than 2,500 employees)
  2. Best share plan communications
  3. Best use of technology, AI or behavioural science in employee share plans
  4. Best share plan response to significant changes or challenges

From all entries, 13 companies’ plans were shortlisted. In recognition each will receive a newspad star which they will be free to display.

The Results

A full report, including judges’ comments will be published in next month’s edition of Newspad, but here is a brief summary of the shortlisted entries for each category:

Category 1 – Best all-employee plan in a large company

An all-employee share plan can be a particularly effective way for a large, or multinational company to bring together a diverse workforce to help achieve key corporate goals. Applications to this award category were judged on how successfully the share plan meets the company’s objectives in inclusivity within a large workforce or in light of the complexities of cross-border arrangements.

Shortlisted for this award were BP for its Global Share Match Plan, which was worthy and well executed; Centrica for Profit Share 2022. It showed that the company had thought deeply about engagement with management, and with reaching teams across the company; Jet2’s communications gave its Sharesave plan a feel good factor, and that made it stand out; Mitie’s Share plans for all, impressed the judges with its sensitivity to low paid workers and its honest approach; and the judges liked the way Solvay used ‘Local Champions’, particularly since the company operates outside the normal range of locations for share plans.

Overall winner of best all-employee plan in a large company was Centrica.

Centrica asked Equiniti to represent the company. Jennifer Rudman accepted the award.

Equiniti's Jennifer Rudman accepts the award from Centre President Malcolm Hurlston CBE and Manager Juliet Wigzell, on Behalf of Centrica.

And because standards were high in this closely contended category, the judges Highly Commended Solvay’s First ESPP.

Clifford Chance Lawyer, Jennifer Danso accepted the award on behalf of Solvay.

Jennifer Danso accepting Solvay's award

Clifford Chance's Jennifer Danso accepts Solvay's high commendation in the best all-employee share plan category.

Category 2 – Best share plan communications

Communication is key to the success or failure of an all-employee share scheme. This award category highlights the need for communications programmes that are sensitive to the circumstances of an individual company and the make up of its workforce.

Shortlisted for this award were Centrica whose message was clear, and used visuals particularly well; Comcast whose communications were very good, as might be expected; there was something special about Dr Martens’ campaign for its Your Share BAYE SIP; Jet2’s communications for its Sharesave scheme were lots of fun, linking every stage with travel terminology and corporate branding; Kier Group clearly demonstrated its effort to reach all its employees; Reckitt’s communications were plentiful; and Videndum had a particularly interesting approach to reach everyone via a ‘one-stop-shop’ Sharesave microsite.

Overall winner of best share plan communications 2022 was Dr MartensYour Share BAYE SIP

Dr Martens’ Sarah Steadman and Robert Green asked relationship manager Paul Bowen of Equiniti to accept their award.

Paul Bowen accepting Dr Martens' award

Equiniti's Paul Bowen accepts the award from Centre President Malcolm Hurlston CBE and Manager Juliet Wigzell, on behalf of Dr Martens.

Jet2 was Highly Commended for its communications around its Sharesave scheme.

Category 3 - Best use of technology, AI or behavioural science in employee share plans

Without effective technological solutions, all-employee share plans would be prohibitively expensive and time consuming for many companies. This award category recognises innovative uses of technology.

Shortlisted for this award were BP whose technology entry focused on back-office systems, which efficiently link share plan administration teams with the participant portal; Kier Group’s microsite and mobile phone app were the outstanding features of its targeting the entire workforce; and we were impressed by Merlin Entertainments’ use of a robotic process automation ‘bot’.

Overall Winner of best use of technology, AI or behavioural science was Kier Group

Kier’s Executive Remuneration and Share Plans Manager, Jonathan Sturman accepted the award.

Jonathan Sturman accepts Kier Group's award

Jonathan Sturman receives the award for best use of technology for Kier Group.

Category 4 - Best share plan response to significant changes or challenges

Since 2020, the pandemic, global crises, rising inflation and the cost of living have brought unprecedented challenges to business, not least of which is the change to working life and finances. All-employee share plans can play a key part here by contributing to employees’ savings, morale and engagement. So we designed this award to recognise ingenuity – either in adapting a share plan, creating a special plan to fit the rapidly shifting landscape, or in alleviating some of the pressures that arise from extraordinary situations.

All three shortlisted entries focused on employee share plan responses to acquisitions.

Shortlisted for this award were AstraZeneca whose approach to the logistics of onboarding Alexion Pharmaceuticals’ employees was particularly impressive; Mitie who overcame the Interserve acquisition in late 2020 and the pandemic by keeping the share plans simple, and participation easy; and National Grid’s acquisition of Western Power Distribution. Here good use of technology was rewarded by massive take-up.

Overall winner of best share plan response to significant changes or challenges was National Grid

Equiniti’s Paul Bowen accepted the award on National Grid’s behalf.

Paul Bowen accepts National grid's award

Equiniti's Paul Bowen accepts the award for best share plan response to significant challenges on behalf of National Grid.

Highly Commended in this category is AstraZeneca’s LTIP

Global LTI Plan Manager Elizabeth Crutchley received the award for AstraZeneca.

Elizabeth Crutchley accepts AstraZeneca's award

Elizabeth Crutchley receives high commendation for best share plan response to significant challenges for AstraZeneca.

Special mentions

We would like to give a special mention to four entrants because there is much to learn from them:

BP is noteworthy. It features on the shortlists in multiple categories and judges commended it for its on-going long-term commitment to employee share plans.

Mitie is commended for its sensitivity to low paid workers and the honesty of its approach.

Merlin Entertainments received a special mention as judges were impressed by its use of robotic process automation ("RPA bot") to prepare and distribute documents, which were unique to each participant.

And finally, Jet2’s inclusion in its share plans programme of its part time staff, who would not usually qualify for employee share plans received a special mention, because bringing gig workers into share plans may, for one reason or another, be the pattern of the future.

-END -