How Do Companies Make Inducement Grants? Insights for Attracting Top Talent‍

Casey Fenton

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February 26, 2024

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78%. That's the staggering percentage of employees who, according to The Wall Street Journal, would consider accepting a lower salary in exchange for an ownership stake in their company. In today's fiercely competitive talent market, salary alone isn't always enough to secure the best and brightest. This is where inducement grants step in, offering a powerful tool to attract and retain top performers by aligning their personal success with your company's long-term growth.

So, you've identified the perfect candidate for your critical product development role. They have the experience, the vision, the fire you desperately need. But during salary negotiations, a competitor swoops in with a seemingly unbeatable offer. What's your secret weapon to tilt the scales in your favor? Have you considered inducement grants?

What Are Inducement Grants?

Inducement grants are equity awards (stock options, restricted stock units, etc.) offered to newly hired executives or key personnel as an incentive to join your company. They function as an ownership stake, aligning the employees' success with the company's long-term value creation.

Think of it this way: You're offering a piece of the pie you're building together, attracting individuals who believe in your vision and are motivated to see it flourish.

Who Qualifies for Inducement Grants?

Inducement grants aren't a magic bullet for every hire. They're a strategic tool reserved for individuals who can truly move the needle for your company. So, who should you consider showering with equity incentives?

✔ C-Suite Leaders

CEO, CFO, CTO, CMO, etc. These individuals set the company's strategic direction and have a massive impact on overall performance. Inducement grants can attract proven leaders and incentivize them to drive long-term value creation.

✔ Game-Changing Sales Heads

VP of Sales, Regional Sales Directors. A strong sales team translates directly to revenue growth. Offering equity to key sales leaders motivates them to exceed targets and build a high-performing sales engine.

✔ Tech Talent Transformers

Head of Engineering, Product Development leads. Inducement grants can lure top tech talent significant to developing innovative products and solutions, fueling your company's technological edge.

✔ Rising Stars with High Potential

Don't limit yourself to established names. Identify high-potential individuals, even in mid-level roles, who possess exceptional skills and exhibit leadership qualities. Investing in their growth through equity ownership fosters loyalty and fuels your talent pipeline.

How Do Companies Make Inducement Grants?

Imagine you've identified the perfect candidate, someone who not only checks all the boxes for your important role but also holds the potential to elevate your company's trajectory. Now, it's time to craft the inducement grant that seals the deal, the golden ticket that entices them to join your journey. 

But designing and offering this valuable incentive involves more than just waving a shiny equity wand. Here are the steps involved in making an inducement grant that resonates with top talent and benefits your company:

1. Choosing the Right Tool for the Job

The type of grant you offer depends on various factors, including your company's financial health, the candidate's preferences, and the specific impact of the role. Let's explore the three main options:

  • Stock Options: This grants the candidate the right to purchase shares of your company's stock at a predetermined price in the future. It incentivizes long-term commitment, aligning their success with your company's growth and encouraging them to stay invested in its journey.

  • Restricted Stock Units (RSUs): These directly award shares of company stock after a vesting period, offering immediate ownership without requiring upfront investment from the candidate. This can be particularly attractive to individuals seeking instant equity ownership and a stake in the company's success.

  • Performance-Based Awards: This innovative option ties the grant value to achieving specific performance metrics, such as exceeding sales targets or launching a new product on time. This incentivizes high performance, aligning the candidate's goals with your company's objectives and motivating them to go the extra mile.

The ideal type of grant is a strategic decision influenced by these factors, ensuring you offer an incentive that resonates with the candidate while remaining sustainable for your company in the long run.

2. Determining the Grant Value

Finding the sweet spot for the grant value requires careful consideration. Conduct thorough research to understand industry standards and competitor offerings for similar roles, ensuring your grant is competitive and enticing enough to stand out.

Moreover, take note of the candidate's experience and potential. Consider the individual's expertise, track record, and the level of impact they can potentially bring to your company. Valuing their unique skills and potential future contributions ensures the grant reflects their worth.

Take note that the grant value needs to align with your financial resources and future growth projections. While remaining attractive, it shouldn't strain your company's finances or create sustainability concerns. Finding the right balance between these factors ensures you offer a competitive and valuable incentive while maintaining responsible financial stewardship.

3. Establishing the Vesting Schedule

The vesting schedule determines how the candidate earns full ownership of the awarded equity over time. Different approaches offer distinct advantages:

  • Cliff Vesting: This approach grants full ownership after a defined period, typically 3-4 years. It encourages long-term commitment, aligning the candidate's interests with the company's long-term success and incentivizing them to stay invested.
  • Gradual Vesting: Ownership vests gradually over a predetermined period, often 2-4 years, with regular intervals (e.g., quarterly or annually). This fosters loyalty and reduces the immediate financial impact on the company, spreading the ownership acquisition over time.

  • Performance-Based Vesting: Here, ownership acquisition hinges on achieving specific milestones or performance targets. This approach aligns individual goals with company objectives and incentivizes high performance, motivating the candidate to exceed expectations.

The ideal vesting schedule depends on your specific needs and risk tolerance. Carefully consider which approach best aligns with the role, the candidate's profile, and your company's overall goals.

4. Drafting Legal Agreements

Don't leave anything to chance. Partner with legal counsel to create clear and comprehensive employment agreements outlining all the grant terms:

  • Vesting Schedule and Performance Metrics (if applicable): Clearly define the vesting period, milestones, and performance metrics associated with ownership acquisition.

  • Termination Clauses: Include clauses outlining the conditions under which the grant can be forfeited or repurchased by the company in case of termination.

  • Tax Implications for Both Parties: Clearly communicate the potential tax consequences for both the employee and the company regarding the granted equity.

Legally sound agreements ensure transparency, protect both parties' interests, and prevent future disputes. Clear communication and adherence to legal requirements are necessary for a smooth and successful grant offering.

5. Securing Approval (if applicable)

For publicly traded companies or those with specific internal procedures, obtaining board approval for the grant before offering it to the candidate is essential. This ensures compliance with regulations and internal governance practices.

Ideal Vesting Schedules for Inducement Grants

Selecting the right vesting schedule for your inducement grant is important. It balances attracting talent with mitigating risk and aligning interests. While there's no one-size-fits-all approach, tailoring the schedule to specific roles maximizes its impact:

1. C-Suite Leaders

These individuals set the long-term strategic direction. Cliff vesting (3-4 years) incentivizes long-term commitment, ensuring their focus aligns with the company's future success. Consider performance-based vesting for specific strategic goals.

2. Sales Heads

Their performance directly impacts revenue. Gradual vesting over 2-3 years fosters loyalty and aligns their interests with short-term sales targets. Consider performance-based vesting for exceeding sales goals.

3. Tech Talent Transformers

Their innovation fuels your future. Cliff vesting (2-3 years) balances attracting talent with mitigating risk for key technical roles. Gradual vesting can be considered for broader tech roles.

4. High-Potential Rising Stars

Invest in their growth. Gradual vesting over 2-4 years encourages loyalty and aligns their development with the company's long-term needs. Consider performance-based vesting for specific skill development milestones.

You may also consider:

  • Double Trigger Vesting: Combine time-based and performance-based triggers for key roles with high impact and longer vesting periods.

  • Accelerated Vesting: Reward exceeding performance by vesting ownership faster, incentivizing high achievers.
  • Company Stage: Startups might offer shorter vesting periods to attract talent, while established companies might use longer periods for stability.

How to Present Your Inducement Grant Effectively

Crafting the perfect inducement grant is only half the battle. Presenting it to the candidate requires finesse and strategic communication to truly secure their interest and ignite their enthusiasm. Here's how to make your offer resonate:

1. Position It as a Partnership

Don't simply present the grant as a reward; frame it as an invitation to join a shared journey. Highlight how the equity stake aligns their success with the company's growth, emphasizing their potential impact on achieving your vision. This fosters an ownership mindset and shared responsibility, encouraging them to become invested in the company's long-term success.

2. Tailor the Pitch to the Individual

Your offer should resonate with the candidate's personal aspirations and motivations. Research their background, understand their career goals, and connect the grant to their individual ambitions. Show them how their skills and talents will directly contribute to achieving their own aspirations while propelling the company forward.

3. Quantify the Potential Value

Go beyond just stating the grant value. Explain how the stock options have the potential to appreciate over time, showcasing the financial upside they can achieve by joining your company. Use clear and concise language, avoid technical jargon, and ensure they understand the potential return on their investment.

4. Transparency is Key

Be upfront and transparent about all aspects of the grant, including the vesting schedule, performance-based components (if applicable), and tax implications. Provide clear documentation and answer any questions promptly and thoroughly. Building trust and demonstrating transparency instills confidence and helps them make an informed decision.

5. Celebrate Their Value

Express genuine enthusiasm about their potential contribution to the company. Show them how much you value their skills and experience, and highlight how their joining would elevate the team. This sincere appreciation goes a long way in convincing them that they're joining a place where they'll be truly valued and appreciated.

You see, inducement grants may seem like an easy dispatch from employer to recruits, but the process actually entails careful assessment and consideration. If you’re looking to further enhance the offer on the table, you may opt to hand down the complicated tasks to an equity management platform. Book a demo with Upstock today to see how we can help.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Casey Fenton

Founder, Upstock & Couchsurfing, AI and Equity Innovator

Casey Fenton, the founder of Upstock & Couchsurfing and an AI and equity innovator, has revolutionized how we perceive and implement equity in the workplace. His foresight in creating platforms that not only connect people but also align their interests towards communal and corporate prosperity has established him as a pivotal figure in technology and community building. Casey speaks worldwide on topics including ownership mindset, worker equity, With Upstock and Couchsurfing, he has demonstrated an unparalleled expertise in harnessing technology for the betterment of community interaction and organizational benefits.

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