How to Use RSUs to Attract Top Talent and Elevate Your Business

Casey Fenton


December 7, 2023

How can you secure the best talent out there and elevate your business to the next level? You've probably considered offering a competitive salary, killer benefits, and a positive work environment.

Those are all fantastic, but there's one more secret ingredient—Restricted Stock Units, better known as RSUs. Think of RSUs as a golden ticket, not just a financial incentive but also a vote of confidence in your team. They offer employees a real stake in the company's future, building loyalty and fostering a long-term commitment.

Is it Necessary to Attract Talent?

If you're wondering whether it's truly essential to pull out all the stops to attract top talent, you're not alone. But before dismissing the idea as overrated or too costly, consider the following four critical angles.

The Cost of Turnover

No one likes to talk about turnover, but it's a harsh reality in the business world.

Losing a top performer hits harder than you might think. The costs don't just include recruiting a replacement and training; they also encompass the lost productivity, potential customer relationships that fall by the wayside, and even dips in employee morale. That's quite a hefty price tag.

Introducing RSUs into your compensation packages can be the key to stabilizing your workforce. By offering a slice of the company's future, you give employees a powerful reason to stick around, thereby reducing turnover and its associated costs.

Brand Perception and Company Value

Picture this: Your company is not just another employer but an industry leader that everyone dreams of working for.

That's the power of brand perception. Having a team of outstanding professionals isn't just about getting the job done; it’s about boosting your image in the marketplace.

And let's not forget how that positively impacts the company value in the eyes of stakeholders and investors. By offering RSUs, you show that you're serious about building a collaborative, invested team, which can be a game-changer for your brand.

Competitive Edge in the Talent Market

Competing for top talent is akin to being in a battlefield, but your competitors are equipped with the same artillery of benefits and salaries. So, how do you stand out?

RSUs can be that unique factor that sways a candidate your way. They're not just another line item on the compensation package; they represent a long-term commitment and shared success.

When a potential hire is deliberating between offers, RSUs can make all the difference.

The Link Between Talent and Business Growth

Think of your team as the engine that drives your company forward. You can have the most innovative products or services, but without the right people to manage and market them, growth stalls.

Employees fuel innovations, solve problems, and enhance customer satisfaction. Ultimately, your workforce plays a pivotal role in generating revenue and expanding the business.

Offering RSUs is like adding high-octane fuel to that engine. They're not a mere perk; they're an essential tool for spurring innovation and growth.

So, what exactly are RSUs and how do they work?

Understanding RSUs and Their Value

So, you've realized that attracting top-notch talent is vital for your business success. Great start!

Now, to truly get how RSUs can be your secret weapon, it's essential to understand what they are and the unique value they offer.

What Are RSUs?

RSUs, or Restricted Stock Units, are a bit like rainchecks for shares of your company's stock. You promise to give these shares to employees once they meet certain conditions, usually related to the duration of their employment or specific performance milestones.

RSUs are more straightforward to manage than traditional stock options and generally present less financial risk to employees. In essence, they're a win-win for both parties.

Advantages Over Traditional Stock Options

If RSUs were in a popularity contest with traditional stock options, they'd likely get a lot of votes.

One of their primary advantages is the reduced exposure to market volatility. When the stock market is as predictable as a cat on a skateboard, that's a huge plus.

Employees appreciate knowing that the value of their RSUs is less subject to wild market swings, making this form of compensation especially attractive to those who like a more predictable future.

Tax Implications

Taxes can be a labyrinthine mess, but RSUs offer some guiding lights along the way. Unlike some other forms of equity compensation that are taxed at various stages, RSUs typically get taxed only once—at the time they vest.

This makes it easier for employees to plan their finances and for you to administer the plan. However, make sure to consult a tax advisor to navigate the specifics for your business and employees.

Long-Term Incentive for Employees

The beauty of RSUs is how they inherently encourage long-term commitment.

Employees know that if they stay with the company and perform well, they'll essentially become part-owners. And ownership fosters a different level of engagement and productivity, doesn't it?

When people know they have a stake in the company's future, they’re motivated to contribute their best work.

Next, let’s explore how to implement RSUs in your compensation packages.

Implementing RSUs in Your Compensation Packages

Convinced that RSUs could be a game-changer for your company? Knowing their worth is one thing, but putting them into practice is another.

Here's a practical guide to help you integrate RSUs seamlessly into your compensation packages.

Deciding the Structure

Structuring your RSU program is akin to building the foundation of a house.

First, determine the vesting schedule—how long employees need to stay with the company to earn their RSUs.

Some companies opt for a four-year vesting period with a one-year cliff, but what works best should align with both business objectives and what employees are likely to find valuable. And it's not just about time; consider other performance metrics or milestones that could trigger vesting.

Transparency and Communication

Nobody likes unpleasant surprises, especially when it comes to their finances. Make the terms and conditions of your RSU program crystal clear.

Offer regular updates on how the RSUs are performing and schedule informational sessions to address questions or concerns. Transparent communication fosters trust and sets the stage for a successful, long-term relationship between the company and its team members.

Legal Requirements

Navigating the legal maze surrounding RSUs can be daunting, but it's a necessary step.

Consult legal experts specializing in employment and corporate law to ensure all regulatory boxes are ticked. This will help you avoid any nasty surprises down the line, such as fines or, heaven forbid, lawsuits. 

Compliance isn't just a checkbox; it's a prerequisite for the smooth operation of your RSU program.

Employee Equity Pool

You're familiar with the saying about not placing all your valuable items in a single container, yes? The same logic applies here.

Create an employee equity pool by setting aside a specific percentage of company shares for future RSU grants. This ensures that existing shareholders aren't diluted excessively, while still keeping a lucrative pot of shares available to entice top-tier talent.

All set to leverage the power of RSUs? In the next section, you’ll get expert tips on how to communicate the benefits of RSUs to potential hires.

Best Practices for Offering RSUs

So, the nuts and bolts of RSUs are clear, and you're all set to incorporate them into your compensation strategy. That's fantastic!

But remember, effective implementation is as crucial as the offering itself. Let's delve into the best practices that make your RSU program a shining success.

Tailoring to Employee Needs

Cookie-cutter solutions rarely hit the mark in something as nuanced as employee compensation. Personalizing RSU packages to the specific needs and circumstances of each team member can go a long way.

For example, a mid-career developer and a freshly minted marketing associate shouldn't receive the same RSU package. If the company has remote or global teams, consider regional cost-of-living adjustments to make RSU offers more equitable and appealing.

Leveraging RSUs in Negotiations

RSUs can be the trump card in negotiations, often turning a maybe into a resounding yes. Sometimes, prospective hires need that extra push to make a decision, and dangling the RSU carrot at the right time can make all the difference.

So, go ahead, put your cards on the table and make that equity offer. Chances are, it'll be the clincher.

Handling Special Cases

Top-level executives and high-impact players may warrant an RSU package that reflects their unique value.

Custom-tailored RSU grants, with possibly accelerated vesting or performance-based triggers, can send a strong message: the company acknowledges and rewards exceptional talent. This not only attracts them but also motivates them to put in their best performance.

Bullet List for Quick Tips

  1. Timely Vesting Notifications: Keep employees in the loop about upcoming vesting dates.

  1. Regular Evaluations and Adjustments: Periodically assess the effectiveness of your RSU program and make necessary changes.

  1. Employee Education Programs: Educate team members about the nuances of RSUs, including tax implications and vesting schedules.

  1. Outsourcing Legal and Financial Assessments: Use external experts to ensure full compliance and optimal structuring of your RSU program.

  1. Ensuring Diversity and Inclusion in RSU Distribution: Be conscious of distributing RSUs fairly to all employees, irrespective of their background.

Wrapping Things Up

RSUs are more than just a buzzword or a trendy form of equity compensation; they are a key pillar in building a committed, long-lasting team. When you offer RSUs, it goes beyond mere transaction; it's an invitation for mutual growth and shared success.

Understanding the intricacies, from the cost benefits to the brand perception, can give a significant edge in the ever-competitive talent market. Setting them up isn't rocket science but does require thoughtfulness—structuring the RSU packages, being transparent about terms, and fulfilling legal obligations.

Best practices aren't to be overlooked either. Tailoring to employee needs, leveraging RSUs during negotiations, and even extending special cases for the higher-ups—these are elements that make your RSU program more than just an item in a list of benefits.

And remember, the value of RSUs extends beyond just numbers on a balance sheet. They contribute to a sense of ownership among employees, encouraging them to give their best. Equity compensation isn't merely a perk; it's a powerful tool in fostering a culture of commitment and excellence.

So, don't just mull over it—take action. Dive into the world of RSUs and see the transformative impact they can have on your team and business.

And if you’d like to know more about RSUs, drop us a message. We’ll be happy to chat!

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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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