RSUs and Employee Onboarding: First Impressions Matter

Casey Fenton


December 7, 2023

How do you make sure a new team member doesn't just walk through the door, but struts in, ready to conquer the world?

It's more than just a warm welcome and a solid onboarding program; it's about how you set up their entire compensation package. And one underrated yet potent tool to make that happen? Restricted Stock Units (RSUs).

Think of RSUs as the extra guacamole on a burrito; you might be fine without it, but once you taste it, you wonder how you ever did otherwise. Offering RSUs isn't just about adding more money to the deal—it's a statement, a way of telling your new hires that they're not just employees, but also stakeholders in the company's future. Sounds like something worth considering, right?

Let's explore why those initial moments of the onboarding process are so crucial and how RSUs can help you make them unforgettable.

Why First Impressions in Onboarding Matter

Imagine walking into a party where no one greets you or offers you a drink. You’d probably wonder if you’re even in the right place, wouldn't you?

Similarly, an employee’s first day at a new job sets the tone for their entire tenure. And yes, that extends beyond the welcome basket and group lunches. So, how do first impressions during onboarding shape the future?

Setting the Tone for Employment

Picture this: it's an employee's first day, and they're handed a company-branded notebook, a detailed itinerary, and access to all the tools they'll need. This is much more than a simple welcome; it's a prelude to their career journey with the company.

By taking care to structure an excellent onboarding experience, you're not just rolling out the red carpet; you're setting expectations and raising the excitement level for what lies ahead.

Employee Retention and Onboarding

Who wants to keep posting job listings and sifting through resumes every other month? No one.

And the facts back this up. Recent studies reveal that an excellent onboarding process can boost new hire retention by a staggering 82%.

How does this translate financially? Well, it's a lot cheaper to retain a good employee than to find a new one.

So investing in those initial interactions could save buckets in the long run. It’s akin to putting a down payment on success.

Emotional Investment

Isn't it great when someone remembers your coffee order or your dog's name? It’s not about the coffee or the dog, but the feeling of being valued and understood.

A well-crafted onboarding experience does just that for new hires. When you invest emotionally in the employee's experience from the get-go, you're planting seeds of loyalty and high performance.

These are not just warm, fuzzy feelings; they translate into actual hours of increased productivity and years of commitment.

So, what's the common thread here? First impressions during onboarding are not just something that’s nice to have; they're foundational to the health and growth of a company.

So how exactly do RSUs amplify this even further?

What are RSUs and How Do They Work?

By now, you're convinced that first impressions are crucial during onboarding. But here's the fun part—how to make that first impression as impactful as possible.

Ever considered using Restricted Stock Units, or RSUs, to spice things up? It’s a straightforward yet powerful way to share the success of the company with the employees.

Definition and Basics

Imagine gifting someone a treasure chest, but they can only unlock it at a future date. That's what RSUs are like.

These are not just any company shares; they're shares with conditions, like a scavenger hunt that leads to a prize. Unlike stock options, which are a mere invitation to buy shares, RSUs are more like a reservation for a VIP seat at a concert. Once certain conditions are met, such as sticking around for a specified period, those VIP seats belong to the employee, no strings attached.

The Vesting Schedule

If RSUs are the treasure chest, then the vesting schedule is the map that leads to it. These schedules set specific milestones or dates when the RSUs morph into actual shares.

If you’re ever experienced leveling up in a video game, you’ll understand the concept. You reach a certain stage, and bam, you unlock new capabilities—or in this case, shares you can sell or transfer.

Why is this good? It's all about alignment. The vesting schedule ensures employees stick around to unlock those treasures, which means less time and money spent on recruiting and training new staff.

Tax Implications

Taxes may not be the most thrilling topic at the dinner table, but they’re crucial when it comes to RSUs. These rewards come with their own tax playbook, and it’s something you'll want to navigate skillfully.

RSUs are generally taxed when they vest, and it's critical for employees to understand this to avoid any financial surprises. Clear communication on tax implications—maybe even a quick seminar or guide—will help set expectations and avoid any jarring surprises come tax season.

So, there's the rundown. RSUs aren't some financial wizardry; they're a practical and potent tool for sharing the wealth and success of a company. They bring a level of depth to the compensation package, one that could make that first impression during onboarding truly indelible.

Next, let’s learn how you can integrate RSUs into your onboarding process.

Incorporating RSUs into Onboarding

Alright, so now that you’re familiar with what RSUs are and how they work, the next question is how to seamlessly weave them into the onboarding process.

You don't want to just throw them into the mix like an amateur cook haphazardly tossing spices into a stew. There's a fine art to incorporating RSUs into your onboarding.

Timing Matters

Think about the best time you ever received a gift. The timing was likely just right, wasn't it?

That’s how you should think about introducing RSUs. If you bring them up too early, it could seem more like a bribe than a genuine addition to the compensation package.

On the other hand, introduce them too late, and you miss the chance to make that powerful first impression.

The sweet spot? Present RSUs as part of the comprehensive compensation package during onboarding, right when employees are most receptive to absorbing new information about their roles and rewards.

Transparency and Education

Giving someone a mysterious box and telling them it’s valuable doesn’t quite cut it. People need to know what they’re getting and how to make the most of it.

Offering RSUs without adequate explanation could lead to confusion, or worse, underappreciation of their true value. Providing educational materials, conducting webinars, or even scheduling one-on-one sessions can illuminate the path for employees.

These steps ensure that the employees not only receive RSUs but truly understand their worth and the financial landscape they're stepping into.

Flexibility and Options

Remember when you received a customized gift and thought, “Wow, they really get me”? That’s the reaction you're aiming for with customized RSU packages.

While RSUs generally come in standardized formats, a little customization to align them with individual roles or career paths can go a long way. It shows that you're attuned to employees' unique career trajectories and individual goals. A little flexibility can resonate a lot when it comes to feeling valued and understood.

So, incorporating RSUs into onboarding isn't just a matter of adding another item to the checklist. It’s about integrating them at the right time, explaining their value transparently, and offering a tailored approach. Get this trifecta right, and you're not just making a strong first impression—you’re laying the groundwork for a long, productive relationship.

Now you've got the why, the what, and the how of RSUs in onboarding down to a science. Next is the best part: the advantages.

The Advantages of RSUs in Onboarding

Think of this as the finishing touches on a meticulously crafted piece of art. Are you ready to discover why RSUs are the game-changer you've been searching for in employee onboarding?

Long-Term Commitment

Remember when you saved up points on a loyalty card to get that big discount or free item? That’s kind of how RSUs work for long-term commitment.

They're like the ultimate rewards program, offering valuable incentives for employees to stick around for the long haul. You can think of RSUs as golden handcuffs, but the nice kind! They offer a compelling reason for employees to stay with the company, thereby reducing turnover and the associated costs of finding and training new hires.

Enhanced Employee Satisfaction

Nothing screams satisfaction like getting more than what you expected. Offering RSUs can elevate the employer-employee relationship into a symbiotic one.

Employees feel more than just workers; they feel like part of the corporate family, contributing to and sharing in its success. This newfound sense of belonging often translates into increased productivity and a willingness to go that extra mile.

Tangible Benefits for Employers

So, what's in it for you? Let's break it down:

  1. Reduced Turnover Costs: Less frequent employee departures mean you'll spend less on recruiting and training replacements.

  1. Enhanced Company Reputation: Offering RSUs shows you're invested in your employees, which can improve your brand image and employee reviews.

  1. Increased Employee Performance: When employees feel valued, they're motivated to give their best performance.

  1. Strengthened Employer-Employee Relationship: RSUs foster mutual respect and trust between you and your employees.

  1. Competitive Edge in Talent Acquisition: In a competitive job market, RSUs can set you apart from other employers, making you the more attractive choice.

Implementing RSUs into your onboarding process does more than just set the stage for a lasting relationship. It yields measurable, tangible benefits that can take your employee engagement and retention metrics to new heights.


From setting the stage with a stellar first impression to the nitty-gritty of what RSUs are and how to seamlessly incorporate them into your onboarding process, it’s been a fruitful journey.

But let's zoom out for a moment. This isn't just about RSUs; it's about a broader philosophy of equity compensation.

RSUs offer a slice of ownership in the company, and that's a powerful thing. It goes beyond a monthly paycheck and enters the realm of long-term mutual investment.

Consider this: an onboarding process armed with RSUs isn't just another corporate ritual; it's a pact of shared success. Your newest team members won’t just be thinking about what they can get from the company, but also what they can give back.

When employees feel that sense of shared ownership, they not only become more engaged but also act in the best interests of the company. That's what equity compensation, through tools like RSUs, can achieve.

Now, you've got all the information, the benefits, and the strategies right at your fingertips. Revisit that onboarding playbook, and see where RSUs can fit in. Make that first impression unforgettable and set the stage for a future full of promise and success!

And if you need more information about RSUs and tips for employee communication, drop us a message. We’ll be happy to assist!

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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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