“We created the ESOP to attract and, more importantly, retain talent so that we can meet the ongoing needs of our clients. By running part of our annual communication by webinar, we were able to connect with our professionals who work at client sites in 18 different states and 11 countries,” explains Dolores Connolly, CEO of Sterling Engineering.
The company’s ESOP is part of sustaining its business model that attracts highly specialized talented professionals who enjoy working on cutting edge projects on a contract basis. Sterling’s approach means that they can often bring the same experienced professional to consecutive projects for a client. “You can see why it’s important our employees understand that Sterling Engineering can offer a great place to build a career. Our talented people are valuable for our approach. Communicating the advantage of our 50-year old brand and the long-term advantages of the profit sharing through the ESOP is essential.”
Many employees have built careers with Sterling over 5 to 15 years and others have been working for a short time on a client project. “It’s important that we find ways to communicate with all of them,” says Connolly. Sterling Engineering ran a segment of the firm’s annual ESOP communication in a webinar meeting this year in addition to an onsite annual meeting. For those who could attend the onsite meeting, the company ran a more social event that included a fun ESOP Jeopardy challenge. Adding the “virtual meeting” provided a way to reach more of the workforce with the detailed annual meeting content. “With the logistics of balancing family or personal obligations and the range of geographic locations we now serve, we need other ways to reach employees,” says Connolly.
During the online meeting, Connolly outlined the firm’s strategy – including the value the company offers its clients and its employees. Workplace Development helped Sterling develop the content and participated in the online meeting communicating the ESOP’s advantages from an outside perspective. Workplace Development’s 30 years of experience helped Sterling’s leadership answer employee questions with more depth. “We’ve only had our ESOP for three years. There’s always skepticism and we have a very analytical workforce,” explains Connolly. “Workplace Development’s unbiased point of view and depth of experience with ESOPs allowed our employees hear a broader perspective. This improved the credibility and quality of what we presented in the webinar.”
By recording the webinar, Workplace Development helped Sterling put annual meeting content in a format that employees could watch on-demand. This eliminated issues with scheduling the ideal time for a live webinar. Employees can view a recorded copy of the annual meeting, see their personal ESOP statement and get other information through ESOP Connection, an online tool provided by their ESOP TPA, Blue Ridge ESOP Associates.
Sterling Engineering is looking to build long term relationships with employees at a time when the workstyle of the workforce is changing at a rapid pace. Connolly explained in the annual meeting webinar, “we offer an interesting choice for employees who like the flexibility to choose the project they like to work on and also want to build tenure and earn the benefits Sterling Engineering provides – like the ESOP.”
Many of Sterling’s employees are used to working on a contract basis with a variety of companies. Sterling Engineering is different. “The annual ESOP meeting by webinar was a chance to emphasize how we are different to people who could not make our annual meeting in person,” noted Connolly. She sees this as the beginning of more efforts to routinely communicate the essential messages of the firm’s unique approach and how shared ownership is a key part of continuing the model.
Contact Cathy Ivancic at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-896-7285 for both behind-the-scenes or direct help in communicating the unique value of your ESOP to your participants.