PIka This month the creators of the Pokémon Go smartphone game inspired millions of people all over the world to hunt for imaginary creatures and treasure.  Given their success, Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) leaders and communication committees with multiple locations may want to consider how the game creators were able to generate engagement and excitement even though none of the users share a geographic location.  Below are some ingreidents of Pokemon Go’s “secret sauce” that you can bake into your communications strategy to engage employees across multiple locations about the benefits of your ESOP.

Personalize the experience

The critters in the Pokémon Go game seem to literally stand your backyard or scurry in the office parking lot. That’s one reason that the application is so engaging. Crafting ESOP communication tools that connect to people “where they are” makes a difference, too.

Ownership messages that use stories about real people in each location or information that connects to the employees’ current stage in life can garner more interest. When you connect your ESOP’s story to a business improvement that they have been part of in their location, achieving job level goals or people they know who are in the same stage in life, it becomes more meaningful.

One of the benefits of having ESOP Committee members from a variety of locations is that they can help add these personal local touches.  When we coach committees with multiple locations we bring more than twenty-five years of ideas and content. We help them develop the tools and activities, and the local committee members tweak the information to respond and connect it to the local experience.

People inspire others to use technology

It’s not the new technology that is the magic for Pokémon Go, it’s the people pointing others to the new technology. We often hear company leaders say, “our employees won’t use our intranet or access relevant information with their phone.” Of course they won’t because no one created a reason to go there.  It takes an advocate to engage people to use technology. The Pokémon game craze was promoted and explained in advance by “famous” You-Tube personalities. Pokemon has gone viral because individuals teach others what they need to know to use the technology.  ESOP-owned businesses have their own local personalities — ESOP committee members, informal leaders, and managers — who can be ESOP advocates who connect people to electronic communication, written materials, or on-line events.  They can do this without having to be experts about the ESOP and its rules.

Consider how on-demand communication tools in the hands of enthusiastic managers or committee members can help them to be more effective communicators. “Our employees remembered the clear and understandable ESOP webinar that Workplace Development provided almost ten years ago. Recently they developed new versions for us in Spanish and English. We put these tools in the hands of our managers so they can introduce the ESOP to employees in locations all over the country,” explains Robin Masten, President of SuiteAmerica.

Providing a road map to find online ESOP resources can be as important as introducing the ESOP plan. Employees at employee-owned Sterling Engineering are professionals who work on-site in client locations . This means participants need to be able to find information from a computer or on their smartphone. “We were certain that people would want to explore and get answers after the introductory web-seminar so we included a guided tour to make it easier to access the information online,” says Tim Silkaitis, Vice President of Finance for Sterling Engineering.  Using the benefit portal provided by their ESOP TPA (Blue Ridge ESOP Associates), Workplace Development helped the company develop additional custom communication tools and information for employees to explore the ESOP on their own.

Friendly competition generates interest

A game or a challenge can give people “an excuse” to learn or do something new.  Adults tend to learn when we need information, so we don’t go seeking information without a reason. Why try to understand a long-term benefit (like an ESOP) unless someone gives us a reason? The challenge and competition keeps the energy going in the Pokémon Go game. Just because you are not in the same location doesn’t mean you can’t create friendly competitive activities that encourage learning about the ESOP and and focuses participants on how actions today impact future stock value.  Our coaching for ESOP communication teams often includes creating online learning tools combined with a contest or a Certified Employee Owner (CEO Certification Program) so they have a way to focus co-workers on the information provided.

Nostalgia gets attention

If you are a millennial you were probably exposed to the old Nintendo Pokémon game, TV show, or card game as a child; the recent launch builds on those fond childhood memories. ESOP committees and company leaders can use nostalgia to their advantage, too.  For example, we’ve found our templates built on classic games– like ESOP Jeopardy—help committees generate more excitement when the theme fits the company’s participant demographics.

The ESOP can have a positive impact on company performance when people understand the plan and their role in success. The success of the recent launch of the Pokémon game reminds us that geography doesn’t have to be an obstacle to building ownership enthusiasm, understanding and engagement.

For more information about how Workplace Development can provide your company with tools and strategies to make the most of your ESOP, contact Cathy Ivancic at 330-8967-7285 or civancic@workplacedevelopment.com.