The Awards Categories
The GEO Awards program offers ten categories, through which global equity professionals are provided with the ideal opportunity to showcase, and gain recognition for, theiroutstanding achievements over the past 12 months.
Companies are encouraged to enter equity strategiesthat provide share ownership on a broad basis. Applicants do not necessarily have to have plans that are ultimately settled in stock distributions - companies that link benefits to the performance of corporate stock may also apply for the awards (i.e. Stock Appreciation Rights, Phantom Stock).
GEO reviews the award categories each year to ensure they reflect the latest market trends, enabling companies to showcase their strengths and achievements.
Here are the GEO Awards categories, each with their own category criteria:
Best Plan Communication
An effective communication program is key to the success of any share plan program. Operating plans globally present unique geographic, linguistic, and cultural challenges that complicate even the best communication programs. This award category looks for the most effective and appropriate communication methods and materials used in plan communications, including written, internet/web-based and virtual communication methods including video technology regardless of where a plan is offered. Judges will consider a company's size and number of participants to whom the company must communicate with regarding their share plans. Awards are not based on the amount of money spent on a communications program—rather they are based on content, coherency, and style of the message delivered, including the cohesiveness of the media employed to accomplish the organization’s defined goals. Note that in previous years, the awards process considered video technology as a separate awards category, however, due to the fact that video media is commonly deployed as part of a comprehensive campaign, all communication mechanisms will be considered within the Best Plan Communication category.
Best Use of Technology
The best designed and communicated global share plans can be prohibitively expensive and time consuming if not properly managed and operated. The use of paper/print confirmation, enrollment, account management forms and communication materials inherently slows the implementation and management of these plans. Corporate stock plan departments have thus found websites, intranets, electronic tools and other virtual technologies invaluable and cost effective in managing, communicating, and administering global share plans. The Best Use of Technology award is granted to companies that develop and/or implement innovative, appropriate, and comprehensive technological solutions to share plan administration, communication, and internal project management.
Most Innovative Plan Design
Share plans can be created to meet a multitude of corporate objectives which must be balanced with the legal, regulatory, and tax issues, both in the headquarters country as well as in other jurisdictions. An equally important challenge is to create a global plan that maintains the core corporate philosophy while adapting to local cultural concerns. This award category allows applicants to demonstrate how creative they are in working around potential stumbling blocks in developing and implementing global share plans. Measurements in this category include how well the plan was creatively adapted to local tax and regulatory laws, innovative ways to increase employee participation and excitement and how the plan differs from competitors or industry norms.
Best Plan Effectiveness
Share plans help companies achieve their corporate mission and goals. This award category is designed to highlight companies that have spent time and resources developing share plans that work well towards meeting key corporate objectives. The criteria for this category are based on the assessment of plan participation and other ways of involving employees in the successful operation of the company. An essential component of assessing effectiveness is a clear statement of the goals of the plan in addition to a demonstrated measurement technique to gauge progress in achieving those goals.
Best Use of Employee Share Plans in a Corporate Action
Share plan programs are increasingly viewed as a strategic tool in preparing for and executing mergers, acquisitions, reorganization or divestitures. This award recognizes excellence in the use of share plans in support of specific objectives furthering a corporate action. Measurements include fair or enhanced treatment for impacted participants, effective communication of implications to share plan participants, and demonstrated commitment to share plans after the conclusion of the corporate action. Qualified corporate actions include mergers, acquisitions, restructuring, divestitures and similar actions.
Best in Financial Education
There is an increasing awareness among companies that their responsibility to plan participants extends beyond the implementation of a share plan. Providing adequate financial education to participants is seen as one of the key features of successful global share plans. The award for Best in Financial Education is granted to companies who have implemented a financial education program that best meets the challenge of providing independent and objective information to employees without infringing on compliance or other regulatory constraints.
Most Creative Solution
Companies regularly face challenges—whether a result of complex plan design or extension of a plan globally—in their share plans. This award allows applicants to demonstrate how creative they are in the design and administration of their share plans while still maintaining a high level of service to plan participants. The Most Creative Solution award is granted to companies who have implemented proven, effective, and innovative solutions that solve a company's needs and reduce workload and scale processes. Awards in this category are granted to companies who offer premier solutions to unique challenges and set new industry standards.
Best Use of a Share Plan in an Emerging Market
The challenges of spreading share plan wealth globally can be particularly complex in emerging markets. Developing legislation, introducing share plans to an unfamiliar population and/or dealing with complex governance structures are a few among a myriad of challenges in a developing economy. This award category is designed to highlight companies that have developed and successfully deployed a global share plan program, including or focused on an emerging market. Successful candidates in this category will demonstrate the ability to address particular economic, social, political or even religious challenges faced in deploying in a developing economy. The winning company will address and even incorporate these aspects in their plan to be successful for their company and their employees. We recognize that measuring success may be different than what we have defined historically.
Best Use of a Share Plan in a Private Company
Share plans help companies achieve their corporate mission and goals. This award category highlights private companies that have spent time and energy developing share plans that support the achievement of key corporate objectives while remaining a privately-held company. The criteria for this category are based on the assessment of effective private company plan design, overall participation and other unique ways of involving employees in the successful operation of the company. An essential component of assessing share plan excellence in the private company environment is a clear statement of the goals of the plan in addition to a demonstrated measurement technique to gauge progress in achieving those goals.
Best Use of a Share Plan in Support of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Corporate responsibility has become a frequently discussed topic in many boardrooms. Companies are looking to share plan programs to reinforce areas such as ethical behavior, social responsibility, and sustainability. This award category is designed to honor companies that have successfully designed and implemented an equity-based plan that supports the company’s objectives in areas such as sustainability, emphasis of a specific CSR objective, facilitation of a culture change, focus on diversity and/or equality, or other corporate social responsibility targets. The criteria for this category are based on an assessment of the strategic alignment of the share plan goals with the company’s CSR objectives, plan participation and other ways of involving employees in a successful culture change.
The Judges' Award (Optional)
In addition to the award categories, the GEO Award Judges may award a company, organization, or individual that has made an exceptional contribution towards promoting global employee share ownership. Judges may select the company or organization from the annual applicant pool, however the Judges have the discretion to select any company, organization, or individual they believe warrants this award. Nominations will not be solicited for the Judges' Award. This award is intended to be granted to a company, organization, or individual that needs no application – a winner that is recognized as a leader in the field. If the award is given to a company or organization, the Judges will evaluate the overall impact of the equity plan, or promotion of equity plans, has had on its employees, shareholders, community, and the business environment. Individual awards will be based on the contribution of that person to the equity compensation profession over their lifetime.
The successful companies will be judged on the following criteria:
- Communicating the risks and rewards of the share plan in the overall context of financial planning
- Communicating clearly
- Company endorsement of the responsibility to take appropriate financial advice
- The innovative use of methods of communication to ensure maximum take-up
- Broad coverage of all aspects of financial education
- Assisting employees in the awareness of diversifying risk
- Providing employees access to independent and accredited specialists
- Use of innovative channels to provide financial education to employees (i.e., video, web, etc.)
- Easy access to information after seminars, meetings, etc. – (e.g., use of intranet, call centers)
- Employee feedback and evaluation of results