DS Smith and Equiniti
– a long-term partnership
DS Smith is present in 36 countries and employs around 26,000 people. The DS Smith story began in the 1940s when David Solomon Smith started manufacturing cartons under the name David S Smith. DS Smith originally listed on the London Stock Exchange in the late 1950s and is now a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.
Equiniti and DS Smith go back a long way; they have a relationship spanning 20 years and Equiniti has been providing share option administration support for more than 17 of those years.
The partnership has brought success on a number of levels; the collaboration between Equiniti and DS Smith on the launch of its employee share scheme helped DS Smith win the Most Creative Solution Award at the 2016 Global Equity Organization Awards.
Launching the employee share scheme
A reflection on DS Smith’s culture was the clear objective for the launch of its share scheme, offering staff the chance to buy its shares at a discounted rate, to be as inclusive as possible.
The company’s significant challenge is that it has employees across a total of 36 countries, speaking at least 20 different languages. Added to this, DS Smith’s workforce is approximately 70% manufacturing based, many without access to a computer.
It was clear that to ensure the message about Sharesave, the share scheme, reached all employees and allowed those on the shop floor the chance to access the information and materials, that more innovative communication channels would be needed. This was the objective set by DS Smith and what Equiniti set out to achieve.
Considering this need to optimise employee engagement across a diverse and international workforce, Equiniti created a solution using Augmented Reality (AR) that could be universally consumed.
AR is an exciting technology that overlays video animation, 3D models and audio onto images of the real world, thereby immersing consumers in an interactive environment. There has been a sudden increase in awareness of AR with the phenomenal take-up (more than 30 million downloads in the US according to SurveyMonkey Intelligence) of the AR powered game Pokémon Go, the first AR game to go mainstream. It is predicted to be the next ‘big thing’ in technology.
To enable clients to leverage this technology cost-effectively as part of their wider employee benefits communication strategy, Equiniti developed the Android and iOS app - EQ Strata.
EQ Strata makes a flat 2D image ‘come to life’ using AR; the creative possibilities are endless.
DS Smith became the first client to introduce this medium into its Sharesave scheme in January 2016.
Equiniti worked with DS Smith to use the AR and app technologies to enhance their wider employee engagement programme through the use of an AR poster. The poster contained an image of a sunflower head which acted as the ‘trigger’. When the app recognised this image, the animation was activated and at the end, viewers could click to see the video presentation to staff, to find out more about the operation of Sharesave or seamlessly click through to the online application portal.
In the case of DS Smith, the app used GPS to determine in which country the user was viewing the poster, so the animation and links appeared in the designated language for that country.
The trigger was also used on the front of the scheme brochure that was sent to countries with larger populations.
Results versus objectives
Reach a wider audience – the AR poster was used across all sites and could be accessed by anyone with a smartphone or tablet, allowing DS Smith to take an inclusive approach in its communications and reach the audience that other channels like the intranet pages or email could not.
Engage employees – using AR was a fun and modern way of presenting core information. The facility to access a portal via smartphone or tablet meant that DS Smith could employ AR as a user-immersive tool, so that employees interacted with information about Sharesave in an innovative and dynamic way.
By encouraging employees to engage directly with the information via their smartphone or tablet and by giving them the link to apply online should they so choose, more of them were able to make informed decisions and apply quickly and easily.
Converse in the local language – AR was able to provide a cost-effective, multi-lingual solution through its connectivity with GPS technology.
Blend with traditional communications – AR is incredibly flexible and can be seamlessly blended with traditional communications, print and online. In this case, the AR poster worked alongside a standard presentation and Q&As, an information pack which was sent to employees and the intranet.
Utilisation of technology to create a new and contemporary workplace communication channel – this application of AR technology in the workplace delivers an exciting and modern alternative communication channel that is simple and flexible to use.
On trend delivery of content in line with modern expectations – by leveraging this technology, DS Smith was actively showing its support for the use of online and social communication channels in the workplace.
Self-promoting marketing campaign – this innovative approach helped to create a ‘viral’ effect; becoming a talking point amongst DS Smith employees and thereby bolstering underlying employee communication strategies.
Developing this product has enhanced Equiniti’s ability to deliver cutting-edge and cost-effective solutions for its clients.
The future development of EQ Strata is playing a key role in Equiniti’s discussions with its clients and with autonomy over the technology, Equiniti is able to adapt the app to client requirements.
Equiniti will continue development and lead the way in transforming how employees are informed about work-related savings schemes using this new technology.
There are plans to expand the use of AR into related Employee Benefits services and areas currently under assessment include:
Individual benefit augmentation
Cycle2Work - in addition to creating a 3D experience immersing the employee in the details of the benefit, the micro-sites within this experience would enable the employee to select and see the cost of the benefit, as well as identifying via GPS the nearest cycle shop locations.
Shopping Discount experience
If an employee has shopping discounts as part of their reward structure, an easy way to identify these whilst out shopping would be to use the EQ Strata app against a shop logo which then opens their employee discount offerings for that shop.
Access to Total Reward package
Application of the technology to employee security passes enabling instant access to an employee’s Total Reward package via their employee portal to process benefit selections, review and amend pension contributions, view pay data or manage their HR Online requirements.