Equity as an Employee Motivator: The Pros and Cons

Equity as an Employee Motivator: The Pros and Cons

Employees are the backbone of organizations, and finding the right motivator to keep them engaged and productive is crucial for business growth. While salaries, incentives, and bonuses have traditionally been used as motivators, many companies are now using equity as a tool to incentivize employees.

But what is equity, and how can it be used as a motivator? In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of equity as a motivator for employees.

What is equity?

Equity refers to the ownership of a company. When a company goes public, it issues stock to the public, and individuals who buy these stocks become shareholders and own a portion of the company. Private companies can also issue stocks to their employees, which means that those employees become shareholders and have a stake in the company’s ownership.

The Pros of Equity as an Employee Motivator

1. Employee Engagement

When employees have a stake in the ownership of the company, they tend to be more engaged and committed to the success of the business. This is because they have a vested interest in the company’s performance and want to see it succeed.

2. Retention

Equity can be a powerful retention tool. When employees have a stake in the company, they are less likely to leave, as they have a financial interest in the company’s success. This can be particularly effective in industries where skilled workers are in high demand.

3. Alignment with Organization Goals

When employees have equity, their goals and the company’s goals are aligned. This means that employees are more likely to make decisions that benefit the company long-term, rather than focusing solely on short-term gains.

4. Increased Collaboration

Equity can encourage collaboration and teamwork. When employees have a stake in the ownership of the company, they are more likely to work together to achieve common goals.

The Cons of Equity as an Employee Motivator

1. Lack of Liquidity

One of the main drawbacks of equity as a motivator is the lack of liquidity. Unlike salaries or bonuses, equity is not immediately liquid, meaning that employees cannot cash in their shares until the company goes public or is acquired.

2. High Risk

Equity is inherently risky. If the company underperforms, the value of the employee’s shares can decrease, or even become worthless. This can be discouraging for employees, particularly if they have invested a significant amount of time and effort into the company.

3. Complex Administration

Equity programs can be complex to administer. The company needs to consider how much equity to offer, how to structure the program, and how to determine when employees can sell their shares. This can be a time-consuming process that requires significant resources.

4. Limited Benefit for Non-Executives

While equity programs can be beneficial for executive-level employees, they may not provide significant benefits for non-executive employees. This is because lower-level employees may not receive enough equity to provide a meaningful financial incentive.


Equity can be a powerful motivator for employees. It can increase engagement, retention, collaboration, and alignment with organizational goals. However, it can also be risky, complex, and provide limited benefits to non-executive employees. Companies should carefully consider the pros and cons of equity as a motivator before implementing an equity program. Ultimately, the success of an equity program depends on how well it is conceived, administered, and communicated to employees.