ESOPs versus RSUs: Choosing the Best Equity-Based Compensation Strategy

ESOPs versus RSUs: Choosing the Best Equity-Based Compensation Strategy

As a company owner or manager, you may be looking for ways to incentivize employees and promote loyalty among your team. Offering equity-based compensation can be a smart move, but what type of plan should you choose? Two popular options are employee stock option plans (ESOPs) and restricted stock units (RSUs). In this article, we’ll compare the two and help you decide which is the best fit for your business.

What are ESOPs?

An ESOP is a plan that allows employees to purchase company stock at a specified price. The options typically have a vesting period, meaning employees must work for the company for a certain amount of time before they can exercise their options. ESOPs are more commonly used by startup companies, as they allow employees to buy shares at a lower price than they may be worth in the future.

What are RSUs?

RSUs, on the other hand, are a grant of company stock that is given to employees, but the shares are not available for purchase until they vest. Once the shares are vested, the employee receives them as regular company stock. Unlike ESOPs, RSUs do not require employees to purchase the shares themselves.

Pros and Cons of ESOPs

One advantage of ESOPs is that they can incentivize employees to work harder and stay with the company longer, as the shares they purchase may increase in value over time. This can also help align employee interests with those of the company, encouraging employees to work together toward success.

However, ESOPs may be less appealing to employees who are not confident in the company’s future prospects. Additionally, the vesting period may be longer and there may be a greater risk to the employee if the company does not perform well.

Pros and Cons of RSUs

RSUs can be attractive to employees because they are given shares outright rather than having to purchase them. This makes them a simpler option for employees who may not be familiar with investing in the stock market.

One potential downside to RSUs is that they may not offer the same level of motivation to stay with the company over the long term, as employees do not have an investment at risk if they leave. Additionally, since the shares are given outright, the taxes on them can be higher than those paid with ESOPs.

Choosing the Best Option

So, how do you determine which option is best for your business? It really depends on the goals you are trying to achieve with your equity-based compensation plan. If you are a startup looking to attract and retain employees who are willing to take on some risk for the potential of a greater reward, ESOPs may be the way to go. If you are a larger and more established company looking to incentivize loyalty and promote retention among employees, RSUs may be the better option.

Ultimately, it’s important to work with a financial advisor who can help you make the right choice for your business and your employees.


Offering equity-based compensation can be a great way to motivate and retain employees, but it’s important to choose the right plan for your business. ESOPs and RSUs are two popular options, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. By considering your company’s goals and working with a financial advisor, you can choose the plan that’s right for you and your team.