A Word About Employee Stock Options

There's been a bunch of talk in blog circles about employee stock options over the last couple of weeks. I wrote a quick thought on this topic in a comment on a blog post the other day and thought I'd post it here as well. Put simply, in order to have an effective stock option plan that motivates and rewards employees, the employee must know three things:

  1. The number of options they have.
  2. The current valuation of the company.
  3. The total number of shares outstanding in the company.

If an employee doesn't know these three things they should place no economic value on their options. Don't get me wrong, employees should take the options if they're offered, especially if they believe they're working for a high growth company, but the options should not be considered a measurable part of their compensation package.

You can't value something if you don't know its value.