LTI Meaning | Long-Term Incentives Explained

by | Published on Sep 4, 2023 | Last Updated on Jan 18, 2024 | Compensation

Top Compensation Providers

The freshest salary benchmarking data by industry, location, and revenue size.

LTI Meaning

Long-term incentives (LTI), meaning a vital component in modern compensation strategies, play a crucial role in today’s corporate landscape. As the business environment evolves, companies are increasingly relying on LTIs to attract, retain, and motivate top talent. But what exactly are LTIs, and how can they benefit both companies and employees? In this blog post, we will explore the world of LTIs, their types, implementation challenges, and best practices for designing effective plans that align with company objectives. So, let’s dive into the fascinating world of LTIs and unlock their lti meaning and potential!

Key Takeaways

  • Long-term incentives (LTI) are important components of a company’s compensation strategy to retain employees and reward their contributions.
  • LTI can be classified into appreciation, time and performance based awards with vesting mechanisms such as cliff or ratable vesting.
  • To design effective plans, companies should align LTIs with objectives, balance risks & rewards while considering legal & financial implications for successful implementation.

Related: Executive Compensation Survey

Decoding LTI: Understanding Long-Term Incentives

Long-term incentives (LTI) are a deferred compensation strategy designed to incentivize, reward, and motivate employees while aiding the company in retaining valued personnel, fostering growth, and managing cash flow for employees. LTI plans can be tailored to the needs of specific companies and industries, with technology and life science companies often utilizing non-equity-based long-term grants, incentive stock option plans, and combinations of various long-term incentives for desired company performance.

LTI plans utilize vesting mechanisms like cliff vesting and ratable vesting to reward employees for their contributions to the company’s success. These mechanisms help define good performance and tend to reward employees accordingly, making LTIs a strategic compensation vehicle.

As a result, most companies significantly benefit from utilizing long-term incentives in their compensation strategies.

OfficialLogo White

Get the freshest salary benchmarking data by industry, location, and revenue size.

Purpose of Long-Term Incentives

The primary purpose of long-term incentives is to provide employees with an incentive to remain with the organization and to have a vested interest in the company’s performance, often through market-based equity vehicles. LTI plans are typically reserved for senior employees who have the ability to influence corporate profitability and long-term success.

In LTI plans, vesting is a fundamental component, ensuring key personnel’s prolonged association with the company, thereby making LTI plans a strategic compensation method. Vesting is a conditional equity grant that is not owned until the vesting period has expired, often in the form of an appreciation-based award.

Employees can benefit from stock options by taking advantage of the ‘buy low, sell high’ approach, while also being aware of the potential risks associated with appreciation-based awards.

Importance of LTI in Compensation Strategy

Long-term incentives are integral to a company’s compensation strategy, fostering long-term retention and alignment of employee’s goals with company objectives. Transitioning to an automated total compensation platform can streamline the administration of LTI plans, integrate LTI with total compensation, and ensure compliance.

To create an effective LTI compensation strategy, companies need to tackle challenges like valuation, compliance, communication, and administration. Some recommended approaches for constructing efficient LTI plans include strategically linking LTI to corporate goals and balancing risk and reward.

Types of Long-Term Incentives

Types of LTI

There are three main types of long-term incentives: appreciation-based awards, time-based awards, and performance-based awards.

Appreciation-based awards provide the recipient with the opportunity to gain the value of the increase in stock price in either cash or stock without requiring the acquisition of shares. Time-based awards are granted with a vesting period and are guaranteed to have positive value without requiring any upfront payment.

Performance-based awards, such as performance cash units, are a type of LTI plan that rewards employees based on the achievement of specific performance objectives. To define good performance tend, one must consider the set goals and the extent to which they have been met.

Appreciation-Based Awards

Appreciation-based awards offer employees monetary benefits in the event of a company stock price increase. One example of an appreciation-based award is the Stock Appreciation Right (SAR), which is similar to a stock option, as the recipient will receive the value of the increase in stock price in cash, or sometimes in stock.

Employees can benefit from stock options by taking advantage of the ‘buy low, sell high’ approach. However, there are risks associated with appreciation-based awards, such as the value of the award becoming less than the exercise price, rendering it worthless.

Time-Based Awards

Time-based awards are incentives that are granted with a vesting period and are guaranteed to have positive value without requiring any upfront payment. These awards are only available to employees who have been in the company for a specified period.

Stock-based LTI, for example, provides value in the form of company stock, with the payout contingent upon the achievement of performance objectives. Clawback mechanisms in cash-based deferred compensation arrangements provide the company with the ability to recoup some or all of the payment if performance does not meet predetermined criteria over time, or in the event of misconduct.

Forecasting is essential for the finance team to manage cash flow employees, as it ensures that sufficient funds are available for paying out the incentive at the designated time.

Performance-Based Awards

Performance-based awards vest upon the attainment of specific performance objectives. Company grants performance shares, as well as performance cash units, which are cash-based long-term grants that vest upon the achievement of performance goals. Cash-based LTI provides value in the form of cash and is not linked to the performance of company shares, with employees being paid out according to their length of service, attainment of predetermined performance objectives, or a combination of both.

The Performance Stock Unit awarded to Autostore employees under their new plan, for example, serves to incentivize them to reach strategic objectives. This award is only accessible to employees who have achieved specific objectives, rather than based on the duration of employment.

Vesting Mechanisms in LTIs

Vesting mechanisms are pivotal in LTI plans, delineating the period when the shares or options are not yet owned by the employee. Once this period has elapsed, the employee is then entitled to the shares or options.

There are two primary types of vesting mechanisms: cliff vesting and ratable vesting.

Cliff Vesting

Cliff vesting refers to a situation in which an employee receives the entirety of an award after a predetermined period of time. The employee must remain with the company for a predetermined duration before they can acquire the entire award. Upon completion of the vesting period, the employee will be eligible to receive the full award, regardless of whether they stay with the company or not.

Cliff vesting can be utilized to motivate employees to remain with the company for an extended period of time, as they will only receive the full award after the vesting period is fulfilled. It can also be employed to reward employees for their dedication and efforts.

Ratable Vesting

Ratable vesting is a vesting mechanism whereby the employee gradually acquires partial vested rights in the award over a specific period of time. This allows the recipient to gain ownership or rights to the stock or equity gradually. Ratable vesting facilitates gradual ownership of stock or equity for employees, incentivizing them to remain with the company in the long-term.

However, managing ratable vesting can prove challenging, as it necessitates monitoring the vesting schedule and confirming that the employee meets the vesting criteria. Furthermore, forecasting the cost of the award can be difficult, as the cost of the stock or equity can vary over time.

LTI Eligibility: Who Benefits?

Executive Compensation Survey Main

Long-term incentives are typically reserved for executive-level personnel and higher, both in private and public companies. The primary rationale for this eligibility is to ensure that the individuals who have the most influence on the company’s success have an incentive to remain with the organization and contribute to its growth.

However, some organizations may opt to extend LTI eligibility to additional personnel.

Executives and Key Employees

Executives and key employees are individuals who occupy positions of authority within an organization and are responsible for making decisions that impact the company’s long-term success. Long-term incentives offered to these employees may include appreciation-based awards, time-based awards, and performance-based awards, each designed to recognize the employee’s outstanding performance, loyalty, or long-term commitment to the organization.

Vesting mechanisms in LTI plans like cliff vesting, and ratable vesting, are crucial in retaining key personnel for a longer period, rendering LTI plans a strategic compensation method. This, in turn, helps companies retain their top talent and maintain a competitive edge in the market.

Expanding LTI Programs

In recent years, there has been a growing trend of extending LTI programs to a wider range of employees. This allows companies to incentivize and motivate a larger portion of their workforce, leading to increased productivity and loyalty. By extending LTI eligibility to additional personnel, companies can foster a culture of ownership and commitment throughout the organization, and effectively encourage employees.

However, expanding LTI programs to a broader employee base comes with its own set of challenges, such as managing the increased administrative workload and ensuring compliance with a more diverse set of regulations. Partnering with a specialist provider, such as Global Shares, can help companies navigate these challenges and effectively implement expanded LTI programs.

LTI Implementation Challenges and Solutions


The implementation of long-term incentive plans may pose several challenges like valuation, compliance, communication, and administration.

Addressing these challenges effectively is key to ensuring the success of an LTI plan and maximizing its benefits for both the company and its employees.

Valuation and Compliance

Valuation and compliance challenges in LTI plans include:

  • Valuation
  • Taxation
  • Performance criteria
  • Compliance
  • Cost management

Ensuring compliance with all relevant laws and regulations is critical for LTI plans to safeguard the company from potential legal and financial risks.

Additionally, understanding the taxation implications of LTI plans at various stages, such as grant, vesting, exercise, and sale, is essential for both the company and its employees.

Cost management in LTI plans involves understanding the associated costs of the award, including the cost of the award itself, the cost of administering the award, and the cost of providing the award to employees. Properly managing these costs is vital to ensure the financial sustainability of the LTI plan and its benefits.

Communication and Administration

Effective communication is crucial in the implementation of an LTIP, as it ensures that participants understand the potential benefits of joining the plan and are motivated to contribute towards the company’s objectives. A successful communications plan should feature attractive visuals, clear and straightforward language, and illustrative examples to help employees grasp the intricacies of the LTI plan.

In terms of administration, managing an LTI plan entails:

  • Monitoring and reporting variations in award ownership
  • Revising documents/policies/procedures
  • Liaising with stakeholders
  • Consulting the board of directors
  • Ensuring compliance according to the region employees are based in

Partnering with a specialist provider, such as Global Shares, can help companies streamline the administration of LTI plans, ensuring compliance and efficient execution.

Tax Implications of LTIs

Both companies and employees need to comprehend the tax implications of long-term incentive plans. Taxation of LTI plans can change depending on the type of award at every stage of its life cycle – grant, vesting, exercise and sale. These taxations may vary according to the type of LTI award. For instance, Incentive Stock Options (ISO) do not incur income tax upon exercise, while Non-Qualified Stock Options (NSO) are subject to income tax on the spread upon exercise.

Restricted Stock Awards (RSA) and Restricted Stock Units (RSU) are taxed as ordinary income upon receiving payment. When selling the LTI, employees may be subject to Capital Gains Tax (CGT), unless the payout is made in cash, in which case CGT does not apply.

Being aware of these tax implications is essential for both employees and companies to make informed decisions about their LTI plans.

LTI Best Practices: Designing Effective Plans


Companies should adhere to best practices like aligning LTI with company objectives, balancing risk and reward, and guaranteeing effective communication and administration to design successful LTI plans.

By following these best practices, companies can maximize the benefits of their LTI plans for both the organization and its employees.

Aligning LTI with Company Objectives

To maximize the effectiveness of LTI plans, it’s important to align long-term incentives with company objectives. This involves:

  • Communicating the business objectives to employees
  • Reinforcing the right behaviors
  • Creating a timeline that matches the goals
  • Aligning employee interests with organizational objectives

By doing so, private companies can ensure that their LTI plans are strategically tailored to drive the desired results and enhance overall corporate performance.

Assessing the company’s culture, strategy, and objectives is essential when selecting the appropriate LTI vehicle, as private and public companies have distinct strategies to LTI plans depending on their objectives. By aligning LTI with company objectives, companies can create a more focused and motivated workforce that is committed to achieving long-term success.

Balancing Risk and Reward

Balancing the risks and rewards associated with the plan is vital for creating an effective LTI plan. This involves carefully considering the potential risks, such as the value of the award becoming less than the exercise price, and the potential rewards, such as significant upside potential for employees.

Furthermore, it is crucial to ensure that the LTI plan is designed in a way that promotes long-term retention and aligns with the company’s objectives, without paying above market price for talent. By striking the right balance between risk and reward, companies can create an LTI plan that effectively incentivizes and motivates employees, driving long-term success for the organization.


In conclusion, long-term incentives are a powerful tool for companies to attract, retain, and motivate top talent. By understanding the various types of LTI plans, vesting mechanisms, eligibility criteria, and implementation challenges, companies can design effective plans that align with their objectives and balance risk and reward. As the corporate landscape continues to evolve, the strategic use of LTIs will only become more crucial for companies seeking to maintain a competitive edge and achieve long-term success.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is LTI in a company?

Long-term incentives (LTI) are a form of employee benefit which reward exceptional performance and incentivize employees to focus on the long-term goals of the company. They often take the form of stock options, in which workers may purchase discounted company stock after a certain length of employment.

What does LTI stand for stock?

LTI stands for Long-Term Incentives, which are forms of variable compensation, such as cash, stock or stock options, earned in the present and spread over time.

What is the difference between API and LTI?

API is a general method for systems to interact across various industries, whereas LTI is a specific standard for easier integration of e-learning tools and platforms in digital learning environments.

What is a LTI integration?

LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) is an industry standard developed to facilitate data exchange between learning platforms and applications. It refers to a specific “language” or “syntax” used to send and receive data, allowing developers to easily integrate their applications with many LMSs that support the standard.

How do vesting mechanisms work in LTI plans?

Vesting mechanisms in LTI plans define the period during which employees are not entitled to their shares or options, before they can access them. This period is usually defined as a “cliff” or a “ratable” vesting schedule.