Apple today announced a significant new initiative internally for employees that “effectively [makes] everyone who works for Apple eligible for an RSU grant.” RSU grants, or Restricted Stock Units, have typically been reserved for top Apple management and product engineering roles as a way to retain employee talent for long periods of time. For example, Apple CEO Tim Cook was granted 1 million shares in 2011, following the succession of Steve Jobs, that will vest over time through 2021. According to an email from Cook to all employees today, a similar plan, with obviously much smaller amounts of shares, is now starting:

Team,

I’m writing you today to announce a new stock ownership program for employees.

For many years, we have offered people across the company the opportunity to become shareholders in Apple by participating in the Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP), which makes Apple stock available at a discount that’s exclusive to our employees. Many of you have taken advantage of this program, and I am told we have one of the highest participation rates of any company offering employee stock purchase plans.

In addition to the ESPP, employees in certain roles have been eligible to receive restricted stock units. Each year, the management team recommends eligible employees — typically from our product areas — to receive RSUs as an incentive to continue their important contributions to Apple. Each grant is approved by the Board of Directors.

This year, I’m excited to let you know that the Executive Team has created a new program for stock ownership through RSU grants. It’s designed to reach employees who were not previously eligible, including many in our amazing retail and AppleCare teams.

This new program extends eligibility to everyone not covered by other RSU programs, effectively making everyone who works at Apple eligible for an RSU grant. This is an unusual step, and very special — just like our team.

Please check HRWeb for details on this new program.

At Apple, our most important resource — our soul — is our people. Along with our many progressive benefit plans, this is another way for us to say thanks. On behalf of the Executive Team, I’d like to thank you for your many contributions to Apple. Working with all of you is the privilege of a lifetime.

Best,

Tim

Notably, these shares will serve as a significant bonus to both retail and AppleCare employees in addition to people working in Apple’s corporate divisions. Sources in Apple Retail say that RSU awards began being distributed to employees today, with initial grants ranging from $1000 to $2000 worth of shares. These amounts will likely increase based on the amount of time with the company, position, and assigned project. As Cook notes in his email, this type of program is not typically offered by major corporations, and it is clear that the company is going out of its way to retain employee talent.