How to communicate the launch of employee recognition programs for successful implementation

How to communicate the launch of employee recognition programs for successful implementation

Ever planned a great team-building event, with fun activities and great food, only to see it bomb? People failed to turn up, that’s why. 

Your well-thought-out employee recognition program is much the same.

After months of strategizing that perfect rewards and recognition (R&R) program (including the setting up of an R&R committee to drive it), when you fail to communicate this initiative, things don’t quite turn out the way they are planned.

Communication is key to success

In teamwork, silence isn’t golden; it’s deadly.
- Mark Sanborn (author and entrepreneur)[1]

As they say, well begun is half done. With the time and money you've invested in your R&R program, it is now essential to drive a sense of excitement among your employees so that the program has a spectacular impact from the word go. Its initial perception will go a long way in motivating your employees to reap the rewards of a recognition-rich culture on a daily basis.

For example, what if your managers or team leads reward valued employees, but they don’t realize this is part of the R&R program – or are not even aware of its existence? In such instances, the reward will only be considered as any other corporate gesture and not the special place that R&R has come to hold in ensuring employee contribution is recognized.

For an employee recognition program to be successful, it’s important that you communicate it well in advance. While C-level support is critical, your employees (including managers and functional leads) must be made aware of the program, its objectives, and its benefits. Not only will this generate excitement and drive greater engagement, but it will also motivate better performance. 


Just how you have set aside a budget for the entire recognition program – including those fancy mugs, personalized hard drives, and Spotify subscriptions – why not set aside monies to AMPLIFY the initiative?

Pro tip: Set aside at least 2%-5% of the entire R&R spend for communications

Treat the launch like any other digital corporate event. Plan a build-up leading to the actual launch. Design innovative e-cards or even shoot a video featuring top leaders and employees from across the organization who can talk about the R&R program and their expectations from it. Sending goodies to remote employees or distributed branches on the day of the launch to drum up excitement would be a good idea. You can engage an external partner for this, or you can take it upon yourself to build a brand around the R&R program that reinforces your company values. 

Pro tip: Start at least two months before the actual initiative is launched

If you start too early, it will blip out of collective memory, and if you start too late, there wouldn’t be enough time to build the excitement.

Now that you have your basics in place, what next?


1. Emails

Don’t send out just one email before the launch and expect ripples of excitement. 

Pro tip: Think email drip campaign to build momentum. 

Ask your sales or marketing teams and they will tell you why. Drip campaigns are emails that go out at periodic intervals based on specific user actions. 

  • The pre-launch teaser could be something like this:

Dear XX,

At (company name), we truly believe our employees set us apart and make us shine. With your outstanding contributions, (company) is poised to reach greater heights. And we want to say a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ to each one of you.

 This is why we have something special lined up.

 Watch this space for more.


Team HR

●     The launch announcement could read like this:

Dear XX,

After months of research and hard work, we have finally come up with the perfect gift for that special someone in our life - YOU! 

The all-new employee recognition program ‘You Matter’ is now live! The global online recognition program is an instant way of recognizing wins, sharing inspiring stories, and celebrating the heroes at our workplace. 

For more details about ‘You Matter’, click here. It will only take a few minutes.


Team HR

 (PS: We hope you enjoyed the goodie bag we sent as part of the official launch process.)

And so on….

2. Intranet

Company intranets are still the best platforms to provide information to employees, and the employee recognition program is no different. 

You could create polls and quizzes to know the criteria to include and invite suggestions for quirky names for award categories. You could make the R&R program a banner on your company Intranet; so, it stays on people’s minds.

3. Company Assets

Think employee watering holes, cafeterias, walkways, lifts, and any other place that people gather around.

Dot such places with posters, electronic signages, balloons, and all the paraphernalia you usually associate with fetes and parties. Use danglers, leave post-it notes on employee cubicles, put together impromptu fun activities (a street theatre, perhaps). After all, the idea is to create THE BUZZ!

4. Town Halls and Meetings

Don’t forget that all-important Town Halls where the entire cadre is present. What better way to validate your recognition program than by having the CEO or Chairman talk about it? 

Team meetings wherein the managers and leads give the low-down on the recognition program will help to engage employees. Don’t forget to ask leading questions, stir a lively discussion, and come up with some fun activities.

And since we are working hybrid now, you can use Zoom and Teams meetings for these discussions. You can even send out surprises (nothing fancy; think home-delivered meals with a message that says “Thank You, but there’s more coming...” or personalized gifts such as a money plant or health bars) to people working remotely.


Some companies have perfected the art of creating a buzz around their R&R programs. Beer major Heineken is one of them. When the company realized its R&R program was reaching only a fraction of its staff, it repackaged it and rolled out the new version with much fanfare. The team worked on launch communications using multiple mediums, including emails to employees, daily posts on social media, posters and standees, computer screensavers, and even text messages. 

Another excellent example of how to leverage tech to create a buzz around an R&R program was provided by Cox Automotive. The company came up with a week-long fest of fun-filled activities to promote its internal R&R platform, Spark. The highly anticipated Spark Week, now an annual event, begins with a company-wide email announcing the Spark Week schedule. This sets the tone for the week's activities by using a fun, themed way of communication. Spark Week, which includes unique activities like a meme contest or a digital treasure hunt, has also become the perfect way to introduce new features to the employee engagement platform. 


Here’s a handy checklist for you to see if your communications plan to launch the employee rewards and recognition program is good to go:

  1. Get C-suite buy-in for the communications program to create pre-launch buzz.
  1. What is your communication message going to be? Will you focus on the R&R program itself or the reason for its launch?
  2. Do you have a unique name for the program? Instead of a generic term, pick something unique to the company that reflects its culture or even celebrates an inside joke! Better yet, ask employees to suggest names and pick a winner.
  3. Make sure your internal communications team is strategic about getting the messaging right. Figure out how to cascade this messaging to the rank and file.
  4. Get the budgets to go big on the communications campaign.
  5. Create a sustained communications campaign from pre-launch to post-implementation so the R&R program is truly beneficial.
  6. Create a core group on which you can test your communications campaign and tweak it for greater impact. This group can also be your lobbying team to ensure continuous ripples of excitement and engagement.
  7. Work backward from the launch date and create a project plan with a tracker and a project lead who will ensure all the pieces fall in place and the campaign is well-executed.
  8. Continue communicating through the launch and well after.

You’ve launched the program. Now what?

It’s easy for the excitement to drop within days after the launch. Therefore, your employees must be your biggest ally. While you continue with follow-up communication, measure the impact of your efforts. Use surveys, quizzes, and even employee focus groups to gather feedback and make this process of communication continuous. 

Remember the mantra: communication, communication, communication.