Successfully Communicating the Launch of Your Employee Recognition Program

An effective communication and promotion plan is all you need to launch your recognition program successfully. This guide will take you through one.

If you’ve ever planned a fun Friday activity with snacks and games only to see a handful of employees turn up, you will have learned the importance of communication!

It’s the same with your employee recognition program. Don’t bring the ship to shore only to see it crash on the rocks! Months of strategizing, budgeting, and setting up the perfect tool will come to naught if your employees are mostly left in the dark due to the lack of proper communication.

“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has  taken place.” -  George Bernard Shaw

To see the maximum return on your program investment (with widespread implementation and adoption), you need a proper communication plan along with a launch checklist to ensure that every employee:

  • Knows about the program.
  • Is enthused about using it.
  • Is happy with the award and reward offerings.

The goal is to ‘market’ the value of your recognition program to your employees.

Communication is the key to success

To drive a recognition-rich culture in your organization and increase overall productivity, you’ve created a comprehensive recognition program that motivates your employees at every step of their journey with the company.

💡 ‘Work becomes more meaningful when people know that their actions are noticed and appreciated.’ (Source: McKinsey)

But it’s not enough to simply invest in the program if your employees are confused about its objectives and benefits.

To make your employee recognition program a success, you need to:

  • Outline the program objectives and process.
  • Communicate the launch timelines and highlight the team managing the program.
  • Define behaviors that are eligible for recognition and their benefits for employees.

Get your employees’ buy-in by creating a buzz around the program through a well-planned communication campaign with the launch at its center.


  • To create awareness about the program and its role in fostering a culture of appreciation.
  • To get employee buy-in by creating a pre-launch buzz around the program.
  • To encourage widespread adoption of the program post-launch so everyone’s contributions are recognized.


  • Set aside a budget for the communication campaign and get C-Suite buy-in.
  • Plan a corporate event around the launch with pre-launch communications.
  • Build up the momentum with emails, posters, notifications, and even word of mouth.


  • 1-2 months before the actual launch; too early, and the excitement will fizzle out, too late, and there won’t be enough momentum.
  • Continue after the actual launch to keep the excitement up and maximize ROI.
🏆 When General Motors promoted their new recognition program, they amped up on their communication efforts by reaching out to their employees using a multichannel approach (targeted emails, training videos, newsletters, and intranet posts). This ultimately resulted in a 97% participation and adoption rate for the new recognition program.

Tailoring your communication to all types of participants

While the program applies equally to regular employees and manager-level employees, your communication plan has to be tailored to each group.

1. For Employees

As the target group for the recognition program, your communication efforts should concentrate on the goals and objectives behind the program, the details of the process, the tools to be used, and the program's short- and long-term benefits for employees.

If possible, select a few key players to champion the program. Spread the word to your employees through meetings, onboarding materials, intranet, social posts, notes on the bulletin board, emails, and more.

2. For Managers

As critical stakeholders in the recognition program, managers and supervisors must be made aware of the rationale behind the program. As the ones responsible for initiating the recognition and fielding questions from their teams, they must comprehend the process, the technology, and the workings of the tool/platform.

Stakeholder meetings, training sessions, Q&A packets, and emails would help bring the mid-level executives up to speed and help them get familiarized with the program.

Methods of promoting and launching your employee recognition program

From launch emails to posters, campaigns, town hall meetings, intranet popups, there are several ways in which you can build excitement around the launch.

HR should initiate the first communication a few weeks before the actual launch; this gives employees time to understand the program, its value, the rewards on offer, and how it will improve their overall career development.

  • 📰  Press release: Kick-off the communication with a robust press release strategy introducing the program, outlining its objectives, and setting the stage for the launch.
  • 📧  Emails: A single announcement email is not enough! An email drip campaign with pre-launch teasers, launch announcements, and post-launch follow-ups will maximize the program's impact.
  • 📢  Digital and print marketing: Create a buzz about your employee recognition program. Set up digital signages and standees around the office premises, from the reception area to the cafeteria, notice boards, or any place where you can get the maximum eyeballs to spread awareness. At the same time, digital promotion through screensavers, pop-up notifications, and scrolling tickers will keep the program on the top of their minds.
  • 🗣  Intranet and internal social media: The company intranet works like an internal social media to discuss the launch, provide information, and pre-launch sneak peeks to employees. Use polls and quizzes to invite suggestions, discuss feedback, and a banner image to popularize the launch.
  • 👨‍💻 Townhall/Activities: Build trust and credibility by having the company’s business and people leaders highlight the critical aspects of the program and its implementation during the company-wide town hall meeting (onsite or virtual). Invite discussions and questions to engage employees, plan fun-filled activities, and send out token gifts to create the buzz.

Real-life R&R Launches with a ‘Wow’ factor

These companies have made a name for themselves not just for their recognition programs but for the way they launched their R&R program and the fanfare around it.

➡  Heineken repackaged and relaunched its R&R program with all the bells and whistles. The run-up to the launch included omnichannel communications through emails, daily social media posts, standees and posters, SMS to employees, PC screensavers, and more.

➡  Cox Communications planned a week-long launch festival with full-fledged activities around its Spark R&R platform. They turned it into an annual event that starts with a fun, company-wide themed email announcing the Spark Week festivities.

‘The means of telling employees “who” is receiving recognition and “why” depends on the organization's culture.’ - SHRM

A Checklist for HR planning to launch their R&R

A quick checklist will help you solidify your launch strategy and ensure that your communication plan for launching your employee recognition and rewards program is ready to roll.

Do's ✅

  • Prepare a pre-launch communication strategy and get buy-in and budget from the higher management.
  • Create an agile campaign plan, track the deliverables using a project planning tool and appoint a campaign leader to ensure proper execution.
  • Decide what you want to focus on - the R&R program itself or the reason for its implementation and launch.
  • Get the messaging right by testing the campaign on a small group and tweaking it based on the feedback.
  • Ensure your communication – posters, emails, graphics, content tone, and style aligns with company branding.
  • Go all out on launch day to up the excitement and get employees' buy-in.
  • Highlight the business value proposition and benefits to employees during launch.
  • Run regular events and promote program milestones to keep the momentum going post-launch.

Don'ts ❌

  • Don’t leave it until the last minute to get proper buy-in and budget from the management. The campaign will not get off the ground on time.
  • Don’t use the old-style pen-and-paper or excel sheet approach. It is not enough to keep pace with a dynamic campaign plan and is prone to errors.
  • Don’t divide your attention over too many things. It will take away from the significance of the main message.
  • Don’t send a generic message. It will impact the launch and implementation of your recognition program.
  • Don’t use generic colors and styles because your campaign might lose its credibility or have a reduced impact on the employees.
  • Don’t scrimp on launch day. The program will not be successful without employee buy-in.
  • Don’t focus on peripheral benefits. It will deter widespread usage and adoption.
  • Don’t think the program starts and ends with the launch. Encourage widespread adoption with post-launch activities and communication.

What comes after the launch?

Since it’s easy for the excitement to fizzle out, keep the buzz going with follow-up emails, surveys, quizzes, and even feedback focus groups.

Open your communication channels and encourage company-wide usage to ensure a successful implementation, post-launch adoption, and lasting engagement with your employee recognition program.

Concurrently, communicate the success metrics of the program, which includes factors such as:

Ensure regular updates about version changes, structural changes, modifications, and interesting statistics of the program's stakeholders and employees.

Ensure that the top management is also in on the game by frequently communicating with their teams and recognizing achievers and winners.

This will breed trust and show the employees that the company is not just investing in a tool, it strongly believes in the overall program.

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