Sending your employee recognition program to Mars: A pre-launch checklist
There’s much chatter about sending humans to Mars these days, with the effect of reducing an unspeakably complex endeavor to a lovely little trip to the south of France. “It’s just 50 million miles. Pack extra toothpaste!”
Employee recognition programs are treated the same way. Nonchalantly.
But like space colonization, success is predicated on a million pre-launch steps (perhaps not a million). After launch, there’s a thousand checks before the program boosters fall away. And finally, key maintenance to keep your program in orbit.
What’s the payoff?
Get recognition right and you’ll juice every KPI in your organization
This is not a hyperbole. Employee engagement improves retention. It fosters two-way communication. It makes values clear and offers transparency into what’s working and where the company is going. It connects people to the micro and macro impact of their work. It reveals superconducting employees. It boosts employer brand.
But you know this. That’s why you’re here. To get it right. To get to Mars. So let’s go.
A two-month honeymoonWe help many companies launch their recognition programs and we know what a growing program looks like. The post-launch honeymoon period is about two months.
Employee Recognition Program Pre-Launch Checklist
This checklist is a direct reflection of how we onboard TemboSocial Recognition customers. Note: This guide assumes that your program has been greenlit and you’re at either the vendor-selection or planning stage.
This section helps align your recognition program with business goals and encourages you to create benchmarks for the program today so that success can be gauged tomorrow. Together, we’ll put some qualitative and quantitative slices in your measurement salad.
Approach your Recognition Program like a Business Asset
Before you do anything, answer these questions. Chicken scratch or point form will do:
- What is the business rationale for the program?
- How do the Recognition Program’s goals align with your company’s goals?
- Who are your evangelists and influencers?
- What will success look like?
- When are you going to evaluate your progress?
- What metrics will you use? What will be your most essential metric?
- How do you expect the program to develop from the short term through the long run?
We suggest you share these answers with (and seek feedback from) C-suite leaders and evangelists. You’ll need their buy-in as much as from your front-line troops. Maybe more.
Here’s a wheel of fortune to get you thinking.
"Executive/leadership sponsorship and participation in the program is paramount"
Consider how recognition can become part of important processes or project workflows
Some programs make recognition part of ‘business as usual’ by footnoting initiatives. Others refer to it for evaluations. Recognition in this sense doesn’t just have to be ‘great job!’, it can be ‘we did some things right, and some things wrong, but we did it, and this is what we learned.’
Here are two real-life examples:
After every software release, a CTO at company “A” shares robust recognition that mentions the team - developers who built features, network gurus responsible for stability, QAs who lit and then extinguished fires. The CTO shares what went well, what went wrong, and what was learned. If an employee can be singled out for great work, they are.
Company “B” uses recognition in performance reviews. They ask employees how they think they are doing, then compare that self-assessment to their recognition stories and comments. You’re right to think that this could be problematic, but company B has a consistent, mature program, and it works for them.
How you do it will be a reflection of your goals and culture. Let’s look at those.
Spot your gaps. Turn those gaps into goals
An employee recognition program that is integrated in the Intranet can meet multiple engagement goals and business objectives. But first, work to identify the gaps you’ll need to fill:
- List the strengths and weaknesses of your existing employee recognition program(s)
- Consider the visibility and reach of your intranet platform
- Consider larger HR and near-term productivity or transparency goals
- Review your larger mission and company objectives
Here are some goals we commonly see:
- Lower departmental silos or unify cultures
- Improve employee satisfaction and morale
- Reduce employee turnover
- Identify high-performing but under-the-radar employees
- Consolidate or simplify the administration of recognition programs
- Consolidate employee conversations
- Reduce absenteeism
- Help employees connect with company values
- Smooth generational workplace gaps
- Improve customer service
- Increase sales
- Improve employer brand
We don’t see all of these in a single organization, of course. At most it’s 5 or 6 major goals.
Turn goals into focus
Once there’s a business case and goals, you’re ready to focus on methods, barriers and communications.
Here are few boxes to check off first:
- Do the unwritten rules of your company support what you’re planning?
- Do managers have the language they need to recognize team members? Is recognition covered in the leadership development curriculum?
- Do executives and managers:
- Understand the relationship between motivation, recognition and enhanced performance levels
- Understand areas they could improve in terms of recognition practices
- Understand individual preferences of team members with regard to recognition
- Practice recognition consistently in other programs
- Act as a role model for others in giving public or one-on-one recognition
Ensure that your new employee recognition program in the Intranet complements your legacy recognition programs.
If your Intranet isn’t the central point of communication and information for your employees, connect your program to other channels and platforms. “Fish where the fish are.”Consider where your ERP might go in the future (see our Modules to get an idea of how the Digital Workplace is taking shape) and sketch how that might work.
Define key messages
Key messages synthesize the benefits of the upcoming program and set expectations for participation. They help generate awareness and interest in the Recognition Program for different audiences. Having language around your program makes it easier to build how-to’s and FAQs.
A messaging and communications checklist:
- Two introductory emails to execs (30 days, 7 days)
- Two introductory emails to managers (30 days, 7 days)
- An all-staff email for program launch
- Teaser campaigns
See below for examples.
Create a Communications Calendar
Plan your awareness messages to your stakeholders. Add dates and milestones to this calendar. Anything related to messaging, awareness, evaluating and adjusting.
Here's a sample 2-month launch plan:
Inform and set program expectations with senior leadership
We recommend sending introductory messages to at least two (and perhaps all three) stakeholder groups - Executives, Managers, and Frontline Employees.
Pre-launch communications for people-leaders should extol how recognition drives employee engagement and their essential role in the success of the program.
We typically help our customers write two messages:
- A program preview and FAQ list for executives and managers. Timeline: one month from launch
- A teaser/reminder for executives and managers. Timeline: seven days from launch
Here’s an at-a-glance idea of what should be said in these messages:
- Make the most of this new tool and voice your support
- Make it a habit: Send at least one recognition story a week to someone within and someone outside of your team
- Double-down: Add your own comments to recognition your employees receive and share these at weekly team meetings
- Go the extra mile: Review the automatic report you will now receive of all recognition your employees have received and incorporate this into ongoing feedback and employee reviews
A sample Executive Message introducing a recognition program called “Above and Beyond”.
(This is the message sent 1-month prior to launch)
I’m excited to share that our first global recognition program is underway and will launch on December 19th!
Our last survey told us Loud and Clear that employees wanted a way to recognize and celebrate both great work and the ‘little things’ that show our values. We have selected a tool that meets this need. It works right from (Intranet Portal Name) and we’re calling it “Above and Beyond.” Recognizing someone is called an “A&B”.
We’ve highlighted some aspects of the program. Before launch, I’ll circle back with specific activities we’d like your help with -- things like talking up the program, recognizing someone with an A&B on launch day, incorporating recognition in your future team meetings, and more.
We’re very excited about the impact this new program will make for our people and our culture. We hope you are too.
I welcome any questions you may have,
CEO, Company X
Employee Recognition Program FAQ’s
What is Above and Beyond and why is it important?
We love to celebrate our people and recognize those delivering great work while living our values. In just a few weeks, we will announce a new recognition program called Above and Beyond to help us do just that — one where anyone can recognize anyone else at anytime.
When should I send an A&B?
There will be seven recognition categories to start. When you see someone exhibiting our values — being bold, authentic, passionate, accountable, connected — or delivering great performance or a great result, recognize them using the Above and Beyond program.
How does Above and Beyond work?
Above and Beyond is built in (Intranet program name) so you can access it from any device and send one of seven recognition categories. Not only can employees see this recognition story on their profile, so can everyone else -- including their manager, and others can contribute to it as well. It’s an opportunity to celebrate wins, share stories and say thanks on a daily basis. It’s instant, online, unlimited and global.
Is there a reward for sending or receiving an A&B?
No. This program is pure recognition. It’s about instantly saying thanks and capturing the moments when employees represent our values, go above and beyond their tasks, or deliver great results.
What if our team doesn’t receive any recognition?
That’s no good, especially since your team is likely doing great work that deserves to be recognized! This program is yours and unlimited, so when you see someone living your values and delivering great performance or results, be sure to recognize them by sending an A&B.
Can I use this program to recognize teams?
Yes! You can send an A&B to anyone at anytime and can include multiple recipients and multiple senders if you choose.
Prepare an all-staff launch-day message
Your launch day message should be the culmination of a teaser campaign. You can get as creative as you’d like with this to really drive adoption and build excitement around the program.
Here’s a message template you could use to spread program awareness.
This section has been placed after Communications, but really these two steps are interchangeable and should be run together, as they inform each other.
Test & Pilot
Part I - Once you’ve got your program installed, give it a whirl. Send recognition. Try out features. See what connects to what and how that fits with operations and workflow.
PRO TIP: Recording the steps you take here will help you understand how it works from the recipient's point of view.
Part II - Consider which features are the best fit for you. Consider what training materials you might need (our end-to-end Onboarding Program includes videos and how-tos).
Part III - Invite your Intranet Ambassadors, Executive Leadership, Recognition Ambassadors, etc. to try it. Give your evangelists time to get acquainted.
Set Employee Engagement Categories for your Recognition program
Our customers typically align these with their corporate values.
Crowdsourcing these names (internally) can be a great way to make everyone feel involved and boost launch awareness.
Examples of Pre-launch Assets for a Recognition Program
- Name / Brand program
- Name personal messages (For the fictional Above and Beyond program, recognition messages might be called A&B’s, or for a Canadian company, an Eh&B)
- Create program logo
- Select and apply a colour-scheme
- Select sub-features and options (e.g. allow users to upload their own recognition images)
- Create a customized app icon
- Create/design recognition category images
- Customize notification messages when recognition is received
- Design program’s intranet landing page
- Welcome image and message
- Create banners for relevant recognition feeds to place on other pages
- Determine location of these banners
PRO TIP: Add a recognition feed right to your home page. Here’s an example.
- Determine location of these banners
- Branded program launch email for stakeholders
- Create awareness elements for launch day
This is an exhaustive checklist and is meant to be one. Your team may launch with a much simpler program, or shorter runway, depending on your company size, culture and needs.
Bells, whistles and scope aside, the goal for most intranet-based recognition programs is the same:
Create an appreciation ecosystem that is consistent, meaningful, usable, multi-generational, and measurable.
A program that celebrates your culture, impacts your business goals and delivers a satisfied and engaged workforce.
Learn how WSPS achieved a successful recognition program launch and adoption by following this pre-launch checklist.