The emergence of online employee recognition and reward programs is still a relatively recent phenomenon.
Sometimes we have to stop and remember that the Internet didn’t really start until 1983. And, for the interaction needed with online programs, this was emerging in the 90s with Web 2.0 launching in 1999.
With the emergence of the Internet, reward and recognition providers could now use technology systems to integrate with Human Resource Information Systems.
What do we mean by pull and push approaches to employee recognition programs?
A pull approach to recognition programs suggests they would start programs in organizations as a response to demands from their leaders, and even from their employees, for having them.
This means that leaders who start finding it hard to give face-to-face recognition all the time need help. Whether it’s the location of the employee that makes it difficult to interact with them and or the need to simplify with tools that facilitate recognizing many staff across the organization.
So, starting recognition programs in an organization following a pull strategy approach would only begin if enough people advocated for the need.
In contrast, a push approach is where recognition and reward vendors would initiate a sales approach of selling recognition programs in anticipation of future demands down the line. This is further exemplified when organizations put out requests for proposals to get a new program offering or to see what is new within the industry.
Organizational leaders and HR specialist may advocate for the need of having recognition and reward programs as an industry best practice. Other organizations will already have these types of programs and leaders want to remain competitive in the marketplace. For this reason, many organizations will set up online recognition programs rather than waiting for the demand to arise.
Recognition vendors use a push sales and marketing strategy when they market and advertise their recognition and reward programs to gain awareness within organizations. In a push system approach, they start employee recognition programs independent of any specific demands for them.
The pull strategy approach to recognition programs implies reaching companies where leaders and HR professionals have asked about recognition programs, or want more information about them and how they work.
Internal Push Strategy
I often tell people that starting up a recognition and reward program in your organization is nothing like going to a Walmart store and buying a toaster, then coming back home and plugging it in, and thinking you’re ready to go.
People are always averse to new things, and recognition programs are no different.
The first thing you have to do to push awareness and usage of your recognition programs is getting an individual commitment from your leaders. Your leaders must state the expectation to use the programs, as well as set the example by actually using the programs themselves.
Next, comes the constant feeding of information, purpose, and guidance in using the programs, through a myriad forms of communication messaging via different communication mediums.
You might inform staff of the launch of your new recognition program via an initial email campaign. A direct mail campaign might accompany this with a postcard mailed out to employee homes. You can announce the program via a town hall meeting with a PowerPoint® slide overview.
They can follow this up with HR presentations at department staff meetings or by using a train-the-trainer approach with managers making demonstrations to their staff. Enlist staff volunteers to act as ambassadors for the cause of recognition and be a resource to managers and employees on effective recognition giving.
And you should hold people accountable for using the online recognition and reward programs if you want them used properly. I have seen a regional president enlist the help of a senior leader to communicate the value and importance of the online recognition and reward programs. They have encouraged their direct reports to use email and put recognition usage on all leadership meeting agendas. Meanwhile, their senior leaders looked at recognition program reports and discussed them with their managers. They made recognition performance one of the agenda items each week in their one-on-ones.
These actions happened simultaneously and produce the desired results of regular and consistent usage of their recognition and reward programs. Recognition became a way of life.
Internal Pull Strategy
Alright, so how do you create a pull strategy for encouraging recognition programs within an organization?
I have seen the pilot launch approach as the best pull strategy. Getting others wanting to have a program going works very well when you start a recognition and reward program in one particular group or region. They made the emphasis to the specific leadership group of the piloted area to make the recognition program successful.
Organically, employees talk. Employees in the pilot area naturally share how they’re being positively recognized and appreciated by their peers and managers to staff across the organization. This communication spills over into areas where they don’t currently have a recognition and reward program in place, or at least not the updated version.
Two things follow. One, is that employees outside the pilot area inquire of their leaders when will they have access to the recognition program. And the second interesting outcome is that employees within the pilot area find they can not recognize staff outside their pilot group.
This pent-up demand creates a fertile environment to launch the recognition and reward programs elsewhere within the organization.
Another strategy you can use to pull the need and demand for recognition programs is a recognition awareness initiative through educational presentations and resources. Just as you have other learning and development topics available for leaders and employees, address the subjects of employee recognition, rewards, feedback, and motivation.
Specific to employee recognition, cover recognition practices and recognition programs. Individuals should learn how to give meaningful, memorable, and motivational recognition without using programs. As the size of the organization warrants it, the practicality of having online recognition and reward programs becomes more clear.
There are also offline recognition programs that many organizations start off with before going totally online. These can comprise customized postcards or note cards that highlight organizational values or simply express thanks and appreciation for work done well. Other more formal programs may exist where staff have to complete a written nomination form to nominate a peer or team for an award of excellence.
The Best Approach of All
In reality, it should never just be a push or pull approach, but a push and pull strategy that is used to encourage recognition programs.
Some organizations are not ready for a push approach, either from vendors or internally. An overall readiness assessment needs to be done to see if any programs are realistic. Perhaps they should stick with enhancing the quality and frequency of recognition practices for the time being.
For other organizations, where the readiness level is at the middle to high level, a wonderful combination of push and pull approaches may be the right thing to do. When readiness is at the high-level, leaders can certainly draw upon the push strategy to move forward with recognition and reward programs.
Recognition Reflection: Have you used a push or pull strategy to encourage the use of recognition programs?
Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.