Great ideas
for creating a fantastic
Employee Service Award

Create a great employee length-of-service recognition program

The difference between a great employee service award program and a weak program can be significant. Great companies see anniversaries as a wonderful opportunity to express appreciation to their employee for years of service, to strengthen the bonds between employer and employee, to build employee morale, to reinforce the importance of the employee as a member of your team. It's an opportunity to celebrate the positive.

Here are some great ways to do that:

  • Be sincere.  The purpose of employee service recognition is to express appreciation to employees for years of service. A few sincere words of appreciation are often worth more to the employee than an expensive gift. Genuine appreciation, frequently and sincerely expressed throughout employment, reiterated on the anniversary date are especially important for creating a culture of recognition. And special celebrations for employees on special anniversaries help to significantly enhance your culture of recognition. Research has shown that employees need more than just a good paycheck to feel good about their job. Feeling appreciated is very, very important. Feeling unappreciated is a major reason why people leave organizations. Happy employees tend to feel appreciated. Find an outstanding company and you'll find a company that works at expressing that appreciation. A great employee service recognition program entails maintaining a corporate culture of caring about employees, and expressing appreciation for loyalty over the years.

  • Remember employee anniversaries.   Most employees remember their hire date. Great managers do, too. It's the career equivalent of a birthday. We recommend acknowledging each employee's anniversary every year. Make it personal, with a card, letter, phone call, personal visit or some other gesture. It doesn't have to be formal, just a genuine expression of appreciation. A few sincere words from management will be noticed and appreciated by an employee. Create a system for remembering anniversaries. Top management should also create a system for helping immediate managers remember, too.

  • Do something special on the anniversary day.   Many companies group employees together and celebrate their anniversaries quarterly, monthly or even annually. While these companies are on the right track by celebrating employment anniversaries, it can be even better to recognize employees on their actual anniversary dates. Nothing beats a special presentation to the employee on the actual anniversary date. If the anniversary date does not fall on a work day, or if for logistical reasons it is difficult to arrange a special presentation on the actual date, try to recognize the employee as close to the date as possible.

  • On milestone anniversaries, give a nice gift.   On milestone anniversaries, such as the first few years, and then every 5 years after that, a very nice gift in addition to words or letters or other verbal expressions of appreciation is an important part of the recognition. What's a great gift? Because everyone's tastes are different, it's good to enlist the employee's help in selecting the perfect gift. The best solution is to offer the employee a selection of gifts, offered in a variety of categories that are sure to cover the broad spectrum of individual tastes and lifestyles.

  • Make the gift a celebration.  The purpose of employee service recognition is to express appreciation to employees for years of service. There is no rule for the price of the gifts. Each company determines its budget based on its financial situation and corporate culture. Typically companies give gifts at increasingly higher values for more years of service. Some companies spend $50 for a five year gift, others spend $500 or more. More important than the cost is the sentiment. The company and the employee should feel that the anniversary gift is a celebration of the relationship, and the gift is a lasting symbol of the celebration. The gift should be something that the employee will truly enjoy and appreciate.

  • What type of gift should you give?   Some companies give gifts with their corporate logos on them, others give a gift selected by corporate management. The problem with many of these gifts is that although they are given with the best of intentions, such gifts often do not serve the employer well. The employee may appreciate the gesture, but put the gift in a drawer or closet, never to be seen again. In many cases, these may be expensive gifts. We recommend giving employees a choice from a selection of nice gifts. The selection should include gifts from a number of categories to help ensure that every person can find a gift that he or she will truly enjoy.

  • Don't give money.   In employer-employee relationships, money is associated with compensation. You don't want to confuse employee service recognition with compensation. Employee service recognition is an expression of appreciation. Compensation implies something earned. If a gift is perceived as earned, it isn't really a gift. Employee recognition should not be considered a payment or a benefit, because it moves it from the category of caring to the category of obligation. Every company is obligated to pay it's employees, but a good company that sincerely cares about its employees also expresses its appreciation for years of service.

  • Avoid giving gift cards or gift certificates.   Gift cards and gift certificates that bear a specific amount of money are just another form of giving money. If employees are given a gift card, they know how much money you have given them. Gift cards or gift certificates which give an employee a specific amount of money to spend are very similar to giving the employee money. Gift cards and gift certificates may be acceptable for personal gifts to friends and family, but are not the best choice for employers to give employees.

  • Give a tangible gift.   The best gift is one that will be around for years, as a reminder to the employee that they are truly appreciated. A gift of money will get blended with other money, used for many ordinary purchases, and have no lasting value. A gift card or gift certificate can also be used for a variety of items which might include items which would be purchased anyway. A single gift that the employee will truly enjoy and appreciate can provide a lasting expression of your appreciation. For employee service recognition gifts, a tangible gift is usually the best gift.

  • Give a choice of gifts, but do it tastefully.   Giving the perfect gift requires a delicate balance. Giving the perfect gift will usually require getting the employee's help, which requires offering a selection. But this must be done in a tasteful manner. You want to offer a large enough choice to ensure that each employee will receive a gift that is truly enjoyed and appreciated. But you don't want to offer such a huge choice that it stops feeling like a gift and more like money. A tasteful selection of gifts will show no prices. This is another reason why gift cards and gift certificates are not the best choice for employee service recognition.

  • Decide carefully whether your gifts should bear your corporate logo.   In the past, virtually all service recognition programs featured gifts bearing the corporate logo. Today, most employees tend to prefer nice gifts without the corporate logo, but in some cases the logo is called for. If your corporate logo carries a certain cachet in the public eye, you may want to include logo items in the selections you offer to your employees. Be careful not to let ego get in the way of reality. Many corporate founders are convinced that every employee adores their company logo as much as the founder does. Some corporate executives believe that the company logo is supposed to be on these gifts. When you give a personal gift, you may sign a card that goes with it, but you don't permanently brand your name on the gift, unless you're a celebrity. Whether you include items with your corporate logo or not, you should always have some items without your logo. With a good mix of both logo and non-logo items, the gifts that employees select will quickly reveal to you whether your corporate logo should be on your service recognition gifts.

  • Present your gift in an attractive, personal presentation.   Employee service recognition isn't about just giving a gift and getting it over with. As a sincere expression of appreciation, there is a right way and a wrong way of presenting your gift. Companies often hire companies to mail recognition materials directly to employees. In such cases the employer neither produced the presentation nor presented it to the employee. While this may be better than no recognition at all, it falls short of the personal expression of appreciation that the occasion calls for. If possible, the president or CEO should make the presentation. For large corporations with tens of thousands of employees, send your presentation materials to a senior officer (or at least a manager), for a personal presentation.

  • Make your presentations in front of co-workers.   Whether it's a special banquet or a 5-minute break during the workday, it is very important to recognize employees in front of co-workers. It's also a good idea to let the employee and co-workers know about the presentation in advance, and have a photo taken of the employee with co-workers at the presentation. This has many benefits. First, it involves co-workers in the act of recognizing and celebrating the special milestone. Also, it reinforces to other employees the awareness that employees are appreciated, and that length of service is valued.

  • Train managers to make great presentations.   Presenting can be natural for some, and challenging for others. To help make sure the occasions are fun and enjoyable, train your managers in what you expect them to do.

  • Cultivate an ongoing culture of recognition.   Make it part of your organization's culture to notice and recognize employees. It's a wonderful gesture to celebrate employee anniversaries, but it's even more wonderful to also frequently celebrate employee successes, accomplishments and contributions as a part of your corporate culture.

Make the anniversary an "event"

Whenever possible, make the milestone anniversary presentation to the recipient in front of co-workers. It's better to have the "event" on or as close as possible to the actual anniversary date, to signify that the event is special to the recipient. Announce the event in advance. Include fellow employees in the presentation. Post a big announcement, or use a large easel with a big photo on it. Even if you are hosting to a small group, announce the event in advance to enhance its significance.

Chat with us now

Make it a celebration

As much as possible, make the event a celebration, even if you only have a few minutes. At the event, display a poster or banner with the recipient's name, or display an enlarged photo of the recipient. Use banners and decorations. Have refreshments if possible. Take photos, and post them after the event.

Request a guided tour

Make the anniversary special

Avoid the ordinary, so that the celebration has the feel of a special event. If you have a cake, decorate it so that it says "Congratulations Rachel" or get something a little special. If you have photos of the person from over the years, make enlargements of a few, and use them to help decorate for the event.

Chat with us

Make each celebration different

If you have frequent anniversary celebrations, do something different for every anniversary, so that each one is unique. Decorate with different types of decorations for each celebration. Use different colors. Use streamers for one event, balloons for another. Have a special cake at one event, and ice cream or chocolate eclairs at another. If an employee likes pies or brownies, have refreshments that match the individual. Have the event in a different room or location. If there is only one room, consider having the events on different sides of the room, or with tables or chairs set up in a different arrangement for each event.

Call us now

Get started today

Why wait any longer? Contact us right now, and we'll show you how easy it is to upgrade your organization's years-of service recognition into something magical. You can see a demo, ask your questions, and see why so many other organizations have moved to the CelebrationSM Program!

Start the magic now