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Employee service awards: the standard verbiage for something employers give employees on their work anniversary. These awards for service have been given to employees since the Industrial Revolution, back when workers would only get an award after 25 years of service.
Luckily, we’ve come a long way since then, and we’ve shifted our mindset to offer awards such as plaques or pins after five, 10, and 15 years. This progress is great, but that traditional model is now outdated. It’s high-time we look at another mindset shift when it comes to service milestones—a shift to more personalized, meaningful recognition that could lower voluntary turnover by 31% and help you attract more talent.
Why Should You Reimagine Traditional Service Awards?
These traditional service awards are seen as just that: awards for surviving another year at a company. “You haven’t quit yet? Well, here’s a plastic trophy to keep you from quitting for another five years.” Even with bows and frills, that doesn’t sound great, right? An employee’s anniversary (or workiversary) should be a special milestone to be celebrated, not a day that simply means choosing an unwanted “award” from an outdated catalog.
Here at Awardco, we try to think about employee years of service awards just like we think of marriage anniversaries. Do you get together with your spouse and celebrate once every five, 10, or 20 years? No! You celebrate each year that you spend your lives together! Taking the comparison even further, do you celebrate by giving your spouse an award for not quitting? Of course not! You give them a heartfelt gift to show them how much you care.
An Example of What We Do Ourselves
Our goal is to make service anniversaries as effective and rewarding as possible, and we do it by utilizing reward compensation (otherwise known as Awardco Pay). Actually, our service awards are even more effective than traditional anniversary gifts because we've split the reward amount up to be given out each month to every employee. And the amount increases with time, of course. So, a brand new employee will get a bonus every month starting on their first month. And an employee who has been here for years will get the same consistent reward, but the amount is much higher. That way, employees don't have to wait an entire year to feel valued or appreciated—they get rewarded each month just for being awesome!
The point is, employee service awards should be more like wedding anniversaries. That type of recognition should be personal, meaningful, and thoughtful, whether you give out awards monthly or yearly. So what are some ideas for giving employees gifts for their anniversaries that show them how much you appreciate and value them?
Employee Anniversary Gift Ideas
Wedding anniversary gifts have their own traditional themes that could make employee service award gifts a lot more fun and memorable. Let’s take a look at some of these themes to see how you can really celebrate workiversaries.
1st Year—Traditional Theme: Paper; Modern Theme: Clocks
After a year at your company, employees deserve to be recognized and rewarded for their hard work and dedication. If you want to use traditional wedding anniversary gifts for your inspiration, paper is the way to go. Here are some ideas to get the juices flowing:
- Thank you card with handwritten messages from team members and leaders of the company. Add a gift card to the employee’s favorite store or restaurant for that extra something else.
- Quality journal or notebook with other stationary gifts, such as a nice pen or pencil. Many organizations have tons of branded notebooks laying around. You can make these a great gift by presenting them in a meaningful way.
- Photo album filled with memories from the employee’s first year of work (like the digital MemoryBooks Awardco offers).
- Customized puzzle of an image that’s meaningful to the employee and/or the company.
If you’d rather go the modern anniversary route, a high-quality clock is something most people could use. Make it customized to each employee’s interests so that it’s more meaningful to each individual. Plus clocks are fairly inexpensive, too. Just be careful you communicate why you’re giving a clock. Transparency behind these anniversary-like gifts will help the employee understand and appreciate a timepiece.
5th Year—Traditional Theme: Wood; Modern Theme: Silverware
Your employee has stayed around for five years, giving you 40 hours of their week nearly every single week for those years. Just like in a marriage, you need to think of an awesome, creative, and thoughtful way to say thank you. Here are some ideas following the traditional theme of wood:
- A dining set, bookshelf, or study desk in the style that the employee likes the most.
- A set of fancy wooden accessories, such as a wooden watch and wooden sunglasses (for this one, you’d need to make sure the accessories are something the employee would enjoy and wear).
- A paid trip to the Redwood Forest or another wood-themed trip.
For modern gifts, silverware doesn’t leave much room for interpretation. But silverware can be expensive, so maybe some employees would really appreciate a nice set to use at home. It’s all about discovering gifts that your employees actually want.
For example, if you know your employees are big into clothing, go for the play on words: silver wear. Gift them silver jewelry or silver-colored apparel (again, communicate the reason behind the gift so that employees understand and get excited about these creative ideas!).
10th Year—Traditional Theme: Aluminum; Modern Theme: Diamond Jewelry
This theme is all about celebrating the resilience and strength of a marriage. Why not celebrate the strength of your relationship with your employee? After 10 years, employees deserve a gift that shows just how much you appreciate all that they do. Here are some aluminum-centric ideas:
- New Apple Watch, a smartphone, or a TV
- Two tickets for a fancy cruise (cruise ships are made with aluminum—we looked it up)
- A new, modern appliance that the employee needs or wants (refrigerator, washer/dryer, etc.)
We may be stretching the aluminum theme there, but none of your employees will care as long as you give them thoughtful gifts that show your appreciation. For the modern theme, diamond jewelry speaks for itself. Just make sure the employee will actually want to wear the jewelry you give them.
Bring Work Anniversary Gifts Into the Modern Age
Using wedding anniversary gift themes to provide unique employee service award gifts is a fun idea to think about, and you don’t have to settle for only one, five, or 10 year gifts! Think about gifts you can give for each year, including everything from two years to 20 years.
However, the main idea we’re trying to get across is that gifts for employee anniversaries deserve just as much thought and creativity as gifts for your loved ones. They dedicate the majority of their lives to their company, and work anniversaries are your way to say thank you for their time and effort.
You may have noticed a theme running through our suggestions above: finding gifts your employees will actually like. You should always make sure gifts are suited to the employee who’s receiving them. Another option would be to simply allow your employees to choose the gift that they want for themselves. With Awardco, you can recognize each employee at their work anniversary with points that those employees can then redeem on the largest reward network in the world.
Get the best of both worlds: show employees you care and allow them to choose a gift that means the most to them!