February 20, 2024
March 1, 2024

Creating Effective Employee Service Awards Catalogs (A Comprehensive Guide)

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An employee service awards catalog is just that—a catalog of items that your employees can choose from when their work anniversary comes around. Instead of giving out a commemorative pin one year and an acrylic plaque at year five, a catalog allows employees to choose the reward that is most rewarding for them. After all, 70% of employees feel that recognition is most meaningful when it’s personalized.

Here's a quick example from one of our own clients: they used to give out the standard service awards, such as a fancy watch or a pin. However, they noticed that over 50% of their employees left their gifts behind when they left the company. Obviously, those gifts didn't mean much to the employees, right?

We know that you may not be able to personalize every service award you give out. To solve that, you can create a service award catalog full of fun, diverse option that gives your employees the power of choice.

What Should You Include in Your Service Award Catalog?

The short answer is things that your employees actually want. That’s easier said than done, of course, so it may take some legwork to figure out. Choice is vital but only if there are things worth choosing.

The first thing you should do is ask your employees what sort of rewards they would appreciate. Do they want symbolic items such as a trophy or plaque of some kind? Put that as an option! Would they prefer more useful items such as a gift card to a restaurant or store or tickets to an event? Include those options as well! 

Here’s a list of catalog items you could consider for your catalog:

  • A range of gift cards or prepaid cards
  • Swag such as clothing or mugs
  • Entertainment options such as movie passes or amusement park tickets
  • Fitness items such as shoes, a smartwatch, weights, a yoga mat, or a bicycle
  • Home items such as a stand mixer, an air fryer, a leaf blower, or a set of power tools 
  • Travel opportunities such as plane tickets or hotel rooms
  • Events such as sporting events or concerts
  • Home electronics such as speakers, a television, or a computer

Make sure you offer enough variety to please as many people as you can. Here are three extra considerations to really help you nail down an awesome catalog.

1. Greater Gifts for Longer Tenures

You need to categorize your service awards catalog to fit the varied service milestones around your company. For example, say that someone celebrating their first year can choose between a shirt, a mug, an extra day of PTO, or a $50 gift card. If someone celebrating their 10th year has those some options, that's a problem. In theory, the rewards should be 10X better than the first year, right?

(Bonus tip: We've got a whole blog post about offering creative service award gifts for five, 10, 15, and 20 anniversary years.)

Make sure the catalog you give someone for their later service anniversaries is more impressive and more rewarding than the the catalog they got for their first year. Not only does that show you value your employees' loyalty, it can also be a great retention tool—if employees know they get their choice of awesome rewards after 10 years, the chances they stay that long will go up.

2. Different Gifts for Different Demographics

Another consideration to keep in mind when crafting your service award catalog is the different generations of your employees. Boomers and Gen X employees feel appreciation differently than Millennials and Gen Z employees do. For instance:

Remember, these are just general ideas of what your employees may want. Not every Millennial wants an experiential reward and not ever Gen X employee would say no to cash. The best thing you can do is talk to employees and ask for their feedback. What rewards do they actually want? Once you know that, you can create a catalog to satisfy everyone's desires.

3. Don't Forget About Taxes

Taxes are another consideration. As a general rule, service award gifts are considered taxable income. However, there are a few criteria that, if met, allow $400 to be excluded from income for these awards. These criteria include: the gift must be tangible property, not cash; the award isn’t disguised compensation; and the award isn’t given before five years of service.

We recommend doing something every year your employee stays at the company to show your appreciation (this can help keep employees engaged and motivated!), so keep taxes in mind as you plan your service awards program and create your catalog. And don’t let tax concerns keep you from rewarding your employees often; they give a huge chunk of their lives to you—the least you can do is give something back to them on their workiversary.

How Should You Present Service Awards?

Do you pull the employee in front of the company and announce their achievement while letting everyone else know what type of reward they can look forward to when they hit the same milestone? Or do you quietly provide your catalog to the employee and let them choose what they want without any fanfare?

The answer, as seems to be the case with most HR-related questions, is “it depends.” Every single employee will appreciate recognition of some kind, whether private or public, but some people are very uncomfortable with the thought of even their name being presented in front of a group. Ask each employee as their work anniversary approaches what they prefer, and let them guide the presentation of the award. 

If they’re excited about public recognition, hold a meeting that mentions each employee with a workiversary coming up. If someone doesn’t want to be a part of that, privately thank them for their service and provide your catalog for them.

Either way, make sure that all of your employees feel noticed and valued for their years of work.

What Does Awardco Do for Service Awards?

We take the gift of choice to a whole new level. We use our own platform (weird, right?). This lets us allocate our service award budget to reward every employee on a monthly basis, based on their tenure. So instead of forcing employees to wait a whole year to feel recognized, we reward them for their efforts with a certain amount of points each and every month.

And because of our integration with Amazon Business, we offer billions of items for employees to choose from. Our goal is to modernize employee recognition to help employees really feel the love and appreciation, whether they just started yesterday or they've been around for years.

Rethink Employee Service Awards

Whether you want to consistently reward your employees or you simply want to make a customized service award catalog, the key is to offer gifts and rewards that employees will find satisfying. Your people put 40 hours of effort in each week for an entire year—it's time to make their rewards more meaningful, personal, and impactful.

Jefferson Hansen
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An avid lover of fantasy books, a proud Hufflepuff, and a strong proponent of escapism, Jeff has a love of good storytelling. He relies on that for both his professional work and his writing hobby (don’t ask about the 10+ novel ideas collecting virtual dust on his computer).