March 28, 2023
March 25, 2021

Service Awards vs Survival Awards

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What is an Employee Service Award

An employee service award, sometimes known as an anniversary or milestone award, shouldn’t just celebrate the passing of time. It’s not a “thanks for not leaving me” or “wow, you made it another year” award. It should be a real celebration of a year full of contributions and successes. It shouldn’t feel like something that’s handed out just for surviving. A good recognition and service award program can increase productivity and performance by 17%, so it’s worth thinking about how you can improve your service award program. 

Make the Most of Anniversary Awards

The old school way of doing service awards involved handing someone a pin or a certificate once they hit a certain landmark in their tenure at a company. Many of these awards aren’t valued once a person leaves the company—we had a client tell us that many of their retiring employees left their service anniversary plaques on their desk when they retired! A generic service award may be useless to an employee or even worse, something that reminds them of how little their company cares. Now, if you get someone something they actually want or let them choose their reward, the outcome will be more positive.

Though it may be old school, there can still be a place for pins and certificates—as long as they’re accompanied with meaningful recognition. Make sure you attach real meaning and purpose to them by acknowledging all that has been achieved during your employee’s time at the company. Don’t just thank employees with generic statements; thank them for specific accomplishments. What is something they’ve done or a project they were part of that helped the company grow? Acknowledge the relationships they’ve built and how they’ve contributed to the company culture. Point out specific skills they have, especially if it’s something they’ve learned or improved on in the last year.

Meaningful recognition goes a long way to:

  • Connect people to the team and to the company 
  • Improve retention
  • Encourage future contributions 
  • Communicate value
  • Build up company culture

Recognize Employees More Often 

Those who have not received recognition or praise in their work are twice as likely to say they’ll quit in the next year. Traditionally, service awards aren't rewarded until the fifth year and are awarded in five-year increments after that. If the average tenure of employees is somewhere between 2.8 and 10 years, you may not get a chance to recognize your people before they move on if you’re still using the traditional service award method. 

At Awardco, we think everyone deserves to be recognized. Some people may get lost in the shuffle if you have a big company, but, by focusing on service awards, you can make sure everyone gets recognized at least once a year. After you have a service award program in place, you should add in other recognition programs to increase the amount of recognition.

Service awards should be handed out often—at least once a year. Increasing service award frequency gives people something to look forward to and will help with retention and ROI. Does that seem like a big investment? Don’t worry...

Anniversary Celebrations Don’t Have to Cost Money

Recognition is one of the top three most effective non-financial methods for retention. While a reward or something monetary is nice, a service anniversary is a great time to recognize. Creating a MemoryBook that highlights key moments in their last year, as well as including comments and compliments from teammates, can go a long way. One great thing about a MemoryBook is that you can automate it, which will give you back precious moments in your day. MemoryBooks also allow for more social engagement around service awards. The rest of the team can see the MemoryBook in the recognition feed and add their own comments if they weren’t able (or forgot!) to leave a note in the MemoryBook itself. This is an especially good option for remote workers, who may not feel noticed or appreciated as much because they aren’t in the office on a regular basis. 

While the value of the rewards you give are important, the experiences you curate with the celebration of a work anniversary are just as important. Involve the rest of the team wherever you can in celebrations. Not only does this get more people involved, you can delegate tasks to take some of the work off your plate...or automate them, like we talked about above!

Use Service Awards to Build a Culture of Recognition

Other employees are boosted by seeing their teammates recognized, so when you celebrate an anniversary, you aren’t just strengthening one employee—you’re building a culture. It gives employees something worth looking forward to for their own anniversaries. 

If the person doesn’t mind being recognized publicly, consider a meeting or celebration with other people to express appreciation. Recognition increases collaboration and trust among teammates whether they’re on the giving or the receiving side. As you include other employees in celebrating and recognizing each other, it has a larger impact on the workplace culture as a whole. 

Give Them Something to Talk About

A work anniversary is a perfect prompt for a LinkedIn or social media post from an employee—so give them something to post about! You don’t have to overthink it too much, but doing something can make a big difference, whether it is a tangible reward or kind words about their performance (or both). 

Awardco can help you automate and streamline service awards so you never miss an important anniversary. It should be just as important as a romantic anniversary—just make sure it’s not romantic because that would be weird. If you want more tips for successful service awards that rekindle the passion people have for work, be sure to check out our ebook!