the high cost of an ineffective service award program

By in Appreciation, Celebrate Careers, Employee Rewards Programs, and Recognition Strategies
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Let’s contrast the experience of two employees, Alex and Hannah.

Alex is approaching five years of service with his company. He’s not sure if anyone at his company will remember, or if his company does anything to celebrate service anniversaries. Sure enough, the day came and went like normal, without any acknowledgement of his five years of contributions. Before he leaves for the day, the mail cart puts a generic envelope on his desk, with a form letter of congratulations and a bland catalogue of things to choose from.

Hannah is also approaching five years of service with her company. Hannah has seen many employee celebrations for years of service, and is excited for her chance to order an award her coworker got for her recent anniversary. On the day of her anniversary, Hannah’s manager and team hold a small presentation honoring her five years of contributions. They present her with a beautiful symbolic piece to represent her time with the company, as well as the brochure Hannah has been eagerly waiting for to order her gift. Afterwards, they took her out to lunch at her favorite restaurant.

Two employees excited about their 5-year anniversaries, with very different experiences. But aside from disappointing an employee for a day, does how you celebrate employee service anniversaries really matter?

According to research by the O.C. Tanner Institute, it matters a lot. Companies who recognize employee service anniversaries gain two years of employee tenure and loyalty compared to companies who do not celebrate anniversaries. And if you recognize service anniversaries effectively and in a meaningful way, you can an additional two years of tenure and loyalty, for a total of four additional years.

Four years of loyalty, engagement, and great work you gain just by celebrating someone’s career in a meaningful way. Four years of loyalty and great work you could be losing because your service award program is ineffective.

So, how do you ensure your program is effective? By following six easy steps:

1)     Ensure managers and leaders have the tools and training they need to create memorable service anniversary experiences. Managers don’t always know the best way to celebrate an employee. A little bit of training and resources can make them feel equipped and confident to do so.

2)     Give awards through a personalized presentation. There’s nothing like a generic statement to make someone feel unappreciated. A personalized celebration and an award to remember it by can make all the difference.

3)     Understand that five is different than 25. How you celebrate an employee who has been with the company for 30 years will be different than how you do it for someone who has been with you for three. Make sure the recognition is appropriate for the number of years.

4)     Invite peers, friends, and family to speak. Stories and shared experiences from others make the recognition feel personal and genuine.

5)     Prepare a great presentation with stories, specific accomplishments and contributions, and how the employee’s work connects to what’s important to the company. Employees will feel honored that you put time into thinking about their unique, individual contributions.

6)     Have a keepsake to remember the experience—through photos, videos, letters, or a memento. When you prepare a great presentation that involves others and great awards, the employee will want to remember it!

Having an effective service award program doesn’t have to be difficult. By incorporating six simple strategies, your program can be meaningful and impactful to your employees. And when your employees’ service anniversaries are celebrated in a powerful way, employees become loyal, productive, and engaged members of your team. Imagine how that type of employee could impact your company for another four years.

By christina chau
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