navigating the new world of service awards

By in Appreciation, Celebrate Careers, and Recognition Strategies
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You are brand new to your role in HR. Or maybe you’ve worked in HR for decades. Either way, your HR VP has just made you responsible for your company’s service award program. Now what?

How do you decide what you do with it, or if you do anything at all? When service award recognition is done well, employees stay at their companies an average of 4 years longer. They also better understand how they fit in and belong in their organization, and are more likely to believe leaders care about employees. These types of programs must create meaningful recognition moments, with relevant awards and personal experiences, in order to be impactful.

To help get you started, here are 3 things to do once you are put in charge of your service award program:

1. Evaluate. What’s working well with your existing program, what’s not? In most companies, service award programs were put in place 10, 20, even 30 years ago and are still running the exact same way, with the same outdated awards and automated, no touch, impersonal experience. Perhaps it’s time for an update, or complete overhaul.

Get feedback from others in your company—employees, managers, executives. What do they like and not like about the program? What needs do they have when it comes to recognizing career milestones?

Think about the purpose of your program. Is it just another company perk? An HR initiative? Or could it be something bigger—a way to build your company culture, improve manager/employee relationships, increase employee loyalty and tenure, and attract bright new talent? In a perfect world, what would your service award program do for your company?

2. Do your research. Start by answering a few questions: what are the best practices when it comes to service award programs? What is new, innovative, and exciting when it comes to recognizing career milestones? What new awards are other companies giving? What amazing experiences are your employees missing out on?

Streamline your processes. You may be spending a lot of time and resources mulling through Excel sheets and sending out individual emails to managers and employees to administer your service award program. Stop that. Find a partner who can do some (or all) of the work for you, and leave you time for all the other projects you’ve just been put in charge of. Referrals from other HR folks, your local SHRM, associations like WorldatWork, and industry-specific conferences are all good places to start.

Ensure any potential partner has the latest research, best practices, and strategies when it comes to service award programs. And make sure you connect your service award program to something bigger—not just an HR program. Align your program with a major company initiative like employee engagement, employee retention, being a great place to work, improving manager relationships, etc. Have a strategy for your service award program, and be the hero that brings it all to life.

3. Connect with others to get them on board. Think about who you want to champion and support your new service award strategy. Leaders need to see the vision and importance of your service award strategy, that it’s more than just another HR program. Executives should be proud of it. Your IT team should support any IT needs. Bring in branding and communication teams so that your new program is aligned with the internal brand and rolled out with a bang. Connect with any employee engagement teams so recognizing career milestones becomes another strategy to improve employee engagement and increases employee motivation to do great work.

Your new program communicates the importance of employees and their work to the company. When you roll out your new program, make it a big deal. Be excited. Show off the beautiful new awards, communicate about it regularly, and share the meaningful experiences it is creating between teams. And then sit back and listen to all the exciting chatter from employees.

So you just got put in charge of your company’s service award program? Don’t sweat it—get excited about the possibility of bringing in a whole new experience for your employees.

By christina chau
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