Employee Recognition

30 Thoughtful Ways to Celebrate Work Anniversaries in 2021

By
Amanda Cross

Table of Contents

Congratulations, one of your team members made it through their first year (or more) at your company! Now it’s time to celebrate them for all the hard work they’ve done. The ideas we’ll cover aren’t exclusive to the first work anniversary. These ideas can be used for any special milestone to boost employee experience. Work anniversaries are essential dates to recognize.

Table of Contents

Why Work Anniversaries Are So Important

The first year of tenure at work is crucial. A great year with your employees sets your company up for success. Employee turnover causes more turmoil than most of us want to admit. Some people have estimated that turnover costs $15,000 per worker, from lost productivity to the cost of rehiring and training.

One of the best ways to prevent employee turnover is to be genuinely interested in your employees and their development at your company. One way to show your employees how much they care is by celebrating important dates, like their anniversary date or birthday. The first anniversary is your employee’s first interaction with how you treat employees as they progress through your company. A simple “Thank You,” or a pat on the back won’t be enough.

Celebrating work anniversaries helps you foster employee loyalty while showing how much you care. Employees are always evaluating their tenure at your company, especially during special times like this. Get your employees excited about what’s to come by celebrating their big day.

Before diving into the 30 work anniversary ideas, let’s look at some crucial tips to keep in mind.

7 Tips For Work Anniversaries And Years Of Service

Now that we know why we celebrate work anniversaries, here are some general rules to adhere to as you work to build a scalable strategy for this type of milestone:

1. Keep Up With Everyone’s Work Anniversary Dates

You shouldn’t be celebrating work anniversaries five days or weeks after the event. If possible, you should be celebrating the day of or earlier (if you group work anniversary celebrations in some way.) You should keep all of these important dates on your office calendar so you can keep an eye on upcoming anniversaries.

If you are a forgetful person, you might also want to make a pre-reminder about a month or two before each anniversary date. Setting a pre-reminder will give you ample time to work with their manager and get the perfect gift.

2. Get Everyone Involved

Your employees should hear from more than one person on their work anniversary. They have likely connected with countless employees during their tenure with the company. Make sure everyone knows about upcoming anniversary dates so that they can take part in the fun. Use a tool like Nectar’s recognition and rewards tool to call out anniversaries publicly (and allow others in the company to comment.)

3. Be Creative And Make It Personal

You don’t want to give out a general Amazon gift card, put some thought into your anniversary gift. Their anniversary gift is unique, and it will be seen as the culmination of your experience working with an employee. Make sure that the present feels special and unique to the person you’re gifting.

4. Ensure That All Gifts Are Equitable

Don’t spoil one employee if you can’t spoil them all. We want to ensure that gifts line up across the company and the departments you run. Make sure that all managers understand the gift spending limits you have in place for each anniversary date. Co-workers talk to each other, so be careful to ensure that no one feels under-appreciated because of what you give them versus their peers.

5. Don’t Think You Need To Spend A Lot Of Money

If you don’t have a ton of money to spend, you can do many free and meaningful things for your employees. Think outside the box and get what you can to celebrate them. Your employees should know the state of your company and your finances. They’ll understand if a gift can’t be extravagant, as long as it’s meaningful.

6. Budget For Work Anniversaries

Even though you don’t need to have a ton of money to give a great anniversary present, work anniversaries should still be a part of your budget. You’ll only be able to get meaningful gifts if gifting is a line item on your budget. You don’t want to have to try and find the money for it later in the year when you should be shopping for a gift.

7. Do Different Things Based On Tenure

Tenure matters. In a world where people change jobs more frequently than they wash their pants, incentivizing or recognizing tenure is seen as the best practice. If you’re going to budget for work anniversary or service awards, make sure to create it in tenure-based tiers. For example, some companies will do something extra special in years 1, 3, 5, and 10.

Editors note: At Nectar, we automate shoutouts and bonuses for work anniversaries that can be customized to fit whatever annual milestones you'd like.

30 Stellar Work Anniversary Rewards and Ideas

General tips are great, but what about specifics? Here are some fantastic work anniversary ideas that your employees will love.

1. Customized Company Swag

Custom swag can be a fantastic reward for a job well done, but it also promotes your brand. Over time, your employees will love looking at the swag they’ve collected. Here are some custom company swag ideas:

  • Backpacks
  • Hoodies/sweatshirts
  • Jackets/coats
  • Hats/beanies
  • Tanks/Shirts

For an even nicer impression, get your employee’s name embroidered on the items you give them.

Nectar can help you create a custom on-demand swag storefront to make this process seamless. This is especially great if you have remote employees so you don’t have to worry about the logistics of getting it to them.

2. Create A Service Award Program

Consistency is key. Avoid being too ad hoc with work anniversary appreciation, or you’ll run the risk of forgetting people. The best way to stay consistent is to create a formal Service Awards program or predetermined Anniversary Award. This may sound boring, but it doesn’t have to be. You can spice it up! The goal with Service Awards or Anniversary Awards is to provide an equitable, personal way to celebrate this special day with each team member. Don’t be too old school and give out anniversary gifts like plaques or trophies. Instead, give employees their choice of gift card or company swag. Allow them to choose what they get most excited about.

3. Give Them A Shout Out On Social Media (LinkedIn)

Who doesn’t love public recognition? Create a special post on LinkedIn about them. If you can, include the following:

  • A picture of them (along or with you and the team.)
  • A unique, personalized message as to why they’re essential to your team.
  • Three things you’ve learned from them over the last year.

You could do this as a “spotlight” from your company’s Linkedin account or your personal account. A sincere “Thank You” can go a long way. This is also a creative way to display your company culture and how you treat your staff in a public setting.

4. Check Something Off Their Bucket List

“I went skydivin’, I went Rocky Mountain climbin’, I went 2.7 seconds…” I know you heard Tim McGraw in the back of your head when you read ‘bucket list’ above. Everyone has a bucket list of things they want to experience. Create a budget and enable employees to create a memorable experience on you. Each time they remember the unforgettable experience, they’ll remember that you cared enough to make it happen. Talk about employee loyalty!

5. Create A Commemorative Video For Them

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth ten thousand. Videos are simple to put together since most of us have smartphones with fantastic video capabilities. Get everyone in the company who regularly works with your employee to record a quick video about their experience. If they work with customers or vendors, get them involved too! Cut the video together, post it online, and send the video link to your employee on their anniversary date. A great tool for recording and sharing videos is Loom.

Here are some things your video can cover:

  • How would you describe the employee in three words? Why?
  • What is your favorite memory of working with the employee?
  • What moment made you the proudest of the employee this year?

6. Offer To Pay For An Online Course To Learn A New Skill

Personal development and investing in your employee’s personal growth can make a huge difference. There are so many excellent classes and conferences in your industry. Pick a conference and pay for them to attend it, purchase a course on Udemy, or get a subscription to a site like Skillshare.

7. Help Them Chase A Hobby They Love

Your employees are more than welcome to have passions outside of work. Help them invest in those passions by paying for a class or personalized experience that’s unrelated to the work they do for your company. One good option for this is Skillpop, an online platform that offers expert-led classes and workshops virtually.

8. Send Cookies Or Gourmet Soup

A warm, delicious care package can brighten anyone’s day. Find your local cookie delivery service and order a box of mouthwatering goodness to their place. Alternatively, you can use a service like Spoonful of Comfort to send gourmet soup or gift baskets in their direction. If the way to their heart is through their stomach, you can’t go wrong here. This is an especially great option if you have remote employees.

9. Donate To Their Favorite Charity

If your employee loves helping others, let them pick a charity to donate to. Donate to that charity in your employee’s name and give them a small token of your appreciation alongside the gift. You’ll be helping so many people in the process.

10. Share Their Story In The Company Newsletter

If you have a newsletter that goes out to customers, prospects, or employees regularly, share their story in the newsletter. Sit down with each employee that’s celebrating a work anniversary. Gather information about their time at the company. Speak with employees who regularly work with them and see if they would like to comment about the employee. Gather all of this and share it company-wide.

11. Give Them A Day Off

We could all use a day off work. Encourage your employee to take time off and spend some time with friends and family. Don’t count this as a vacation day. Make anniversaries a holiday at your company.

12. Give Them A Long Vacation

If your employees have been with you for a while, you might want to offer an extended vacation or sabbatical based on their tenure. Unfortunately, most employees aren’t able to take longer than a week at a time. If you can spare the human resources, consider giving employees a two week or month-long vacation after several years with your organization.

13. Send Flowers, A Fruit Basket, Or A Plant

If you’re looking for a simple way to show appreciation, you could purchase a flower bouquet or get a fruit basket. These gifts can brighten your employee’s workspace for the week. Get these items delivered to the office or your employee’s home for a special touch. Make sure to include a personal note with a ‘thank-you’ and tell them why you appreciate them.

Indoor plants can make memorable gifts because every time your employee looks at the plant, they’ll be reminded of your company. Your employees might not want the responsibility of taking care of a plant. It probably goes without saying, but don’t give someone a plant who may not want one – know your people!

14. Cover A Meal For Them To Celebrate

Enable your employee to enjoy lunch or dinner with a +1. A work anniversary provides the perfect time for them to celebrate with a co-worker or loved one. You could send them a Doordash credit to have the meal delivered or offer them a selection of dining gift cards to choose from.

15. Give Them THE Coveted Parking Spot

What can I say? For some reason, we crave VIP parking spots, especially when they are earned. Maybe it’s the prime location with minimal steps to the entrance, or the fact that it’s covered to protect your baby from extreme conditions. It could be the implied status of being special. Either way, give them the white-glove treatment by letting them park in the best spot for the day.

16. Give Your Employees Extra Responsibility And A Raise

If your employees are engaged, they don’t want to stay stagnant. Your employee has learned a lot about you and your company over a year. If they are in a smaller role, it might be time to start planning a larger employee role. Make sure you also give them a raise to go along with the extra responsibilities.

If you don’t have an opening in your company currently, sit down with that employee to discuss their future with the company. Having a candid career conversation shows that you want to invest in their growth, even if you can’t give them more responsibilities right now.

17. Take Something Off Their Plate

Your employees are busy, and they probably have one aspect of their job they don’t like. Ask them to write out a list of all the things they do each week. Ask them to identify all the activities they wouldn’t mind getting rid of. Take on that activity, give it to a freelancer, or let the next hire in the department take that activity on.

18. Give Them A Handwritten Card

Though this method seems dated, a good ole’ handwritten card or note just hits different. Go to Walmart and pick out a card or make it yourself using whatever paper you have. The substance is more important than the look. Let your employee know the reasons you appreciate them. This approach may not be the most scalable if you have many employees, but people cherish the effort that goes into handwritten cards.

19. Purchase A New Computer

If your employees have been with you for a long time, they probably need a tech check. Computers don’t last forever. Some estimates say that you can expect to replace a computer every four to five years. The truth is that computers are a large part of our everyday lives as employees. An old computer can slow the workday down and drastically decrease productivity at work. Buying a new computer and giving the old one to your employee might be an excellent gift for employees who have been with your company for several years.

20. Commission A Beautiful Portrait/Art

A beautifully done portrait or art piece can make your employee’s house or office feel personalized and cozy. With so many artists sharing their work online at a reasonable price, you might consider commissioning art for your employees. For example, you can get a funny portrait created of them, a pet portrait that showcases their furry friends, or an art piece that symbolizes a place that’s special to them. Art makes a personalized gift that also supports artists across the world.

21. Let Them Get A Home Office Makeover

Many employees had to cut ties with the office and go remote (for the time being at least.) If you’re like many companies, you’ll probably be remote for a while, at least until we all start to settle down. When companies went remote in 2020, employees didn’t have time to think about home office decor and creating a productive home office. Most employers and employees couldn’t fathom how long we’d be working remotely due to the pandemic.

If you’ve had remote employees for a while and you have plans to stay that way, they need a home office that inspires them. One of the best gifts you can give a tenured staff member right now is a home office makeover. Give them a nice budget to rework and update their office space with decor, a new desk, and things that make working from home more exciting.

22. Write Them A LinkedIn Recommendation

There’s a good chance that many of your employees won’t retire from your organization. Your employees deserve your support, though. They’ve given so much to your organization! Write your employees a stellar LinkedIn recommendation that they can continue to lean on no matter where they land in your organization during the years to come.

23. Purchase A Shoutout On Cameo

If you’re looking for a fun celebrity themed gift, get your employees a shoutout via Cameo. There are so many celebrities on the site, from actors to comedians to creators. Get to know who your employees are interested in, and consider paying for a short video from Cameo as a gift.

24. Offer Stock Options In Your Company

Stock options give your staff incentive to see your company succeed, grow, and prosper. Common stock options are a great gift to give for tenured employees that should only become more valuable over time. It’s best to pair a gift like stock options with a gift that’s more concrete because stock options invest in the future. Your team will love the sentiment that they have some ownership in the future of your company.

25. Boost Their Number Of Paid/Sick Days

Earlier, we shared the idea of giving a special day off or sabbatical, but another option is to increase their number of paid days yearly. If all of your employees get one week of PTO, consider giving them extra days at pivotal milestones like their first, fifth, and tenth anniversary.

For example, once they’ve been with your company for a year, you could bump their time off to 2 weeks per year. At their fifth anniversary, you could bump that number up to three weeks per year, etc., until you reach your desired cap of PTO per year.

26. Create The Story Of Their Work There

As your employees continue their tenure at your company, they’ve accomplished so many things. It can be hard to keep up with all the fantastic work, and it can feel like our people keep going like the Energizer bunny. Instead, give your employees a chance to reflect by writing the story of their work at your company.

Creating your employee’s work story is easy with a site like Shutterfly. Collect pictures, stories from various co-workers, and write out your thoughts about having them as an employee. Put all of this together in a special photo book that is sure to wow them.

27. Create Art At Company Headquarters That Incorporates Your Tenured Employees

If your employee has been with your company for a while, it can be challenging to get your employee something meaningful. Make your tenured employee a part of your company history.

If you own the land where you are headquartered, you can get a brick made with their name on it and get it paved into the sidewalk or put it in a special location at your company HQ.

As another option, you could create a mural inside or outside of your building that incorporates your employees or their names.

28. Host A Party In Their Honor

Who wouldn’t want a party in their honor? As your people become more tenured, consider throwing them a party! Make everything themed around them, from interesting banners to party favors. You could also play a trivia game based on them or have their colleagues write and share speeches about working with them. Plus, it never hurts to make a custom cake or cupcakes with their face on it.

29. Give Them A Bonus

Who doesn’t love a little extra cash flow now and then? Giving tenured employees a one-time bonus will help them financially and is an excellent option if you can’t afford a regular pay increase. Consider a small bonus as a way to show your employees that you care about them.

30. Award Them Bonus Points In Your Peer Recognition Program

One of the best parts about using a service like Nectar’s Recognition & Rewards program is that you can give out awards to your employees for many things. You may want to coordinate with your HR team to give out a large sum of points to your employees on their work anniversary. Look at how your points transfer to rewards first to give an appropriate amount of appreciation to your team. If you'd like to get some inspiration on other reward ideas for remote teams - check out this post.

Conclusion

Employee recognition makes all the difference at work. Your people want to be celebrated and awarded for all the work they do for your company. Taking time to plan their work anniversary celebration and any ongoing years of service can do wonders for employee engagement by creating a positive, dynamic company culture with happy employees.

Here are a few takeaways from this article:

  1. You don’t have to pay a large sum to celebrate your people. Getting meaningful gifts matter.
  2. Keep up with dates! Work anniversaries are important, and your team is keeping up with those milestone dates. Make sure they feel appreciated.
  3. Ensure that things are equal. Employees talk, and you want to ensure that you are fair to everyone.
  4. Different tenure means different gifts. Team members who have been there a year won’t get mad if your gift for a ten-year veteran is grander (or at least they shouldn’t.) Don’t get tenured employees bad gifts because you don’t want to hurt new employees.
  5. Put tenure gifts in your budget. You don’t want to have to find the money later on.

To automate bonuses and public shout-outs for special events like work anniversaries, years of service, or birthdays, check out Nectar!

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