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Employee Recognition

How To Improve Tenure With A Strategic Employee Service Awards Program

Amanda Cross

If your organization is like most, you are probably trying to find ways to drive employee retention. Companies often struggle to keep employees past a few years. It takes a lot of work to get employees to those large milestone years like 5, 10, 15, and 20. Many team memberslean on employee service awards to improve tenure and build a culture of appreciation.

It can be challenging to know what to do if you've never shown appreciation in this way. Today we will learn what employee service awards are and how they improve tenure in your organization.

What Is An Employee Service Award?

Before we dive into improving tenure with service awards, let's take a step back and define an employee service award.

It is a considerable feat to make it to years like 5, 10, and 15. Most workers, especially those who belong to younger generations, find it challenging to make it to these milestone years. Companies have to be pretty special to warrant such a long tenure. If you have employees who are making it to these numbers, congratulations! You are doing something right.

An employee service award is a way to recognize team members who make it to these exciting years. These awards go beyond a pat on the back. Some companies have luncheons, give out trophies or awards, pick customized gifts, and generally use these days to celebrate these wonderful additions to their company.

What's The Difference Between An Employee Service Award And Work Anniversaries?

If you've read our content on celebrating employee work anniversaries, you may wonder how employee service awards differ. Work anniversaries should be celebrated yearly, but the recognition is typically limited. If you use a technology like Nectar, you can typically automate these special events and do something small to mark the occasion.

Employee service awards are typically celebrated once team members reach milestone years like 5, 10, 15, and 20 with your organization. By the time someone has dedicated a large chunk of their life to your company, their loyalty deserves a more significant celebration.

Service award programs typically include other factors to celebrate service milestones properly. For example, outside of commonly automated celebrations, you might have tenure-based perks that unlock for workers or a luncheon to celebrate team members who make it to milestone years.

Ultimately, staff member service awards are just an extension of your employee recognition program.

10 Ways To Improve Tenure With Employee Service Award Programs

Are you ready to improve employee tenure by creating strategic service awards? Here are ten easy-to-implement strategies that will help you succeed:

1. Utilize An HRIS To Keep Work Anniversaries Organized

One of the first things you must have to create a solid employee service award program is accurate anniversary data. Unfortunately, as you grow your team, it's easy to lose track of work anniversaries, especially if you've been holding out on getting an HRIS.

An HRIS or Human Resource Information System gathers all your employee data and helps you quickly onboard new hires. Nectar integrates with many HRIS platforms to make keeping up with work anniversaries and birthdays easy for leaders and other employees.

If your team is too small for an HRIS, you need another way to keep these dates top of mind. For example, some teams put dates like birthdays and work anniversaries on a shared calendar. If you choose this route, you'll need to consistently update your calendar as people join and leave your organization.

Streamline service awards with Nectar

2. Create A Budget For Employee Service Awards

If you plan to celebrate employee service, you likely want to set up a budget around it. There's nothing worse than realizing someone is coming up on a significant milestone and not having the funds to cover a gift.

As you set up your yearly budget, look at all your anticipated service awards for the year. Even if that person leaves before they hit the milestone, having extra money ensures you have what you need to celebrate everyone.

Consider how much you want to spend on different milestones. Employees who have been with you for five years likely have different expectations than those celebrating ten years or more. Building your annual budget based on tenure length will ensure that employees get interesting gifts that appeal to them.

Create a standardized budget for how much you will spend as the milestones go up. Many companies spend around $25 for every year an employee has been with their company. At a minimum, this means you should be spending the following during milestone years:

  • 5 Years: $125
  • 10 Years: $250
  • 15 Years: $375
  • 20 Years: $500
  • 25 Years: $625
  • 30 Years: $750
  • 35 Years: $875
  • 40 Years: $1,000

You could also add something extra to signify these milestone years, especially early on, since even getting to five years is such an accomplishment in the current job market.

Download Our Free Employee Service Awards Calculator

Do you need help putting together your yearly budget? We've created a free Google Sheet calculator that provides a plug-and-play experience.

Simply enter:

  • Your employee's name
  • The number of years they have been with your organization
  • The budget per year of service you have set (we suggest starting at $25)
  • Any bonus you want to add for milestone years

Based on this information, we can tally everything up for you per person and estimate of how much you will spend.

Do you want this in your arsenal? Copy it to your Google Drive today.

Download our free employee service awards calculator

3. Get To Know What Excites Employees When Picking Tenure Gifts

Have you ever received a nice present that you knew you wouldn't get much use from? What do you do when you get those presents that just don't make sense? Do they collect dust in your house, or do you give them to friends/family?

When picking gifts for your team, you must understand what makes them tick. Many companies create short questionnaires about recognition and gifting preferences for employees to fill out during their onboarding period. Refer to these notes as you pick employee gifts.

Alternatively, you could also create an extensive gift catalog with several options for employees to choose from. Providing these options allows employees to pick what best aligns with them. You should also consider the next steps if no gifts in your catalog align with the workers.

In your email to workers hitting a milestone year, you could share something like this:

We are excited to celebrate your X year at our company. This is a huge accomplishment! We celebrate employees who have reached this milestone with a special gift to show our appreciation. Here's the catalog you can pick your tenure gift from. If none of these presents resonate with you and your personal taste, please contact ______ in the HR department. They can work with you to find a gift you would enjoy and use.

4. Avoid Generic Recognition By Getting Others Involved

While gifts are helpful, each employee likely has a different love language. Words of affirmation can be beneficial for employees during their milestone years. You can gather feedback from various places to create an eCard or a video message to the employee. Sites like Tribute make gathering videos from multiple partners seamless and make a heartwarming gift for staff members.

Here are some people you can turn to if you want to gather this positive feedback:

  • Peers
  • Customers
  • Managers
  • Executives
  • Outside Partners

Are you unsure where to start with these tributes? Here are some prompts you can use to get people talking in an eCard or video format.

  1. What words would you use to describe ____, and why?
  2. What's your favorite memory of ____?
  3. How does ____ positively contribute to the team or company?
  4. What do you wish ____ knew about their impact on you?
  5. What was your first impression of ____, and how has that changed over the years?
  6. What's the biggest piece of advice you ever received from ____?
  7. Why do you think ____ is so good at their job?
  8. How has ____ positively changed you?
  9. What does everyone in the office know ____ for? Do they have any unique phrases or one-liners?
  10. How do you think ____ will be remembered in the company history books?

These simple questions should provide plenty of context and inspiration for those writing or discussing the employee you want to recognize.

Woman getting ready to film a video on her phone

5. Create Tenure-Based Perks For Your Employees

Another way to encourage tenure through a staff member service program is to consider the perks you can offer as employees stay with your organization. For example, you may not be able to offer four weeks of vacation when you barely know someone, but it becomes easier to trust a workerwhen they've shown up consistently for years.

One of the most common tenure-based perks is extra paid time off (PTO), but there could be other helpful perks to consider:

  • Sabbaticals
  • Committee membership
  • Leadership programs
  • Additional 401k matching
  • Salary reviews

6. Find Interesting Ways To Celebrate In Public

While there are many ways that you can celebrate tenured employees internally, there may be different ways to ensure even more people know about their excellent work. If you're ready to make a big deal and get the community involved, here are a few suggestions:

  • Social media shoutouts
  • Newspaper/radio ads
  • Blog posts
  • Workplace banners
  • Product sales in their honor

7. Don't Let Employee Location Stop You From Rewarding Great Work

You can still build a thriving company culture in a remote setting. It's crucial to remember remote staff members when you put together your company service awards. Their experience may look slightly different because they can't come into the office. How can you create something easily as fun over a Zoom call?

Here are some questions your organization should consider when thinking about remote employees:

  • How long will it take for items to get to their doorstep?
  • What will the items you ship look like when they show up after being in transit?
  • Can you support local stores when picking tenure gifts?
  • Can you streamline tenure gifts with times that person goes to headquarters?
  • What do you need to create an equitable experience for in-house and remote workers?

When planning yearly service awards, consider any additional budget needed to make remote team members feel appreciated. For example, their tenure gifts shouldn't be reduced because you need to pay extra for shipping.

Woman working from home

8. Conduct Stay Interviews With Employees Who Make It To Milestone Years

Staying put in your organization for 5+ years is the biggest compliment to the culture you are building. Once a team member reaches this milestone, they have a lot of wisdom to share with you and the leadership team.

Many companies conduct exit interviews to see why a person left, but why not interview to see why people stay? Stay interviews are becoming widely popular. There's no set time to conduct these interviews, but you want to chat with employees who have met milestone years. These employees have a unique experience they can share to enlighten your team and drive recruiting and retention initiatives.

Do you need help figuring out where to start with your stay interview? Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What is your favorite part of your role? What is your least favorite part?
  • Do you feel like we have met your expectations over the years you've worked with us?
  • What keeps you coming back to your job here?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend? Why?
  • Do you feel support from peers, managers, and executives? How can they improve their support?
  • What do you need to stay an additional five years?

9. Create Physical Awards To Mark Special Milestone Years

Getting a trophy to signify a job well done is fun, especially when you've built a unique one. Trophies and awards can be a terrific way to celebrate milestone years, especially if they accompany an award ceremony.

Many awards and trophy makers can build unique and engaging designs. Consider contracting a local trophy maker to see what they can design for your team. These companies typically have artists who can help you sketch your ideas and bring them to life.

Adding personalized touches like the person's name or a special message on the award can make these stand out to staff members.

If you have the extra funds, you can host a yearly ceremony where staff members can pick up their tenure awards. If you are already hosting a holiday party, you can easily add a spot to give tenure awards, making the evening more memorable.

Woman standing in front of an audience giving out a certificate

10. Find Ways To Engage Employees In Between Milestone Years

You can't pull off these elaborate milestone celebrations if your workers don't get to milestone years. As an employer, you should do what you can to improve tenure and build a better culture for your team members.

Improving tenure happens when you reduce employee turnover in your organization. While each step requires a lot of work, the steps to reduce turnover are simple in theory:

  1. Understand the causes of why people are leaving your organization through stay/exit interviews and company-wide surveys.
  2. Work with managers and executives to create programming that addresses the needs of your people.
  3. Take stock of the changes in your tenure and reassess throughout the year to continue seeing positive gains at work.

Listening to what your team wants is the best way to improve tenure so you can celebrate larger milestones.

How Do I Celebrate Milestone Years As Employee Tenure Increases?

Here's the thing, there's a significant difference between five and ten years. As the milestones get larger, you can't expect to show up the same way. You would feel bad if someone gave you the same $100 Target gift card after you spent 25 years working for the company.

When someone has spent a decade or more working for you, you must celebrate and show them how much you appreciate their work.

Our free employee service awards calculator will be your best friend as you think about how to show up for loyal staff members. With an increased budget, you should be able to give these employees the experiences and awards that they deserve.

A team celebrating in the workplace

Conclusion: Creating A Memorable Employee Service Awards Program

As workers spend more time with your organization, they deserve some extra-special treatment to celebrate their loyalty. Your service awards program can make all the difference and get someone to stay with your organization for years. Many employees want to stay in one place, but we have to make it easy for them to do so.

Running a service program can be challenging. Here are some key takeaways based on the items we discussed today:

  • Note all anniversary dates and years of service using technology (or even a paper calendar!)
  • Budget for work anniversaries and milestone years during budgeting season by looking at the year ahead.
  • Create a catalog of gifts/experiences so people can choose something that matters to them, or look at any gift preference notes you have on each employee.
  • Ensure that tenure gifts increase in cost as employees celebrate more years with your organization.
  • Learn from people who have spent so much time with your organization by conducting stay interviews and promoting these staffers.

Actionable workplace tips & insights for fellow people lovers

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