These days, it seems like careers are a thing of the past. Employees routinely jump ship just a few years after starting work for a company, looking for greener pastures or a jump in title and responsibility that many companies can’t provide in their current environment.
That makes it even more special when one of your current employees reaches a milestone in their current employment. Service anniversaries are worth celebrating, whether it’s a five-year, ten-year, or even longer anniversary.
The only question is, how? Here are 14 thoughtful and valuable ideas you can consider for honoring and celebrating your long-standing workers.
1: A Gift Box
A gift box is an excellent idea for two reasons. The first is that the items in it don’t have to be expensive for your company, but they can still hold value to the employee receiving them. The second is because you can customize them. A personalized gift box is excellent because you know the employee will be pleased with what they get.
What can you include in these gift boxes?
- Monetary gift cards.
- Company-branded swag, like jackets, shirts, hats, or other apparel.
- A trophy certifying years of service.
- Usable branded glassware, like a pint glass or a vase.
- Hobby tools personalized to employee interests, like gardening supplies or sports equipment.
You can often browse the shop of a store like this one, specializing in workplace knick-knacks, to gather ideas as well.
2: Guided Time Off
Added vacation days are often an excellent way to help employees relax and enjoy their time and can assist with feeling like they have a positive work/life balance. This reward further helps build engagement and encourages the employee to stick around with the company; after all, would another company be as flexible?
Time off can be flat, like, “Thank you for your five years of service; here are five days of paid time off to do as you wish.” Alternatively, you can “guide” the time off. Now, you can’t tell an employee what to do with their time off. But you can, potentially:
- Sponsor a vacation to a destination by paying for plane tickets and hotel fares.
- Provide a gift card to a spa or other facility to help them relax.
- Offer vouchers or reimbursement to a high-tier local restaurant.
- Give tickets to sporting events held locally.
The benefit of these gifts is that their value is usually outsized compared to the cost, so your employees will feel much more appreciated.
3: A Year’s Paid Subscriptions
The longer an employee has been working for your company, the more valuable your award to recognize their service should be. A paid subscription might be something like a year’s supply of delivered groceries (or $X per month in grocery money), subscriptions to various gift boxes tailored to the employee’s tastes, or paid access to sites like SkillShare or MasterClass.
Of course, recognizing an employee’s service by covering their Netflix subscription isn’t exactly a tremendous value add. Remember to look at things in monetary terms as well as interest and value terms. Moreover, you need to gain approval from your employees for the subscriptions you want to give them; otherwise, they may as well not exist.
4: Financial Incentives
One of the most time-honored traditions of service recognition awards is simply money. Whether it’s a raise warranted by time spent working for the company, or a bonus given to them when they reach a particular milestone, these financial awards can be a powerful way to give employees something nice in their lives without having to run it through the company first.
One thing to be careful of is balancing the financial incentive. If one employee barely does anything but is rewarded the same as one who works extremely hard every day, it will feel bad for the harder worker. Sizable bonuses can also be incentive to work for the company until they reach a certain point, then jump ship, so your employees can’t use them entirely in isolation.
Recognition is about more than just a photo with a caption in the hallway leading to the office; it’s about showing the employee that they’re valuable. Employees who reach certain levels of tenure with your company can be awarded various forms of recognition.
An employee reaching five years might get a feature on the company website or in a newsletter. An employee that has been with you for ten years might get a handwritten note from the CEO. Employees who have stuck around for fifteen years may receive a lunch with leadership and an opportunity to discuss ideas they may have for improving the company. It all depends on your hierarchy and your existing lines of communication, of course. Lunch with the CEO may not be valuable if they already have an open-door policy.
6: A Promotion
Promoting employees simply for reaching a milestone in time served isn’t necessarily a good idea. An employee may not want a different job or a different set of responsibilities. Moreover, promoting someone based on tenure rather than merit can throw your leadership structure into disarray.
A promotion for tenure recognition is more likely to be an “in name only” promotion, adding “Senior” to their job title, for example. This reward can come with a variety of optional perks, like a senior employee’s social group or more direct access to leadership, or leeway to pursue a particular project. It all depends on what the company can use and what the employee finds valuable.
7: A Novel Experience
Going all-out with a new experience can be a powerful way to build positive associations between the milestone and the employee. For example, you might send your employee on a week-long trip to a compelling European vacation destination, a guided hike through an unfamiliar but exciting location, or give them a once-in-a-lifetime experience like skydiving, parasailing, or mountain climbing.
As usual, for employee recognition, you need to know that what you’re giving your employee is something they want. Don’t send an employee skydiving if they have a fear of heights, and don’t send an employee in a wheelchair on a guided hike. Tailored experiences are the name of the game.
8: An Office Party
An office party is a tried-and-true method for recognizing an employee. It’s also an excellent way to facilitate a little more socialization, especially if you have new employees who might be curious about what they get when they reach a service record as well. It also helps reward everyone in the team, department, or company, rather than just the employee, though, of course, the employee should get more than everyone else. An office party is a supplement best used with other awards.
An office party doesn’t need to be a big affair; you can give everyone half the day on Friday to celebrate with pizza, a movie on a projector, a catered dinner, office snacks, or other benefits. The key is more the ability to cut loose for a while than anything specific occurring during the party.
9: Facilitate a New Skill
A membership to something like SkillShare or Masterclass is one thing, but it’s another to offer a guided program or apprenticeship with a master to really buckle down and learn a new skill. This perk is an award best-suited to motivated employees who enjoy pursuing new abilities, of course, but who may not learn as effectively from impartial, pre-recorded classes.
The sky is the limit for this, literally. You can offer pilot lessons, blacksmithing classes, bookbinding instruction, or even just hire an editor to help them polish up that novel they’ve been working on for as long as they’ve been working for you. The key, at least for 10+ year work anniversaries, is something customized and one-on-one for the employee in question.
10: Charitable Support
Some employees are content with their own lives, and nothing you can offer them truly appeals. However, these people may be passionate about improving the world around them and might be more interested in support for a local volunteer organization or charity than going on a vacation or getting a company-branded clock.
Making a sizable charitable donation in their name can be helpful. If you structure it right, it can even be a tax break for the employee as well as a contribution to a cause they support. You’ll want to make sure the reason is one your company can support as well, and you’ll benefit from vetting the charity first to make sure it’s not defunct, has a reputation for squandering money, or is otherwise not worth funding.
11: VIP Parking
Often best for short-term anniversaries, you can maintain a VIP set of parking spaces for the people who have recently reached milestones in their employment. Again, this is a relatively low-value benefit, so it is best coupled with other awards. It also only works if the employee is an in-office worker (rather than remote) and if they drive a car (rather than bike to work.)
It also only works if you have a crowded enough parking lot that it’s a tangible benefit to be closer to the office. So, it’s not for everyone, but it’s a popular award for distinguished in-office employees.
12: Sponsor a Room Makeover
Maybe your employee works from home and could use higher-quality office furniture and a new computer to do their job. Perhaps they’ve been planning a bathroom remodel for years but haven’t managed to get around to it. Maybe they have a basement they’d like finished rather than left unfinished or a landscaping project they would like to do.
By sponsoring a tangible makeover around their home, you let the employee guide the value of the project to themselves, but you also give them something of great value that they can look at and enjoy every day.
The risk here is if something goes wrong (poor contractors, damage to the home, exposed problems that cascade out of control), you may end up embroiled in a difficult situation. As such, it may be better to offer a reimbursement program for those improvements rather than guiding it yourself.
13: Sculpt Their Career
When an employee reaches a milestone, celebrating it might not be all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes, the employee may be reaching a breaking point with a stressful job or a difficult situation that brings them close to burnout.
A dedicated sit-down session of career planning can be valuable in these kinds of situations. For example, you might ask them to list their ongoing responsibilities and have them flag the ones they enjoy the least, or that add the most stress to their lives. Then, you can restructure their job to emphasize the tasks they enjoy and are good at while handing off the ones that stress them out. You can also discuss avenues to promotion, overall career goals, and other long-term planning that may further incentivize yet more time served with your company.
14: A High-Value Gift
Sometimes, all it takes to keep an employee happy and satisfied is simply purchasing an item they’ve wanted but can’t justify to themselves. Maybe it’s one of those fancy massage guns or a new high-quality office chair. If they enjoy golfing, perhaps it’s a nice set of new golf clubs.
As with many such gifts, the key here is to make sure you’re getting the employee something they really want. Thus, you might consider setting a budget and letting them pick anything within that budget, or you might give them a company-branded gift card to help them cover whatever item it is they want. If your company has specific connections, you can leverage them to get an upgrade or a nicer version of what they’re looking to get; that’s a great benefit as well.
What does your company offer as incentives and benefits for time served, and which of these ideas stood out to you the most? What do you usually do to celebrate the work anniversaries of your most loyal team members? Please let us know your story in the comments section below!