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Is Your Service Anniversary Program Outdated?

May 25, 2015

Written by: Steve Huffman
(View Author Bio)

Make sure your employees receive the right kind of recognition on their work anniversary. 


Imagine this scenario. Today is your tenth work anniversary with your current employer. For an entire decade, you’ve been a loyal employee and have gone to great lengths to ensure your company exceeds its business goals – sometimes at the sacrifice of your personal life. Your employer doesn’t have an official rewards and recognition program but you’ve heard that ten year anniversaries are rewarded with some kind of corporate gift. You hurry into your office (early, as usual) and see an envelope on your desk. Excitedly, you open the envelope and the card it contains.

“Dear (you),

Thanks for your dedication and loyalty for the past ten years.


Your team”  

A lapel pin with your company logo is taped inside the card. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less. It’s a nice thought but you don’t even wear lapel pins. You disappointedly sit down at your desk and begin to ponder whether or not your company actually values employee loyalty.

Although this is an extreme example of an outdated service anniversary program, it shows that employees expect some kind of relevant reward that is equal to the work they’ve put in day in and day out. If your company is still rewarding tenure with simply pens, watches and plaques – or even if your company has a rewards website with a variety of options – consider reviewing and updating your awards program. Here are six signs that your awards program is outdated: 

Sign #1 – Employees say, “I don’t like any of the gifts.”

Even though the rewards program features hundreds of gift choices, you hear that participants are having difficulty selecting an item that appeals to them.  Consider incorporating behavioral economics into the design of the program – by using choice architecture and limiting the choices to carefully selected, demographically-specific items, you can remove the burden of choice and make the selection process much more streamlined and enjoyable for employees. 

Sign #2 – Your rewards website looks like it was developed in 1990.

Technology plays a large role in all service anniversary programs and if your web-interface looks and feels old, so will your program.  Look for providers that offer responsive web design that allows associates to utilize any device to select their gift, when it’s convenient for them. Ask for technology that makes the rewards site look like your corporate website, with custom color schemes and branding. Ask if there are tools built in to support manager involvement, social recognition, web chat and a resource library that answers all of the questions that might end up in your HR department’s inbox.

Sign #3 – Many of the awards choices are emblematic jewelry.

It was a long run for lapel pins, tie tacks and cuff links but the truth is, they’re outdated. Look for an award provider that isn’t reliant on selling the jewelry they manufacture. (It’s usually part of their business model to keep the factory running and maintain a visible position in your program.)  Align with a partner that strives to provide the latest gifts available that are matched with the needs of your audience, without bias.

Sign #4 – The collection of awards is static.

Change is good. Granted, your employees are only exposed to the program every few years but when they do interact with the program it should be engaging and fresh.  Ensure the awards selection is constantly renewed, with timely replacement of discontinued items and ongoing introductions of new electronics and the latest in trending items. The collection should feature brand names the audience aspires to own but might not be inclined to purchase for themselves. 

Sign #5 – Your program does not recognize one- and three-year milestones.

Younger people entering the workforce typically don’t stay at the same company for five years. However, best in class employers recognize their associates well before the five year mark – taking the opportunity to celebrate shorter durations with low or no cost recognition. 

Sign #6 – Your program leaves out public recognition.

Leveraging the power of your associates’ social networks to amplify the recognition opportunity bands the power of many into a meaningful source of encouragement and positive feedback.  Social tools magnify the occasion for everyone, especially those where, co-workers, friends and family can contribute to the celebration with congratulatory messages of their own.

Your service award program needs the same attention the rest of your business requires – always seek out the latest ideas, the newest awards and the best technology. Your employees will thank you.

Steve Huffman BI WORLDWIDE

Steve Huffman

Vice President
Recognition Services

As VP of Recognition Services, Steve works with an experienced team of Design and Delivery Specialists that are devoted to the development and distribution of symbolic and lifestyle merchandise awards programs. His focus is on the customer’s needs and expectations as they relate to recognition systems and individual award initiatives. Steve has been a member of the Recognition Team for over 25 years and with BI WORLDWIDE for more than 30.

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