Applauz Blog

How to Build an Outstanding Work Anniversary Program

Published: April 28, 2020

Last Updated: February 7, 2024

  4 min read

These tips will help HR professionals launch an employee service awards program that delivers a personalized and thoughtful experience.

Most people arrive at a new job with enthusiasm and a hunger to grow and learn. So why do workers wind up walking down the path towards turnover?

When employees quit at high rates, it suggests a lack of deeper motivation to commit long-term.

So ask yourself — what motivates my employees to stay long-term?

The first thing that comes to most people's minds is financial stability, in short, the paycheck. 

We go to work because of the paycheck, of course. But pay only scratches the Asset 86isurface. Cash incentives only provide a limited amount of motivation. 

In other words, if salary is the only incentive provided, it's unlikely talented employees will commit long-term.

Employee loyalty grows out of providing a variety of incentives and benefits.

Consider your favourite restaurant as another example, one where you have been a loyal customer for years. What makes you return for more time and time again? 

It's a place to fill up an empty stomach — for sure. But that's not the only factor. You'd be a repeat customer everywhere if that were true.

Other (more essential elements) create loyal customers, for example, the food's quality, price, selection, staff, service, ambiance, comfort, and location.

The same idea applies to keeping employees committed to your organization. 

Top 7 Best Practices for Recognizing Employee's Years of Service Download PDF Now


A Years of Service Program: Make Employees Feel Proud and Supported

These programs are also called "Service Awards Program" or "Employee Rewards Program," they reward and recognize an employee for their work anniversaries. 

Having a work anniversary program in place creates a positive employee experience— hard work is acknowledged and validated. Employees are put first; and feel seen. 

The results: Workers feel proud and supported.

Fostering a culture of gratitude is a fundamental part of establishing a psychologically safe work environment. Employees who feel a sense of community and support will consider staying with your company for the long haul. 

Bottom line: If you want to drive long-term employee commitment, motivation, and retention, a great place to start is by launching a Service Awards Program.

Service Awards Programs are not created equal

Having a Service Awards Program is a good starting point. But, to reap the most benefits, leaders must provide a personalized anniversary experience. 

A Service Awards Program shouldn’t feel transactional; it’s not about rewarding employees for filling a seat. 

Service Awards intend to acknowledge the unique contributions of your employees — rewarding them for individual skills, abilities, and talents. 


7 Key Ingredients of a Successful Service Awards Program

Rolling-out a great work anniversary program can improve team performance and drive retention. But, if you miss the mark, you risk implementing a dull, generic-feeling program.

A lackluster program can actually undermine motivation — the exact opposite of what managers want.

With that in mind, here are the key ingredients of a top program. These ideas will help your organization hit the mark for the launch of your Service Awards Program!

1 - Aligns with the DNA of your organization

An awards program serves your employees. They are the recipients — the customers— of your program. So, if you want to find a fitting program for your "customers," you first must understand them.

What does "understanding them" mean exactly?Asset 68i

Practical speaking, this implies knowing the average tenure of your company. Knowing this data will help you understand which milestones should be celebrated. Also, you should have basic demographics insights (like average age, gender breakdown, etc.) this will help you know what type of program and gifts will resonate with employees. For example, if it makes sense to select a traditional provider, or is it wiser to go modern? 

Bottom line: A Service Awards Program must be viewed as an extension of your organizational DNA. 

2 - Provides a digital and easy-to-use experience for administrators 

Imagine having to manually enter every employee anniversary into a calendar. It sounds like a time-consuming nightmare. That’s why a successful rewards program is built on a solid foundation of technology. 

Modern Service Awards providers like Applauz Recognition have digitized their programs. Redundant tasks such as work anniversary reminders and emails are all automatic. This means the system does the work of tracking and rewarding employees for their work anniversaries.

The top benefit of these modern solutions: More time! Now, managers can focus on creating fun and meaningful anniversary experiences.

4 - Anniversary celebrations are personal, fun, and memorable

A great Awards Program should be easy to manage, but it shouldn't be impersonal either.

Remember: this isn't a transaction thanking employees for filling a seat. Personalized touches are crucial to create an exceptional experience.remoteWorkWindow-Applauz-1

As a case in point, imagine you got a gift on your birthday, but to your surprise, you received nothing else — no cake; no party; no personal acknowledgements. The gift is nice, of course. But a memorable celebration has extra touches.

For example — hosting a party, a paid lunch, a personalized message, or an acknowledgement from someone higher up. These fun celebration ideas bring a work anniversary to the next level.

Finally, always remember for significant milestones, personalized touches are the most important.

5 - Offers a diverse gift & rewards catalogue 

An excellent Awards Program must include an extensive gift catalogue. Because what one considers a "special" gift varies from employee to employee.

An excellent catalogue consists of attractive gift options for everyone in your unique workforce.

For example, some employees find value in an indulgent luxury item. In short, something they wouldn't treat themselves to otherwise. In contrast, other employees prefer practical things—like kitchenware or a home appliance.

Finally, gift redemption should be frictionless and supported by technology. In short, the redemption process should mirror a smooth online shopping experience.

6 - Celebrates the “in-between” years

Traditionally speaking, companies celebrated the first milestone at the five-year mark. Back then, spending an entire career in two or three companies was typical. Workers would even spend an entire career in the same place! 

Planning-Service-AwardsBut now, most people don't make it to their fourth work anniversary. Times have changed. The median tenure for younger generations is only 3.2 years. 

As a result, the fifth anniversary as the first major milestone is now obsolete. 

Modern programs are recognizing employee loyalty earlier, ideally, at the two or three-year mark. Celebrating the "in-between" years is the new normal. It's even becoming increasingly popular to reward employees at the end of their probation or onboarding period.

7 - Delivers a pleasant and easy gift selection experience

Think about this: shopping online when shipping is slow, the returns process is confusing, and customer service is not responsive. The entire experience is frustrating!

Providing great gift selection is an essential part of building an excellent program. But it's a waste if the shopping experience is clunky and outdated.

Asset 78iThe takeaway: Gift redemption should mirror a great online shopping experience.

For example, browsing is uncomplicated with categories and filters. When an order is placed, a confirmation is received by email. Lastly, gifts are shipped promptly with a tracking number.

Post-purchase services are also vital.

For example, a dedicated customer service team is at hand to address shipping or order issues. Easy returns are available. These services are standard for all trustworthy and reputable websites, so they must be part of your rewards program, too.

8 - Regular employee recognition is a priority

For the home run, a Service Awards Program should be part of a more significant effort to praise employees regularly. Only celebrating employees for major milestones is NOT enough.Asset 66

Employees need regular and spontaneous recognition— for example, receiving a “good job” or “thank you” — to stay motivated and happy. This can be delivered through a personalized work anniversary letter to each employee.

Prioritizing employee recognition outside of traditional milestones promotes a deep-rooted culture of gratitude and appreciation. 

Ultimately, think of a Years of Service Program as only one (yet crucial) element building an Employee Engagement Program.

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