Employee career anniversaries provide a unique opportunity to recognize an employee’s achievements and strengthen their sense of pride, unity, and belonging. When it’s done right, workplace recognition can increase engagement by 60%. It can also increase the time employees plan to stay at the company by at least 2 to 4 years.
While helping employees to feel valued, witnessing employee anniversary recognition strengthens the entire team and motivates younger employees to aspire to a similarly long and successful career. Consider the following keys to creating meaningful career anniversaries for your staff and building a team that’s as invested in your long-term success as you are.
Recognize Years of Service Anniversaries
Career milestones include everything from a junior employee’s first year of work to a veteran’s 20 or 25 years. At each of these important stages, the needs and emotions of an employee are different, and this should be reflected in the way you recognize their anniversary.
1 Year (Steep Learning Curve)
The first year with a company is a huge emotional milestone for an employee. They have navigated the initial learning curve and “earned their stripes” as a member of the team. Recognizing this initial milestone is critical for strengthening the employee’s bond and sense of pride in being part of the organization.
3 Years (Becoming Comfortable)
After three years, employees feel comfortable and familiar with their work and specializing with specific teams. They are typically looking for further pathways for growth and opportunities for advancing their careers. This anniversary is a great opportunity for recognizing the employee’s achievements so far and helping them envision the next stage of their career.
5 Years (Expert)
The five-year mark in a company is a moment of decision for many employees. They feel confident in their area of expertise and are considering the company as a place to call home. At the same time, they may be questioning whether they are valued by the company and whether things might be better elsewhere. This anniversary is the perfect time to focus on the employee’s unique contributions and show them how appreciated they are.
10 Years (Ownership and Belonging)
Ten years of service is a significant achievement that should be recognized in a special way. By the 10-year mark, the employee feels a sense of ownership and sees their coworkers as family. They are also strengthening their role in the company’s growth. At 10 years, it’s appropriate to make a public show and give the employee a special gift such as a personalized plaque or weekend away.
15 Years (Partnership)
At 15 years, an employee is an invested member of the organization. They have hit their stride in their professional life and feel proud of their ongoing contributions. Just as the employee is invested in their work and proud of their achievements, you should take this chance to express your pride and appreciation by investing in the perfect gift such as fine jewelry or a personalized leather wallet.
20 Years (Veteran)
Employee anniversary recognition at 20 years is worth celebrating with fanfare for two decades of loyal service. At 20 years, an employee is a seasoned veteran who’s seen a lot of change and has a lot of knowledge to share. For an employee’s 20th work anniversary, consider a personalized gift such as an engraved watch or luxury goods.
25 Years (Most Significant Milestone)
25 years is considered the most significant milestone and a cumulation of all of an employee’s previous anniversaries, achievements, memories, and growth. For a 25-year anniversary, focus on the employee’s victories over the years and experiences shared with the company and coworkers. A gift such as a travel package is especially appropriate for this momentous occasion.
30 Years (Nostalgic)
This kind of employee tenure is definitely worth celebrating. At 30 years, an employee is still very much a productive member of the workforce but is also moving into a mentoring role. The knowledge and experience that the employee has gleaned over the years provide an invaluable resource for coaching others, and they may be keen to hand over this hard-earned employee experience before they move into retirement. For a 30th work anniversary, focus on celebrating memories and friendships over the years, and give them a gift such as a lapel pin and a luxury dinner out with their spouse.
Personalize the Service Awards and Celebrations
When considering each anniversary idea listed above, be sure to tailor the employee recognition to the individual for a more meaningful and heartfelt celebration. The custom approach demonstrates to the employee that you know who they are and value their unique contribution.
To get your creative juices flowing, here are a few creative ideas for personalized anniversary celebrations:
For a 1st, 3rd, or 5th anniversary, a handwritten letter is a nice gesture to show individual recognition to a valued employee. While the financial cost of this form of appreciation is small, the fact that you noticed the employee and their strengths and took the time to write a personalized message speaks volumes about how much you value your staff.
If your organization is large or you hire remote employees, it might help to keep a file on each employee with strengths, examples of growth, and tasks they performed particularly well. This file will prove invaluable for employee anniversary recognition as well as providing insights for team building and the allocation of roles. Many businesses have great success with this approach, and your efforts won’t soon be forgotten.
As mentioned previously, the early years of an employee’s career can present doubts along with increased confidence in their role. For an employee who is celebrating their three-year or five-year anniversary and you suspect might be ready for more, a one-on-one session to plan their career could be the most powerful and effective celebration you can give.
At this meeting, invite the employee to share their joys, frustrations, and aspirations and discuss possible goals and opportunities for their future career. Listen intently and take notes that you can follow up on immediately. Your action now could win the employee for life.
Decorate their Desk
This one works best for physical workplaces when an employee comes into an office for work. Early on the day of their anniversary (or the night before, after they’ve left), create a personalized desk display to surprise them with your heartfelt thanks. As part of the desk decoration, include:
- The same number of balloons as the number of years of service (or a number-shaped balloon to match)
- A Happy Anniversary card written and signed by the team
- Flowers — find out their favorites from their spouse
- A gift card or wrapped anniversary gift that’s meaningful to them
For remote employees, a decorated email and a digital gift card provide a suitable alternative to a decorated desk. Alternatively, fly the employee in for the occasion and help make them feel like part of the team.
Points for Perks
If your staff is international, hybrid, and/or entirely remote, a digital system of bonuses or perks can be part of your employee recognition program. On the day of an anniversary, congratulate the employee on a public announcement board that everyone can see and give them the relevant number of credits toward a perk or bonus that they personally choose.
The advantages of digital rewards for a global team include the following:
- Reward credits can be allocated fairly while going toward the product of their choice
- Credits can easy to translate into local currencies and experiences
- The perks can be truly enjoyed by the employee (and their family)
While perks can be given for employee milestones, make sure to keep this separate from perks for appreciation or going above expectations. Make the number of credits appropriate to the career milestone, and mention the employee’s unique strengths in the digital announcement.
What do you give an employee who already has everything or who has a heart that’s always keen to give? For an employee who’s celebrating their 20th anniversary at your company (or more), a charitable donation made in the employee’s name shows how much you appreciate and value the employee while doing good for those in need.
For the purpose of employee work anniversary recognition, the charity should be one that’s especially meaningful to the employee and/or one that they donate to themselves. It might be a cause that has touched the employee’s family personally or a hobby association in which the employee is involved. Be sure to recognize the employee with a letter and/or certificate and a meal or party to express your thanks.
Last but not least, a significant milestone such as a 20th, 25th, or 30th work anniversary should be celebrated as a public event. At the party, display mementos from the employee’s career along with the “old-school” merchandise from the year they were first employed. This can be made into a digital slideshow with digital attendees if your staff is working from home.
Along with a (virtual) meal and a congratulatory cake, have the employee’s coworkers and loved ones make speeches about the employee — their strengths, their victories, and funny memories they made along the way. These kinds of speeches can be especially powerful for younger employees who are hearing company insights for the first time and see examples of what they might aspire to achieve.
Make Employee Anniversary Recognition Count
If you’re wanting to strengthen engagement at work and build a strong, committed team and healthy company culture, be intentional about building a program that’s comprehensive and tailored to each employee’s needs. A bonus payment is likely to soon be forgotten, but a personalized letter, meeting, or gift could result in continued employee loyalty for years.
To begin, make a list of your employees and their work anniversaries (by year) with notifications several weeks in advance. Then, spend some time brainstorming rewards that are suited to each milestone and would be valued by each employee on your list.
Some rewards — like small parties or handwritten notes signed by all the team — take time to arrange and organize well. However, these little acts of investment in your staff can have long-term benefits for the company as a whole and work to foster unity and pride.
Awarding employees for their service can result in lower employee turnover and a team that’s as invested in the company as you. When that day comes, you’ll see the fruits of your private or public recognition. A little bit can go a long way.
Remember, happy employees are loyal employees.