What’s wrong with Employee Service Award Programs?

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What’s wrong with Employee Service Award Programs?

Ask your employees when they were hired, and 9 out of 10 will know the exact date. This is significant. It’s the day when they joined your company. It’s the day they took the next step in their career. It’s the day when they became part of your company’s future. It’s a date that should be celebrated, but unfortunately is often forgotten by leadership and often recognized later. Employees who feel good about their jobs, tend to perform at a higher level, 18% more productive. [source: Gallup] The correct implementation of your Employee Service Award Program can make this easy process so none of your employees feel forgotten.

Recognizing an employee later isn’t the end of the world but when your employees aren’t recognized on their actual service anniversary, the message may very likely leave a lasting feeling of being unappreciated. With large companies, this can seem like a monumental task, but it doesn’t need to be. Here’s an interesting fact; 8 in 10 employers feel that their workers are “just happy to have a job,” only 53% of employees feel the same way. [source: Monster.com and The Human Capital Institute]. To me, it sounds like a disconnect between what some leaders are thinking and how their employees are feeling.

Your Company Service Award Program Review – Something to Think About

Which statement best describes your company’s typical service award experience?

1. Management formally recognizes employees on their anniversary in front of their peers, connects the employee’s achievements to the company’s goals, and presents a gift in person, via email or through an online catalog. There might be cake!

2. Management and peers informally recognize employees throughout the day of their anniversary, and happy hour might be in order. Employees may redeem a gift via email or an online catalog, and management may or may not speak about employee contributions.

3. Management presents employees with a symbolic gift and some kind words on or around their anniversary. A public anniversary announcement may appear in the company newsletter, but there’s little fanfare beyond that.

4. We don’t offer service awards, we have no formal system for celebrating them, or our workforce / industry isn’t conducive to in-person celebrations with management.
Perhaps you’re still not sure if your company is recognizing employee service effectively. Let’s consider the points which should be followed in order to assure your employee service award program is running smoothly, efficiently, and effectively.

Recognition should be timely

Some might say, “it’s the thought that counts”. True statement. But why can’t it also be timely? 73% of managers reported that they received the results they expected when they used employee recognition either immediately or soon thereafter, and 99% said they felt they would eventually obtain the desired results. [source: Dr. Bob Nelson]

With automated notifications to your managers, with reminders of their employees’ upcoming anniversary date, and electronic congratulatory notification to your employees on their anniversary date, your problem is solved. The problem of timely notification and manager alerts is one step closer to recognizing your employee’s anniversary date. 78% of employees said that it was very or extremely important to be recognized by their managers when they do good work. 53% of employees expect recognition to occur soon after. [source: Dr. Bob Nelson] But that’s just one piece of the puzzle.

Recognition should be meaningful

Do you remember what you received for your last celebrated service anniversary? If you are like most, you either don’t remember or you do remember because you are still shocked by a lack of thought put into the actual award. That’s sad and a waste of company funds. Shouldn’t your employees be thrilled by their anniversary gift? All in relative terms of course. Employees who feel good about their jobs, tend to perform at a higher level, 18% more productive. [source: Gallup]

I’m always reminded of the statement, “One person’s trash is another’s treasure.” This could be a very accurate statement regarding your service award gifts. An effective way to take the guesswork out of your award selection and be confident in the provided gift selection to your employees, is to work with a partner who specializes in these types of programs. You as an HR leader should not need to catalog a plethora of gift cards or allocate storage room for a variety of gift options. Leave this to the professionals.

Trust me, your employees want to have a choice in what they receive as their anniversary gift. They want to have a selection of choices. They will also want to see the value. They will expect to feel appreciated and when they are not, you may very likely start to lose that employee through a sense of apathy towards how they feel their contribution to your company is viewed by leadership. Give them the choice to select what is meaningful to them, not you. Believe me, they WILL remember a gift they chose, because it will be connected to a feeling and hold value – value in the gift and a sense of value to the company.

Recognition Should Hold Value

What does the meaning of value mean to you? It might be as simple as being remembered on your anniversary date, it might mean you received a high-ticket item, or maybe it meant you got to choose your anniversary gift. The word “VALUE” is different for everyone. People are most satisfied with their jobs (and therefore most motivated) when those jobs give them the opportunity to experience achievement. [source: Frederick Herzberg]. So perhaps it might be a fair statement; Value is linked to achievement?

Now, think about your budget. This is where things can get difficult and lead to uncomfortable conversations. Your budget is the dollar amount allocated for your company service award program. I see this more often than not; many companies don’t follow the best practices for service award budgeting. Often, the budgets are less than industry standards, but that’s ok. What is more important is to provide your employees with the most value possible. The best way to achieve value, is to know what you are paying for your service award options. Do you know? I’ll bet your employees know.

Let’s face it, Google has made it possible for anyone at any time to check on the “value” which was spent. How do you think an employee would feel if they Googled their gift, only to find out that after 5 years of service, they were only valued at $53.99? I don’t know about you, but that just made me cringe. And what might have you cringing right now, is knowing you paid $100 to your incentive provider for what your employees received in a $53.99 value! What if I told you it didn’t have to be like that? What if I told you your employees should see the true value in their award selection, and you should see the true value in your recognition investment and in your invoices? The value should be clear to your employees and clear in your invoices.

Recognition Should be Clearly Communicated

Have you communicated your company service anniversary program to your employees? Do they know which years they will qualify for this recognition? Do they know what dollar amount is allocated per each anniversary level? Do they have 100’s of choices, or do they receive one pre-selected gift? Is their anniversary celebrated within their department or within your organization?

Communication is key. It starts with ALL employees having access to your company anniversary award program and the details. It’s important they know which years are celebrated. It’s important for them to know what to expect. It’s important for them to know these details as it’s a celebration of their contributions to the company. Praising Efforts (often) – 80% of employees want and benefit from it. [source: Fortune Magazine]

Communication of each celebrated milestone is also important. How does your organization communicate its celebrations? Are they celebrated or are they just a task checked off a list and almost secretive?

Milestones need to be celebrated across your organization. It shouldn’t be only between a manager and their employee. Why is this important? It’s a celebration of the employee and their contributions. It’s also a motivation factor. Ah, that’s never been mentioned before, has it? The public celebration of an employee’s anniversary can very easily serve as motivation to a new employee. How you ask? It shows the longevity of employment within your organization. It shows new employees, their colleagues have tenure and feeds towards security. It provides your first-year employees the sense of security, they too, if they do their job well and contribute, have a career with your company. This might seem off task of our topic, but it’s important to recognize the true importance of properly communicating employee anniversary celebrations and how they can motivate less tenured employees. Gratitude is a contagious emotion – both the giving and reception of. Expressing gratitude to a co-worker is empowering. It makes one feel fantastic and the receiver of gratitude becomes instantly engaged. As gratitude is contagious – it spreads throughout the organization and organically improves morale and engagement

The Takeaway

Employee service awards should not be something simply checked off a list. Effective service award programs need to:

1. Be timely

2. Hold value

3. Be meaningful

4. Be clearly communicated

Working with the right partner will help you achieve these important steps in creating and executing an exceptional employee service award program. The good news is, CoreCentive is here to help. With our 40+ years of industry experience, we take the burden off of your hands and ensure not only will your company receive the highest ROI, but more importantly, your employees will feel the gratitude that is so instrumental in their growth within your company. Shouldn’t this be the goal – exceptional employee recognition? Take a look a the Modern Guide to Service Awards.