HR Mavericks

Eddy’s HR Mavericks Encyclopedia

Employee Service Awards

We know that employee recognition is an important motivator. How do you incorporate it? One tool is employee service awards.

What Are Employee Service Awards?

Employee service awards are a form of employee recognition given to honor a certain amount of time at the company. They recognize tenure and the commitment of an employee to a company.

Why Are Employee Service Awards Beneficial?

Thirty-seven percent of employees report that recognition is the best way to motivate and engage them. Employees want to be appreciated for the contributions they make and feel like not just their manager but the company as a whole is aware of how long they have been committed to making those contributions. Here are some benefits that come from employee service awards.
  • Retention. One thing that is directly impacted by employee recognition is employee retention. Employees are more likely to stay at a company that visibly appreciates them.
  • Employee engagement. As of 2023, employee engagement has increased by 34% in the US. Companies are investing more time into the employee experience and ensuring that employees are engaging with colleagues and their employer in more meaningful and frequent ways.
  • Company culture. Employee service awards help define company culture by showing employees that employee recognition is important. It shows employees that you make an effort to show appreciation for their contributions and service. It can also help improve culture by building trust, strengthening loyalty, and creating an environment where employees congratulate other employees for their accomplishments.

Best Practices for Employee Service Awards

When you decide to implement employee service awards, come up with a clear plan to follow and communicate it broadly. Here are some best practices that utilize your employee service awards to have the biggest impact on your employees.

Be Consistent

Whether you decide to give awards for one, five or ten years of service, be consistent. Failing to do so can lead to more harm than good. If you are giving out an employee service award for someone who has been with the company for five years, do it for every employee who fits that criteria.

Set Clear Expectations

Your employee service award program should be properly communicated to managers, employees, and the executive team. Who should notify HR of an employee’s years of service, or does HR track it? Should managers work together with HR to determine what the gift/award will be? What role will the executive team or other employees play in recognizing the employee’s service? These are all things that need to be considered to ensure the right expectations are set with managers, employees, and the executive team.

Make Awards Personal and Memorable

Depending on the size of your company, this can be a little more difficult, but try to make every award memorable. This is a great opportunity to recognize the employee and highlight their service. Make an attempt to find out what award/gift would make the employee feel special, appreciated, and comfortable—not everyone likes the spotlight. The more personally sensitive an award is, the more meaningful and memorable it will be.

Give Employees Gifts They Will Use

When determining what you will give an employee, try to find something they will use. This could be a plaque that they can put on their desk or a giftcard to their favorite restaurant. Employees will remember gifts that they use often.

How to Give Employee Service Awards to Remote Employees

When implementing an employee service award program, be sure that you recognize all employees. As remote work has become more common, it may take more work to ensure remote workers feel recognized. There is no perfect way to do it, but here are some steps to consider when giving employee service awards to remote employees.

Step 1: Evaluate the Size of Your Remote Workforce

First, determine how many of your employees are remote. If it is more of a one-off situation, you can decide on a case-by-case basis how you want to give an award to that employee. You might need to send an award to them, or, if they work a hybrid schedule or live close by, you could consider bringing them in to recognize them. If the majority of your workforce is remote, you’ll want to create a reward system that doesn’t require employees attending in person. That recognition could come through virtual meetings, shout-outs during team meetings, or an email notifying everyone of their service.

Step 2: Understand the Employee’s Desires

This is often something that can be lost with employees working remotely because a manager—or the rest of the team, for that matter—doesn’t have the in-office opportunities to connect and get to know their interests. More effort needs to be made to understand an employee’s wants and interests so when it comes time to give an employee service award, you can still make it personable. Off-site or virtual meetings where employees get to hang out and just talk to each other are great opportunities to learn more about other employees. In addition to this, taking time to get feedback from employees on what is important to them can be beneficial. In doing so, you can discover whether ideas such as a day off, gifts, recognition to the team, or in-person interactions are most important to them.

Step 3: Schedule Date for Gift/Activity

The final step is to determine when the employee will be receiving an award, what type of reward will be associated with it, and how it will be communicated to everyone else in the company or team. This takes planning so if a gift is being sent, it will be sent to the employee on time, there is time set aside in a meeting for public recognition (if desired) and time set aside if part of the award is dedicated time for the employee to spend with the team, other award recipients, or anyone else. Proper planning is vital so the employee feels valued as opposed to it looking like it was all thrown together at the last minute.

Employee Service Award Ideas

After you have put an employee service award program in place, you need to determine what kind of gifts you will give. Keep in mind that you can combine some of these ideas together. The key is to be consistent in how these awards are given.

Public Recognition

One of the more common ways to present service awards to employees is through some form of public recognition so that other employees are made aware of this employee’s service.
  • Employee plaque. Giving an employee a plaque with their name, years of service, and the name of the company is a nice way for employees to have a constant memory of the award. They can leave that award on their desk at work or place it somewhere at home that reminds them of their accomplishment.
  • Company-wide meeting. Another way to recognize the employee for their service is to hold a meeting where each employee is recognized in front of the company for their service. This could be done virtually or in person.
  • Company lunch. One way for service award winners to celebrate together is for the CEO or another executive level leader to take all the award winners out to lunch to celebrate their service. Doing this can help build camaraderie among co-workers, make the experience memorable, and have a positive impact on company culture.

Give a Gift

While employee recognition is important, giving employees something they genuinely want and will use is a great way to help them feel appreciated. Here are some gift ideas.
  • Gift box. Creating a gift box full of things that the employee is interested in can make it feel more personal for the employee. The gift box can consist of things such as their favorite treats, music, entertainment, and a letter from their team. The key is for it to be full of things that the employee enjoys and is personal to them.
  • Company swag. Giving an employee company swag—maybe a shirt or sweatshirt with their name on it—is a great way for the employee to feel appreciated while also representing your company. It allows them to associate themselves with your company in a more personal way.
  • Personal experience. Many people appreciate experiences more than receiving something. This personal experience could be a one-on-one lunch with a mentor or the CEO. For longer-tenured service award members, it could mean a trip somewhere or tickets to their favorite sports team. These are all great ways for employees to make long-lasting memories while feeling genuinely appreciated by their employer.

Give a Monetary Bonus

Many companies give employees X amount of dollars for every year of service they have completed, such as every three, five or 10 years. In addition to the money, write a personal note acknowledging their years of service and your gratitude.
Tanner Pierce, PHR

Tanner Pierce, PHR

Tanner has over 4 years of HR professional experience in various fields of HR. He has experience in hiring, recruiting, employment law, unemployment, onboarding, outboarding, and training to name a few. Most of his experience comes from working in the Professional Employer and Staffing Industries. He has a passion for putting people in the best position to succeed and really tries to understand the different backgrounds people come from.
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Frequently asked questions
Other Related Terms
DISC Personality Assessments
Employee Appreciation Day
Employee Feedback
Employee Net Promoter Score
Employee Recognition
Employee Replacement Costs
Employee Retention
Employee Satisfaction
Great Resignation
Job Dissatisfaction
Job Security
Negligent Retention
Stay Interview
Stay Strategy
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