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service awards should start at year one

Service awards should start at one year. Here’s why:

Service awards are something we always advocate for. But most companies leave it a few years to get them started.

We see our clients waiting until an employee has five, ten or even 20 years of service before they start recognising their staff. In our opinion, that’s far too late.

Service awards should start at one year for 5 reasons

It’s a small but important investment in the future

A lot of the power of recognition is in demonstrating that you’re interested and invested in your staff.

The first year of an employee’s time at your company is an important period. It’s time of adjustment, learning, and bedding in to a new place. A place you hope will be their home for a long time.

Tracking their first anniversary, and recognising, improves employee perception of their role. That perception endures as the years wear on, so it’s important to take early opportunities to build it.

Service awards are effective

Recognition has proven positive effects on engagement, productivity, motivation, loyalty and more. You can read more about the nitty gritty of that here, but the jist is simple.

When there’s so much evidence of the positive effects of recognition, you’d have to be mad to not jump on your first chance to use it.

It’s often expected

“Employees expect that someone at least remembers they’ve been there a year.”

Employees aren’t going to expect to get a cash-value reward after one year. But they will expect that someone at least remembers they’ve been there a year.

Even if it feels like it’s a small milestone for you, a year is a significant part of someone’s life to spend in one place.

Starting your service award schemes at one year makes that time feel well-spent. It also validates expectations from employees that their first first year get noticed.

You don’t have to pay for service awards

Recognition is as powerful, if not more powerful, than a cash-value item. You don’t have to put your hand in your pocket for an employee with one year under their belt.

Starting your service awards and recognition at one year only costs you a bit of time.

It’s good for your culture

Whenever you recognise someone in public, or hold up an achievement to the rest of your staff, you’re showing your employees something that you value.

In this instance, you’re showing that even the most modest loyalty is worthy of a celebration.

In turn, that’s a declaration to the rest of your staff to value loyalty and celebrate each other. Your leadership figures are the ones who need to take charge of that.

These things matter

Service awards are important. They drive quality relationships between staff, your leadership, and your company culture.

Starting at one year, you capitalise on the benefits of early recognition and set the tone for the future.

how much to set aside for years of service awards

How much should you spend on years of service awards?

Your business needs to recognise employees for staying with your company through years of service awards.

We’ve been saying it for years now: the milestones really do matter.

Even if you don’t think employees should get recognition for sticking with your company, your employees do.

A lot of employees think they should start being recognised for their loyalty after just one year.

They notice employers who miss their work anniversaries. That will affect how staff see their managers, how they see the company, and how they see themselves at work.

Cash-value rewards you dish out on top of that are trophies, persistent reminders of your appreciation for employee loyalty.

Trophies amplify recognition, but they don’t replace it.

With that in mind, we have a rough guide to scale years of service awards to cash-value rewards based on our experience with clients.

The loyalty to cash value scale:

  • Three years:
  • Up to £25
  • Fifteen years:
  • Up to £400
  • Five years:
  • Up to £140
  • Twenty years:
  • Up to £500
  • Ten years:
  • Up to £280
  • Fifty years:
  • Up to £1,300

So, there you go. A scale to operate to. But it feels kind of cold, right? Just numbers quantifying someone’s time into the value of a years of service award.

It’s not even like it’s a lot of money, it’s pretty reasonably priced. That’s because the recognition matters as much as the reward.

You have to put the effort in to make it spicy and exciting. Two things make a big difference: the manner of the award presentation, and what you use as a cash-value reward.

Humanising years of service awards with recognition

Recognition for loyalty needs to be personalised and public.

Leaders need to make the effort to personally show their appreciation for employees staying with the company.

Personalising recognition for loyalty shows managers are genuinely interested in their staff, making it more likely rewarding and recognising loyalty will have positive effects on staff.

Recognition for loyal service should be public. Open recognition has a greater impact on the employee, because it affirms the value of their place in the company.

Recognition being public also affects employees beyond the person being recognised. They see leaders valuing and appreciating other staff, and know in turn that both employees and loyalty are valued in the company.

Cash value, not cash

We’ve used the term cash-value, not cash, a few times in this blog. That’s no accident. We prefer non-cash for years of service awards.

That’s because cash makes a pretty poor employee reward. You can read all about that here, so we’ll spare you another slice of it.

There are a host of simple:

Choice

Let them pick a reward for themselves with gift cards, e-gift cards or a catalogue.

Training

Help employees reach their professional goals.

Time

Offer extra holiday days, or a sabbatical.

Trophies

Certificates, plaques and other trophies of service.

Control

If they’ve been pushing for a special project, let them spearhead it.

Experience

Organise an exclusive VIP experience for something they love.

Travel

Flights or accommodation to a dream destination.

Get started

If you don’t know your employees well enough to know what gets them excited, stick to offering choice.

Give employees access to a broad catalogue of rewards and let them pick something they can cherish at a cash-value level.

Don’t subject yourself to trying to maintain a catalogue of rewards for your own company. It’s a huge pain the in the neck. And you can rarely do as good a job internally as a specialist.

And a needless time-sink when you can use products like gift cards and e-gift cards to put rewards in the hands of staff.

You’ve got a guide to how to value years of service awards, now it’s time to put the effort in to maximise its positive effects for your business.