Employers have been using service anniversary programs to honor employee tenure for more than 100 years. Service anniversaries are thought to have originated during the Industrial Revolution, when companies invested in training employees with little skill or education. Service anniversary recognition not only motivated employees to remain with a company for decades, but also reflected positively on the company for retaining them.
While today’s young professionals are motivated by opportunities for growth and company values, the traditional service anniversary is still important as it fulfills a couple of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: a sense of belonging and a sense of achievement. A recent SHRM survey shows that almost 80% of the employees surveyed said that "lack of appreciation" was one of the main reasons they would leave their current job. People who invest years in and add value to a company view those anniversaries as “work birthdays” and feel appreciated when they’re acknowledged.
A recent SHRM survey shows that almost 80% of the employees surveyed said that "lack of appreciation" was one of the main reasons they would leave their current job.
In fact, one study found that on average, U.S. employees stayed at previous companies 2 years longer if the company had a milestone program. Research indicates 87% of organizations with recognition programs in place focus solely on service anniversaries. While the focus on years of service is important, it is vital to understand that today’s employees are looking for more than a gold watch or iPad for ten years with one company. Recognition for years of service is correlated with increased retention and employee engagement, however the effort is more effective when built into a larger, long-standing employee recognition initiative.
Among the many differences between today’s workforce and the traditional landscape of decades past is the HR function as a siloed initiative. Organizations today recognize the importance of the employee experience as a holistic business component and work to unify departments to deliver that experience. When treated as an organizational strategy, employee recognition can boost morale and engagement, and subsequently retention, sales, and even profitability.
Consider pairing a traditional service anniversary program with a continuous, overarching employee recognition program that includes peer-to-peer, on-the-spot, and social recognition. These programs provide opportunities for achievements to be praised and allow employees to empower one another. These programs typically result in an accumulation of points which employees then redeem for rewards they really want. The company-wide involvement will energize and uplift employees and, in return, deliver results.