Congratulations, you just made it to your tenth year at your job! Unfortunately, your boss barely took notice. You got a brief shoutout in a team meeting, and that was it. That’s a real blow to morale after a full decade of service, isn’t it? Lackluster work anniversary celebrations are an all-too-common experience for employees. Failure to recognize big milestones leads to lower morale, engagement, and retention.
There’s a lot more to recognizing employee work anniversaries than simply sending an email or giving a brief shoutout in a meeting. Creating meaningful anniversary celebrations can be done in a variety of ways — from fostering new experiences to giving meaningful gifts. Here’s a look at the true importance of recognizing employee anniversaries together with 14 great ways to celebrate anniversaries at your organization.
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Why work anniversaries matter
Team members expect their employer to remember work milestones. But recognizing work anniversaries involves more than just marking important dates on the calendar — anniversaries give organizations a chance to really make an impact. Showing appreciation in meaningful ways can help boost your company’s culture of recognition and make employees feel valued in the workplace.
Work anniversaries give a prime opportunity to show genuine appreciation for someone’s efforts over the years. As much as they’re about looking back on accomplishment, they’re also about looking forward. Anniversaries are a time to celebrate the relationships an employee has made and the work they’ve done, as well as to show that your organization is invested in and excited for their future successes.
14 ways to celebrate work anniversaries
Want to commemorate a milestone but don’t know where to start? Here are 14 ways to celebrate work anniversaries that will delight your employees.
1. Reward points
With a recognition platform, employees accumulate points over time that they can then award to others. The recipient can redeem their points for rewards they choose themselves from a wide-ranging selection. It’s a system that makes it easy to reward employees for accomplishments both big and small, and it especially comes in handy during anniversaries. It streamlines the process of providing a personalized reward to employees — after all, nothing is more personal than something you choose yourself — and allows all other team members to easily join in the celebration by providing additional reward points together with their messages of congratulations.
2. Give employees a voice
Employees who have been at a company for a long time have unique institutional knowledge and insights on the business’ long-term evolution. Giving them a seat at the table that they might not normally have is a valuable reward for a big milestone. Of course, only allowing team members to provide input once in a blue moon isn’t likely to thrill them, so work to make employee voice part of employees’ everyday experience to get the most out of this suggestion. Give everyone on your team a chance to voice their concerns and ideas through regular surveys and then take action on their feedback to help improve conditions at your company and show team members that their voices truly do matter.
3. Public shoutouts
Social recognition goes a long way for accomplishments big and small. But for more monumental milestones, try going beyond the typical pat on the back or brief acknowledgement in a meeting. A public shoutout, such as posting a congratulations on your organization’s social media or an internal company news feed, boosts employees’ self esteem and sense of accomplishment. It also encourages others to acknowledge the employee’s milestone on their own.
4. Professional growth opportunities
When employees reach a big milestone, it’s important to not only show that you value the work they’ve done, but the work they have yet to do. Consider making an investment in their future to show your organization’s gratitude. Whether paying for a certification they’ve always wanted or even supporting their pursuit of another degree, there are few forms of appreciation more significant than those that deal with professional growth. Discussing future career growth opportunities is also a great way to show commitment to helping the team member grow together with your company.
5. Delicious food
You can’t go wrong with tasty treats. Whether it’s takeout from your employee’s favorite restaurant or a smorgasbord of desserts that everyone contributed for the big day, food always ties a celebration together. If bringing food into the office isn’t an ideal option, consider taking the employee out for a meal — perhaps with their boss or your company’s CEO. Or if the employee works remotely, send them a basket of their favorite snacks together with a gift card for their favorite restaurant.
6. Charitable donations
Sometimes, employees don’t need or want any physical rewards to mark a milestone. Instead, offer to donate to an organization of their choice and give them the choice to make a real difference in the world on their anniversary. This option is even easier with a recognition solution that includes charitable options when redeeming points.
7. Time to volunteer
Similarly, an employee might want to do something charitable for their work anniversary by donating their time instead of or in addition to making a monetary gift. Giving team members paid time off to volunteer is a win-win. Employees get an extra day off to do something fulfilling, and your organization boosts its presence in the community.
8. Time off
Giving your employee time off, such as a few days of extra PTO or even the opportunity to take a sabbatical, provides them with valuable time to recharge and celebrate on their own time. It shows that you’re not just invested in what that employee accomplishes in the workplace but also their physical and mental wellness over the long term.
9. Handwritten messages
Taking time to put your appreciation into words means a lot to employees, but it’s easy to forget to share words of thanks during the average, busy workday. Team members want validation from their bosses to know that they’re doing a good job, but they don’t always know how to ask for it. Take the time to include a handwritten note of thanks together with the other ways your organization is showing thanks. You can even leverage an employee recognition platform to create a card filled with customized messages of gratitude from team members across the organization.
10. Hold a party or ceremony
Office parties are a classic option for commemorating milestones. They’re ubiquitous for good reason. Gathering for a celebration is a great way to get everyone on the team involved in lifting up a colleague on their big day. Even if most or all of your employees are remote, gathering virtually is a great way to create a sense of community and connection.
11. Meaningful experiences
Want to ensure an employee will always remember a certain milestone? Provide them with an experience they’ll always remember, whether that takes the form of tickets to an in-person or virtual concert for their favorite band or covering a trip to the best restaurant in town. Of course, providing an experience that the employee will actually value and enjoy is key, and the scale of the experience should be commensurate with the importance of the milestone.
12. Branded swag
Branded swag might be a bit cliche, but if the item’s value matches the milestone you’re commemorating and the employee actually wants it, going this route can still be a great choice. For example, let’s say you have an employee who really enjoys golf and just celebrated ten years at your company. A customized set of clubs with the company logo would make a great gift, while a pack of company-branded pens is exactly what your organization should avoid.
13. A bonus or raise
Compensating your employees for a big milestone is an effective way to show recognition. And financial rewards come in a variety of forms beyond just cutting an extra check on payday. Tuition reimbursement, extra PTO, and giving the employee the option to buy into your company are all worthwhile incentives that team members appreciate.
14. Funds for the home office
With more teams working remotely these days, it’s important to provide incentives that can be accessed from anywhere. Providing a stipend for home office upgrades is a flexible gift appropriate for both big and small milestones. If someone has been around for one or two years, you might offer to buy them that new office chair they’ve had their eye on. If they’re celebrating 10 years, try offering them something bigger, like an adjustable desk or a new work computer.
How to make work anniversaries special
Regardless of how you choose to celebrate work milestones, follow these four best practices to create memorable anniversary experiences.
1. Recognize each and every milestone
Employees notice when you forget a date that means something to them. Whether they’re celebrating their first year at your company, 40 years of service, or even their birthday, it’s essential to take the time to acknowledge these milestones — even the smaller ones.
The easiest way to remember important dates for everyone on your team is to write them down. Start by building out a calendar that lists everyone’s upcoming milestones. And consider delegating the task of tracking these important dates to an appropriate team member so that they can send out a reminder when a milestone is approaching.
2. Don’t neglect social recognition
Praise from peers is a crucial part of celebrating anniversaries. Rewards can mean a lot, but social recognition is the key to building and strengthening relationships. The most important part of social recognition is to make it genuine. A brief shoutout from a team leader reading a message word-for-word off a screen may come off as lazy or unprepared. Instead, express appreciation for specific projects or contributions and encourage the whole team to chime in, preferably with an employee recognition platform they’re all using already.
3. Go above and beyond for the big milestones
The recognition you choose for an employee anniversary should match the importance of that milestone. For example, sending a simple card to a team member who just reached 25 years of service might come off as inconsiderate. But a card combined with additional recognition, like a ceremony at the office and a personalized reward, would be a memorable and appropriate gesture.
4. Make employee anniversaries the tip of the recognition iceberg
Remembering and recognizing major milestones is just the start to making a lasting impression on employees. Organizations that want to build a real culture of recognition and reap the rewards should make it easy for all team members to show appreciation on a daily basis. As mentioned above, a recognition solution is the fastest way to get employees across the company involved. When everyone is able to share social recognition and even provide monetary rewards — in the form of redeemable points accumulated each month — anniversary celebrations become part of a cohesive recognition experience rather than an exception to the norm.
Provide great recognition for work anniversaries and beyond
Taking time to plan meaningful recognition for employee anniversaries is an important part of supporting your organization’s employees and investing in their future success. But it shouldn’t stop there. A real culture of recognition means that employees don’t have to wait for the big dates to receive appreciation.
The easiest way to make recognition a routine practice is to invest in a recognition platform. Achievers Recognize is a science-backed, award-winning recognition solution that makes showing appreciation an engaging, smooth experience. Employees can provide recognition anywhere, anytime thanks to the platform’s mobile capabilities. And the ability to interact with others’ messages of recognition, together with a points-based rewards system, keeps the recognition experience engaging. Team members even have access to hundreds of rewards that are sure to please all tastes and suit every milestone.
Start building your culture of recognition today with a free demo of Achievers Recognize.