by | Jul 16, 2019

At Tribe, we once did a benchmarking study on using service awards to celebrate employee work anniversaries. We spoke with 15 large companies, including Coke, Target, Gap, Johnson & Johnson, The Home Depot The Walt Disney Company and Zappos to compare best practices.

Service awards in this benchmarking group ranged widely in price. The Coca-Cola Company, for example, is known for the Rolex watch awarded to employees after 25 years of service. One company we spoke with celebrates service anniversaries with gift budgets (up to $3,000 for a 40-year tenure) and a personal concierge to help the employee select their own gift.

At the lower end of the budget spectrum, service awards for some of these large companies are more nominal. Several of the largest companies we interviewed provide very simple service awards like certificates, lapel pins or small gift cards. Some celebrate service milestones annually, such as at the holiday party or a yearly dinner. Others announce milestones at town halls or other monthly events.

A few companies we interviewed used a highly individualized approach. One employee was awarded a new roof for a service anniversary. Another asked for a lawn tractor. Yet another wanted to take her family to Hawaii. Although these awards were all for employees who had spent pretty much their entire careers at the company, it still seemed striking that such large brands wouldn’t have a more standardized approach to service awards.

Several of the companies take a localized approach, either allowing individual managers or regions to decide how to celebrate service anniversaries. Often, these companies seem to focus on the manager relationship. At one company we interviewed, the manager takes the employee and a guest out to lunch or dinner to celebrate. Others throw parties in the retails stores or offices, including the immediate work team rather than acknowledging the anniversary corporately.

At Tribe, we recommend tying the service award back to the culture. In fact, we coach clients to integrate the vision and values into the entire employee experience. For instance, each service milestone might be linked to one of your values, and the service award relate to that value. Or if your company culture depends on innovation or collaboration or some other strong underlying aspect, look for a way to symbolize that with your service award program.

We also recommend involving the CEO or other top executives. Even something as simple as having the CEO’s signature on the note congratulating the employee can be meaningful. When I was a young copywriter in an ad agency back in the olden days, the CEO of the agency presented a brand new color TV to employees who reached a certain milestone, I think five years. As the agency grew, the TV was replaced with a bottle of champagne, but it still came accompanied by a handwritten note from the CEO. As a junior member of his staff, that made me feel visible and appreciated. Which is, after all, the real purpose of service awards.

Interested in rethinking your service awards program? Tribe can help.


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