First things, first - I’m certain that 95% of us know what a work anniversary is, but for those of you who don’t… A work anniversary is an annual milestone based off of an employee’s start date. Celebrating a work anniversary is one of the easiest ways to show appreciation to your team members. With retention numbers on the top of everyone’s mind these days, it’s especially important to recognize and those who’ve stuck by your side for the long haul.
While any recognition is good, what can you do to make it great? How can you use these milestones to make a true impact on your teams’ loyalty? Lucky for you, we’ve compiled a few tips for celebrating work anniversaries with your team.
If you only read one tip, make it this one! By far, this is the most important part of employee recognition of any kind. Whatever you do (or don’t do) — just make sure you are taking the time to personalize your note/gift/celebration for the individual. Nothing screams, “I put zero effort into this!” quite like a generic email or company-branded notepad. When you take time to recognize an employee for their years of service, make sure that you take time to make it personal.
Bust out your pen and get ready for those hand cramps. We know that an email is easier and more practical, but the effort will not go unnoticed Take a few extra minutes to sit down and write something thoughtful — include anecdotes or milestones about their career and a bit of inspiration for their future.
Don’t get me wrong; I fully support any excuse to eat cake. Food and parties go hand in hand, but try to get something that’s perfect for the honoree. Make sure that you are avoiding food allergies and diet restrictions. (I’ve learned this the hard way when I nearly had to bust out the EpiPen when I made this mistake in the pens. Beware of nuts lurking in cookies.)
Recognizing an employee is even more powerful when you find a way to involve their peers. Take time to announce their anniversary during a team meeting & include some of their professional accomplishments. If it’s someone who is more comfortable outside of the spotlight, send out a quick email to the team or pass around a card and allow the whole team to share their appreciation.
Some companies offer hefty gift cards or fancy swag from a corporate gift store. Most employees would much rather just have a little extra cash in their pocket than a cashmere blanket adorned with your company logo. Gifts are a nice touch, but if you are going to buy anything expensive, make sure it’s something thoughtful that the individual will truly cherish. When in doubt, just go with cash.
Even if work anniversaries aren’t something that your leadership supports, that shouldn’t stop you from showing a little extra love to your team. Your celebration doesn’t necessarily need to be part of a larger initiative. Be a leader, step up, and show your individuals how much they mean to you, your team, and your organization.
Use this opportunity to have a candid conversation. Don’t make it a review; just use the time to really understand how they are feeling and thinking. Are they happy in their role and with their team? Are they excited about their future at the organization? Are there things you could do to make them more successful? Grab a coffee, go to lunch, but ultimately - just use the time to build your relationship with the individual. Be present, turn of your phone, and dedicate an hour to listen and have an open and honest conversation.
Oh, of course, there will always be the haters that say it’s cheesy to celebrate a work anniversary, but I’d challenge that by saying — find a way to celebrate that works for you. Taking time to make a thoughtful, personal acknowledgment of one’s service to the company and team will always be appreciated, even if the individual isn’t the cake-and-balloons-type.
What creative ways have you celebrated work anniversaries at your organization?