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 New ideas to replace years of service awards

7 min read

When you think of employee recognition, what comes to mind? For a lot of people, it’s “Years of Service Awards” or “Long Service Awards” (LSAs), but why is that the case? For decades, organisations have been awarding their people for tenure. And this isn’t a bad thing – we want to recognise long-standing, hard-working people who make a difference at our organisations. 

But in recent years, there’s been a shift in how people work and how often they change jobs – especially with the average tenure at just above four years.

At this rate, most people will not hit the typical milestones for employee service awards (five, 10, 20 years) and there are more effective ways to show your people you care about them every day. It’s time to move beyond the world of LSAs and tap into your organisation’s true recognition potential. Luckily, there are countless options to help you on your journey. 

 New ideas to replace years of service awards

Why moving beyond years of service awards is key to boosting morale

Before we uncover the alternatives to years of service awards, it’s important to understand the why behind them. If your business is faced with high turnover and low retention, the first couple of years of employment are crucial for recognition and awards. It’s key to improve the employee experience and make an impact from your new starter’s first day and every day forward, not just after they’ve hit the five year mark.

This isn’t to say that your 15-year, tenured employee (if you have one) isn’t looking forward to being celebrated. And it doesn’t mean that all celebrations are meaningless. But what if you could deliver rewards and recognition that are truly memorable, something that employees find impactful, personal and meaningful? 

When employee service awards are done right, your people will feel recognised and appreciated.

Years of Service Awards can take up a lot of your headspace – there’s a lot of planning, budgeting and manual work that goes into making sure these awards are a success. Looking for a way to automate that process, ensuring your employees still receive these awards in a timely manner (say, right on the day or their anniversary) can help free up some of your time so you can focus on more continuous recognition that will have a greater impact on employee engagement. (We can help with that!)

Download our step-by-step template to discover years of service award  alternative ideas»

Ask yourself: Are you rewarding people for simply staying at your company? This by itself will not move the needle on employee engagement. 

Embrace a new reward and recognition framework to reach the most people at your organisation 

If you have a large population of tenured employees, then long service awards are likely to reach a big percentage of your workforce. But this scenario is becoming less common and effective as the employee tenure landscape continues to change. Instead, there are many layers to reward and recognition that help organisations transform their culture by recognising good, great and exceptional behaviour more frequently, in different ways.  

We like to call this a “culture of continuous appreciation.” 

Each organisation’s approach will look a little different — some companies may want to focus on more recognition over reward, others may want to evolve their reward offering for more frequent and accessible spot bonuses, for example. But by following a framework, you can build the right reward and recognition strategy for your business. Here’s what that looks like: 

recognition-pyramid-ukWe call this our Recognition Pyramid. The width of the layers reflects the amount of people that recognition touches, with the goal of creating programmes that reach everyone in your business in some way. The reason it is a pyramid shape is that as you go up the pyramid, the effort and impact increases, which means less employees are recognised. 

If your goal is to recognise consistently and fairly across your organisation, you need to focus on the bottom of the pyramid and work your way up. Many organisations in various industries have already adapted their employee recognition strategies to focus on everyday recognition, with awards and nominations still being a component of that.

Inspiring continuous recognition programmes with 3 real-life examples

1. In 2015, feedback from employee surveys highlighted that PYBAR Mining Services’ people wanted to be recognised for years of service. To address the desire for more recognition, PYBAR introduced a service recognition programme where employees received a certificate of recognition, a polo shirt and a limited edition item on their work anniversary. 

 New ideas to replace years of service awards

But managing and administering physical rewards also meant most employees experienced a delay in receiving the service recognition items or gift cards. 

PYBAR decided it was time to move towards a tailored, multilayered recognition approach with real-time recognition, empowering employees to: 

  • “High Five A Mate” whenever they see someone demonstrating PYBAR values.

  • Receive their service recognition and birthday greetings online via eCards which are published on a social recognition wall to increase visibility.

  • Nominate each other for the monthly CORE awards both at the project site and online.

  • Redeem their £75 award instantly at hundreds of retailers where employees also get a range of discounts, instead of waiting for physical gift cards to arrive in the mail.

 New ideas to replace years of service awards

PYBAR uses peer-to-peer recognition to connect their people every day, and even features its very own people on the eCards! 

Within the first 6 months of launch, PYBAR’s 800+ employees sent and received 450 moments of recognition and this number continues to climb as employees embrace more timely and meaningful reward and recognition. 

Read the full PYBAR story


HEINEKEN-Logo-JPG

2. When Heineken realised that its reward and recognition programme was only reaching and rewarding a small percentage of staff, the company decided to rebrand and repackage it, creating a seamless user journey and adding a diverse range of awards that encourage values-led behaviour.

With only 40 prizes of £1,000 available to a workforce of 2,400 via Heineken’s My Recognition programme, less than 2% of its total staff was formally recognised each year. 

So the team set out to develop a new modern, flexible and innovative recognition programme with the following objectives:

    • To move away from large awards for few to smaller awards for many

    • Making recognition happen on a more timely basis

    • Providing recognition that could apply to all staff

    • Making sure to protect localised recognition strategies

    • Maximising value from existing budget

2019_Heineken_Tablet Mockup_UK2
On Heineken's reward and recognition platform, employees can send one another team-based eCards which are shared on a social recognition wall to increase visibility, nominate others for "Cheers!" instant awards and more.

The reward and recognition programme was named “BREWards,” and imaginative, Heineken-relevant titles were present throughout the different rewards offered, including Cheers! instant awards of £50 and Inspiring People Awards, known as IPAs. In addition to monetary rewards from £100-£1,000, IPAs can also reward staff with a day off work or a dinner at one of Heineken’s pubs. The team chose non monetary awards such as these, plus the non-financial eCards on the platform to encourage peer-to-peer recognition.

In the first five months following the launch of BREWards, more than 50% of Heineken's workforce were recognised. 

Read the full Heineken story



 New ideas to replace years of service awards

3. In 2014, Thales’ annual people survey highlighted that employees didn’t think saying “thank you” was part of the Thales culture. Managers, in particular, didn’t feel as if they had the discretion to reward their employees for going the extra mile. The organisation realised it needed to offer a robust recognition offering which would link with organisational behaviours and business performance.

Thales implemented a new employee reward and recognition hub, called “Simply Recognition,” enabling their people to recognise great work every day and celebrate the smaller milestones that have a big impact on the organisation. On the hub, employees and managers can: 

  • Send each other eCards at any time and from any device that align with Thales new recognition design and are linked to the desired behaviours, including “Thank You” and “Congratulations.” 

  • Reward employees (or peers) who go the extra mile with monetary awards that are connected to the desired behaviours with three different levels: Bronze (£10), Silver (£25) and Gold (£50).

  • Nominate colleagues for the “Above and Beyond Awards,” across five categories which are aligned to Thales’ values. Those who win receive a £250 voucher which can be redeemed at their chosen retailer on the hub and teams who win can celebrate with a group activity of their choice up to the value of £100 per person.

 New ideas to replace years of service awards

Thales' recognition hub features all of the different levels of recognition on the homepage to improve education, usage and visibility.

Since launching the platform, the organisation’s engagement score increased by 10% and this number continues to improve as the organisation embraces continuous recognition.

Read the full Thales story


Years of Service Awards can be a helpful ingredient in your reward and recognition strategy. But they are not going to improve employee retention and employee engagement alone.

To truly transform your culture into one where employees are excited to come to work each day, feel a sense of belonging and feel appreciated for the hard work they do, everyday recognition is essential. What moves are you making to transform your R&R programme?

Author

Alexandra Powell

Alexandra Powell
Reward Gateway

Alexandra Powell, U.S. Director of Client Culture and Engagement, not only knows American Sign Language, but uses it to secretly communicate with her husband and kids at parties.

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