Like most things in life, it can be a lot easier to start something than to stick with it. Take a new job, for instance. Those first 90 days come with so much excitement and hope. New projects. New people. New beginnings. However, once an employee gets settled into their day-to-day routine, the novelty factor can quickly wear off.
Knowing this, celebrating a work anniversary can help remind your employee of what drew them to your organization in the first place.
Like birthdays, graduations, and other significant life events, work anniversaries are important milestones worth celebrating. They're also critical for retention, as you can leverage them to re-recruit your employees and show them how much you value them.
So how do you give your people a work anniversary to remember? By offering anniversary rewards that reflect the significance of their commitment and work efforts and make them feel seen, heard, and cared for.
What is the "worth it equation," and why should HR leaders care?
In today's tight, increasingly global, and remote-first job market, employees have more agency than ever. The pandemic initiated a geographical migration, so many aren't limited to roles in their immediate area anymore, making it easier for them to make a switch and creating a growing number of remote employees. Plus, with the heavy employee turnover many industries are currently facing, job hopping has become the new normal.
Employees don't need to tough it out at a job for one to two years to prove they’re not a flight risk, as they might have done a few years ago. As The Great Resignation has shown, if employees aren't happy in their roles, many are prepared to leave, regardless of how long they've been with the company.
With fewer barriers to job switching, the "worth-it" equation (i.e., the conditions that make an organization worth staying at for the long haul) for many employees has changed. It's not just about the hours, swag, compensation, or even work flexibility incentives. For many, the make-or-break factor is how they're treated at work.
According to Gallup's State of the Global Workplace Report, the number one reason employees cited for job dissatisfaction is "unfair treatment at work." They define unfair treatment as a lack of respect, diversity and inclusiveness, community, and contribution acknowledgment. In other words, if your employees don't feel a strong sense of belonging or appreciation at work, they will leave.
“‘Don’t say ‘good job,’” Amy Freshman, senior director of global human resources at payroll company ADP told CNBC. “That doesn’t really do anything. Tell the person the specific things they did, how you experienced it, and the impact it had on team members and the organization. When someone knows the difference they made, that’s when they feel valued, and they’re more likely to want to stay.”
Prioritizing employee recognition can counteract these negative feelings by showing your employees that you value their contributions. A simple 'good job!', handwritten note, Slack message, or a motivating shoutout in a meeting can certainly make someone's day. However, a significant work anniversary reward can both acknowledge their hard work and really help your people feel extra special.
Why a work anniversary is a perfect time to renew your top talent’s commitment with employee recognition.
Work anniversaries can be exciting, but they can also bring up some complex feelings. Connecting a big change or decision with a particular milestone or time is human nature. It's why gyms are crowded in January and why we like to start new habits at the beginning of the week or month.
These ‘temporal landmarks,’ as behavioral scientists call them, give us an opportunity to wipe the slate clean because they highlight the contrast between a desired future state and our present reality. A new week, month, or year can feel like a fresh start, which can help motivate us to take action.
Additionally, 2022 LinkedIn research has found that short-tenure rates (i.e., the fraction of positions that were held for less than a year) have increased across industries over the past couple of years. And it’s not just entry-level workers who are leaving after just a few months. Managers at all levels—including vice presidents—are ‘quick quitting’ too.
As your employee reaches the end of their first, second, or fifth year, they're reflecting on their goals and purpose in life and evaluating if they're in the right place or on the right track. From a career standpoint, they’re also weighing factors like company culture, work environment, perks, and professional development opportunities.
These factors are why work anniversary rewards can be so critical to employee retention. Of course, employee recognition should be a daily part of your people's day-to-day experience with your organization. But rewarding your employees’ years of service with a memorable and personalized work anniversary experience deepens their commitment to your organization when they might feel more disconnected or unsure of their future with you.
Best practices to plan a "wow"-worthy work anniversary program
"Some organizations spend tens of millions of dollars of their budget on recognition each year, but they spend it on things like… a $250 Amex card," Taylor Smith, co-founder, and CEO of Blueboard, recently told EmployeeBenefit News.
"The person receiving that in the moment is going to be like, 'Oh, this is really nice.' But they're going to spend the gift card on groceries or a haircut rather than something really for them. They're not going to remember it a week later, they're not going to tell their friends about it, and it's not going to make them more loyal."
In comparison, rewarding your employees with experiences checks all the boxes and then some. Here are six reasons experiences should be on your radar when considering your company’s anniversary rewards program strategy.
1. They're more meaningful.
For example, gifting a culinarily-inclined employee with a cheese-making class would be far more exciting and significant to that person than receiving a gift card of the same value. As Priscilla Patton shares, “[experiential rewards] are so much more interactive. I’ve made bonus friends, I’ve learned a whole heck of a lot, and I can actually take this experience into the future and do amazing things with it.”
2. They're more memorable.
We need to start viewing professional milestones, like anniversary celebrations, as more than rote transactions that don’t have staying power. Experiences are more memorable than a plaque or a gift card because people get to engage their personal interests and hobbies (and discover new ones) that mean the most to them. The memories your employees will create when they go #blueboarding can last a lifetime, and they'll never forget that your organization’s years of service awards helped make that experience happen.
3. They better reflect the value of their commitment.
You can offer them more significant and valuable experiences they can look forward to as they advance in their career, like a ziplining adventure for a third anniversary or an epic trip to Alaska for a 15-year work anniversary milestone. This kind of personalized employee appreciation also demonstrates to new hires (especially at crucial onboarding moments when first impressions form) that your company will make the effort to celebrate work anniversaries and other special days in meaningful ways. Whether it’s their first year or 15th, when workplaces show appreciation in sustained, consistent ways, that boosts individual and overall employee morale which has a lasting, beneficial impact on retention rates.
4. They highlight your shared values.
If employee wellness is a top priority for your organization, providing employees with experiences that can help them inject more fun or self-care into their lives will feel much more purposeful and culturally aligned than a material gift. Plus, happy, fulfilled employees will not only stay but serve as brand ambassadors during and outside of the workday—a true indicator of the success of an employee recognition program.
5. They're more shareable.
Gift cards aren't great conversation starters, but experiences are innately share-worthy. An anniversary reward recipient talking about a recent experience in a team meeting or sharing a post on LinkedIn can help build buzz around your awards program. This socialization deepens employee bonds and encourages peer recognition as teammates learn more about the recipient's interests and personality.
6. They're easy to launch and integrate into your HRIS.
While many organizations may opt for material gift ideas for simplicity's sake, Blueboard makes experiential gifting easy and seamless. The Anniversary Engine tool integrates seamlessly with your HRIS so that you can send rewards on an employee's work anniversary automatically. Our dedicated Concierge staff also handles all the logistics of booking and organizing employee rewards from start to finish. This keeps the focus (and rightly so!) on the employee experience.
Show your employees you care, and want them to stay, with anniversary rewards.
As employees and leaders embrace more of a 'work-life blend' approach to their personal and professional lives, it's clear that employee engagement and well-being are deeply connected.
We're not really different people inside or outside of work, and it's impossible to keep these two aspects of our lives completely separate. Our work experiences influence our personal lives and vice versa.
So if you want your people to be their best at work, you need to empower them to do the things that mean something to them in their broader life outside of your organization. With experiential work anniversary rewards, you can provide these opportunities for your most loyal employees to grow and connect with the world outside of work. They can take a day off, rest, rejuvenate, and return to work more connected and committed to their roles and purpose.
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Blueboard is the first enterprise rewards and recognition platform powered by hand-curated experiences. From helping people connect with family and friends, to escaping the everyday, Blueboard employee rewards are the best way to inspire and care for your top people.
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