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Rewards That Matter: Employee Recognition for Years of Service

You value your employees. One has been with you for a full year. Another, ten years. They both bring value to your organization. How can you implement employee recognition for years of service to let team members know you value them?

One way is with a rewards system that offers meaningful, memorable rewards, or even experiences for years of service. But before we discuss the benefits of a rewards platform, let’s look at how recognizing employees for years of service can drive value to your company and what rewards for such milestones might entail.

The Value of Employee Recognition for Years of Service

There are several reasons why recognition for years of service matters, to both you and your employees. Let’s look at some of them. 

Create a Culture of Longevity and Loyalty

According to the Work Institute, 38% of employees leave in their first year, and 78% leave within five years. So, it’s important for organizations to make an effort to retain top talent.

Years of service rewards give you an opportunity to reward your employees for everything they’ve brought to your company. When team members receive consistent and genuine recognition, they’re more likely to stay and keep contributing to your organization’s success.

Demonstrate Company Values

Employee recognition for years of service allows you to highlight your company values. When you reward employees who have been serving your organization year after year, you’re encouraging others to emulate those actions and hit the same milestones.

Integrating your company values into your employee recognition strategy allows you to reinforce those values and highlight their importance.

Boost Engagement

Showing your appreciation to employees who are dedicated to your company’s success can increase engagement. When team members feel like their company cares about them as people, they’re more willing to put in more effort at work.

They’re also more likely to have a positive attitude, which can rub off on other employees. When everyone is feeling positive, they’re often more productive and are much more willing to work together.

Cultivate Gratitude and Appreciation

When an organization expresses sincere gratitude for an employee who’s been there for a considerable amount of time, it sets the tone for the entire company culture. This creates a culture of appreciation where everyone acknowledges a strong work ethic, performance, and contributions.

Such appreciation can inspire peer-to-peer recognition, as employees recognize the accomplishments of their co-workers. This, in turn, builds stronger relationships and thus a stronger, more productive work environment. 

Designing a High-Value Employee Service Reward Program

When it comes to rewarding employees for years of service, you need a detailed plan of action. If not, your recognition program won’t be as effective. Follow these tips to ensure your employee recognition for years of service program delivers meaningful and memorable value.

Understand Service Milestones

The main goal of years of service rewards is to honor employees for their long tenure with your company. But it’s important to acknowledge different milestones so that more employees get an opportunity to receive a reward. Below are the most common milestones employees reach within an organization:

  • One year: When an employee has been at your organization for a year, they’re still in the stage of learning. They’re beginning to understand your company culture, and are often proud to reach their first year.
  • Three years: During a team member’s first three years at your company, they’re trying to find their fit. At this stage, they’re pretty comfortable with their teams, are enthusiastic, and want to grow professionally.
  • Five years: This is the stage of expertise. Typically, when employees have reached the five-year mark, they’ve mastered their skills and value their work. They might also start looking for opportunities to grow and expand.
  • Ten years: Employees begin to feel a sense of ownership and belonging in the company. However, they want to solidify their role.
  • Twenty years: After twenty years, team members have seen the ups and downs of their organization. Others often consider them to be veterans and good mentors.
  • Twenty five years: This is a significant milestone in an employee’s career. It signifies loyalty and longevity.

It’s important to recognize employees who reach each of these milestones. That way, you can tailor your reward to each stage in an employee’s career and show each employee that you value their ongoing contributions. 

Team members often have different needs and express different emotions at each phase in their careers. So, it’s good practice to take these different needs into account when planning out your service rewards program.

Related Post: Personalize Rewards to Strengthen Manager-Employee Relationships

Make Celebrating Early Milestone a Priority

While employees who’ve served your company for many years deserve praise, don’t forget about newer employees who are still learning the ropes. Be aware of those earlier milestones and achievements that deserve their own celebrations.

For example, you can celebrate new employees by weaving recognition into the onboarding process, creating helpful first-day kits, and distributing thank you cards at 90 days. Doing so can help integrate new employees into the company, making them feel welcome and valued from the start.

Empower Managers With the Right Tools

Giving managers the proper resources and tools can help you create meaningful experiences when recognizing the service of team members.

Get them on board with employee recognition for years of service. Explain to them the importance of recognizing employees for their long tenure with your company. When everyone is on the same page, your program will be more likely to succeed.

Ensure More Personalized Rewarding Experiences

One of the key aspects of being more intentional in giving out employee service rewards is personalization. So, make sure your rewards are personal, genuine, and specific.

With a little extra planning and a focus on each team member’s unique role and how they contribute to your company’s mission, you can deliver rewards that truly matter and mean something to your tenured employees.

Celebrate Milestones Beyond Years of Service

Years of service rewards should go beyond recognizing employees for showing up for one, five, or ten years in a row. Whether they’re getting a promotion, bringing in a new account, or passing a certification, you should recognize them for various achievements.

This not only ensures that you’re rewarding your team members often and regularly, but it can also make them want to stay with your company for years to come.

Indeed, celebrating employees for their achievements and offering employee recognition for years of service go hand in hand. To accompany your service rewards, you can also publicize employee accomplishments with company-wide announcements and newsletters.

Tailor the Award to the Person – and the Occasion

Again, personalization is key to making employees feel valued. This involves tailoring the award to the recipient and offering a reward appropriate to the milestone you’re celebrating. Consider the number of years the employee has been with your company, their position, and other achievements.

If you want to go the extra mile in personalizing awards, you can contact the team member’s friends, old bosses, clients, or vendors. Request they send a note or photo, which you can then display in a video or email as part of the years of service reward. 

Involving people who are important to the reward recipient can turn an anniversary into a shared experience that celebrates that person’s influence on the company.

Years of Service Reward Ideas

If you’re tired of giving out the same old trophies and plaques, you may want to rethink your current approach. Below are a few ideas to get you started with rewarding employees for years of service.

Reward Points

Consider supplementing or even replacing your standard, sporadic service rewards with a points-based rewards system. Every month, you, and your employees if you plan for that, can give and receive points for acts of kindness, good performance, and years of service. 

After employees receive a certain number of points, they can redeem those points for rewards that mean something to them from a catalog of items that you’ve selected and customized, with your team in mind. 

For example, imagine that an employee earns 100 points for the month. From the catalog of products, they might choose a gift card to Starbucks for 20 points and a workout t-shirt for their daily morning routine for 80 points. Of course, you can offer more valuable gifts for a higher number of points.

It can be difficult to manually keep up with a points-based rewards system. This is where an employee rewards platform is just what you need to streamline an effective rewards system that works.

These types of solutions can track employee performance, keep track of accumulated points, and offer a digital catalog that allows employees to choose the rewards they’ll enjoy. Plus, co-workers can also join in on giving out points, which allows for peer-to-peer recognition. This can improve employee relationships and engagement.

Related Post: Types of Recognition for Employees and Why Incentives Are Effective


Experiential rewards like trips and events can bring an unmatched depth of value to your employees. Experiences can spark joy and positive feelings. They can add another layer of personalization to employee recognition for years of service rewards, as an employee lives out a meaningful experience that you’ve provided in appreciation of their investment in your company.

Below are a few examples of experiences you can offer employees for their years of service:

  • Spa experience
  • Wine tasting or brewery tours
  • Extreme adventures
  • Music or sporting event tickets
  • Staycation
  • Cooking classes
  • Family vacation
  • Couple’s massage
  • Horseback riding
  • Martial arts lesson
  • Yoga retreat
  • Exotic car test drive
  • Secret food tour
  • Indoor skydiving
  • Sunset sailing cruise
  • Golf lessons

When it comes to experiential rewards to offer employees who’ve been with your company for a long time, the opportunities are endless.

Any of these examples (and more) can create lifetime memories, engaging and reinvigorating employees who reach meaningful milestones.

When you incorporate experiences as rewards for employee anniversaries, you’re making a connection to their interests. This shows that you care about them as a person and employee.

Team Dinner at a Fancy Restaurant

A team dinner at a fancy restaurant is a great way to recognize employees when they hit certain milestones. Treating your employees to a nice dinner gives you an opportunity to make them feel like the star of the evening and invest time back into them. 

Many employees love this reward because food is tantalizing, tactile, and sensory. In other words, we associate the foods we eat with memory, which in this case, would be a positive one.

Office Upgrade

When an employee has been around for a while, and has become a veteran within your organization, it might be time for an office upgrade.

This could involve giving their current office a refresh that makes it more functional and practical for them. Or you could move them to a different office that’s more spacious or has better views.

Either way, you’ll be showing the employee you appreciate them to the extent that you want to go out of your way to optimize their environment. Just making this simple gesture can dramatically boost employee satisfaction and make them want to stay with your company even longer.

Social Media Shout-Out

Your company’s social media account is a vital part of your online presence. But it can also benefit your organization’s service reward program.

So, when one of your employees reaches a special milestone or wins a reward, acknowledge them publicly on social media. Simply saying congratulations and including the employee’s name can go a long way in making them feel appreciated for their years of service.

Give a Personal Token of Appreciation

Some employees enjoy public recognition. But others are more private and may not be crazy about being put on the spot. Taking them aside and giving them a more personal token of appreciation can be a great alternative.

Even though employees may often prefer to choose their own rewards, a personalized card or carefully chosen gift can make the reward more meaningful and intimate.

Employee Incentives

Employee incentives are a given in any complete service reward program. The whole point of rewarding employees who remain loyal is to incentivize them to stay even longer. And the way to do that is to present them with an object, item of value, or an event that shows your appreciation and spurs them to keep exceeding your expectations.

There are many employee incentives out there, including personal time off (PTO), sponsored education, additional retirement benefits matching, or sabbaticals. Even giving employees the freedom to pick projects can be a great incentive to offer to employees who have served your company for a certain number of years.

When it comes to incentives, it’s important to remember that money isn’t everything. Some of the best work perks are meaningful, custom gifts that the employee might not purchase for themselves, memorable experiences, and employee benefits.

Make Employee Anniversaries Unforgettable With a Rewards Platform

Years of service programs aim to make work anniversaries meaningful and memorable. But it takes time, consideration, and strategy to design a years of service program that hits those goals. Before execution, it’s important to align offerings with company values and ensure rewards fit the wants and needs of employees at various milestones.

Are you ready to take a personalized approach to employee years of service rewards? Give Xceleration a try. Our rewards platform offers a full suite of features to help your business create and sustain a culture of recognition that goes beyond milestone rewards. Contact us today to see how we can help you make rewards easy to implement and effective. 

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