Long service awards can be a great way to recognize employees that have shown a commitment to your organization. (Moving forward, it will likely become rarer for an employee to stay long term with one organization, as millennials are much more comfortable with switching jobs/employers). Typically – and especially when labour demand outweighs labour supply in the job market – employees will have options when it comes to where they work. As such, it’s important to celebrate those who have hit milestones with your organization. While having long service awards may sound relatively straightforward, it’s important to create a program with clear parameters. In fact, it is best to have a long service award policy, with accompanying procedures. And as with any policy, ensure that it is communicated to employees. The goal of long service awards is to build employee engagement; the last thing that you want the awards to do is to become disengaging for employees. If you are clear and direct about how one becomes eligible for an award, this shouldn’t be a problem. Items that you will want to think about or questions that you will want to ask include:

  • What intervals will employees be eligible for recognition? Every 5 years?
  • When will employees first be eligible? After 5 years? After 10 years?
  • Will you provide employees with a gift? Will they have any choice with the gift? For example, 10 year employees could be provided with the choice of a watch or another gift of similar value.
  • How will leaves of absence be treated? Will they be included? For example, will you only look at an employee’s start date? Or if an employee went on leave for any reason will that time be “deducted’?
  • What about an employee who worked for your company, left for a period of time, and then came back? Will they have to “start fresh” when they return, or will you include their initial employment for the purposes of long service?
  • Will you have a larger event once per year to celebrate everyone who hit milestones in the past year? Or will you celebrate individuals as soon as they hit their landmark date?

Have all of the above information determined prior to launching your program. Of course, you can make adjustments to the program if needed moving forward (make sure to clearly communicate these changes to employees though). As well, you will likely need to be prepared to invest some money into your long service awards. That said, you don’t necessarily have to commit a large budget for buying expensive gifts and/or hosting elaborate dinners. It’s definitely fine if you want to go this route, but there is also nothing wrong with celebrating employee milestones on a quieter scale. After all, it is about showing appreciation for employees and recognizing their commitment to your organization. Those who have chosen to stay with your company often have corporate memory that is difficult to replace when they leave – make sure to celebrate and recognize these long term employees!

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