Your long service awards should start at one year, here’s why

It’s time to ditch the traditional approach to long service awards. In this blog we’ll explain why traditional approaches are out of date, and why you should recognise staff for as little as one year of service.

Old-fashioned service awards don’t work for today’s workers

There’s a huge amount of time spent worrying about the job-hopping habits of millennials. And there is evidence that as many as 60% of today’s 24-38 year olds are thinking about their next job.

So two things may be true here. One is that staff under 40 like to change jobs a lot. The other is that they don’t job hop as often as they’re reputed to, but still spend a lot of time thinking about it.

Regardless of which narrative you subscribe to, ask yourself: do either of those groups sound like they’re going to be excited at the prospect of a reward 20 years from now? The answer is quite an emphatic no, unfortunately. Times change, it’s time for long service awards to change with them.

It doesn’t have to cost you anything

When we say long service awards starting at one year, we don’t mean treating someone with one year of tenure as if they have the exact same loyalty as someone with 20. You don’t have to break out a catalogue and let them pick their favourite carriage clock, or produce a gift card.

You just have to make an effort to recognise that they’ve been with you for a year, and acknowledge the value they bring to the company. That feeling of being acknowledged and valued is as important to some staff as any reward could be.

All that means is putting aside time and making the effort. Make a note of their start date, and set up an automated alert next year a few days before that date (if you don’t have automated software to do that for you). When the anniversary of their start date comes around, acknowledge the anniversary and all they’ve achieved in that time.

You can worry about injecting cash-value rewards into the mix later down the line.

Employees expect their time to be noticed

Your staff won’t be expecting to receive financial or cash-value rewards after one year of service, but they will expect that someone notices their first work anniversary.

A year isn’t a huge amount of time, but it can feel like one. It all depends on how you’re looking at it.

For a business, for instance, a year isn’t that long. It’s just a few months to put together a lot of work to hit your targets and set up success for years down the line. 12 months is only a short time to achieve all that.

For an employee though, a year is important. None more so than their first year. It’s a period of learning, adjustment, performance anxiety and growth. And every employee notices their first work anniversary – it’s validating when you notice it too.

Not everyone is going to work another 20 years

There’s an argument that hoarding reward and recognition away only for employees with 20 years in your company is a milder form of discrimination.

If an employee joins your company after their late 40’s or older, it’s very unlikely they’re going to be working for your company for 20 years. And stats are showing that more people are working into their later years – it’s reasonable to expect you’ll have more over-50’s and over-60’s working in the future.

For older staff, it’s basically impossible for them to earn the same reward and recognition as an employee younger than them. Despite bringing their venerable experience, knowledge and skill to your business.

I’m sure you’d agree, it’s a little bit unfair. And as we established earlier, it’s not fit for your young staff either. Everyone’s losing out, except for young Gen X workers.

Everyone benefits from a change

If you’re waiting for decades to pass before making an effort to recognise employees for loyalty, there’s a good chance you’re pointlessly hoarding time, energy and resources better deployed on recognising employees today. If you want to talk about making that change, we’re always up for a chat.