Celebrating Employee Milestones

Improve your recognition programs with advice from industry pros

By Connie Jeske Crane

We sense it’s important. That’s why most companies have programs to recognize employee milestones. But it seems we’re lacking sizzle. According to the Society for Human Resource Management/Globoforce 2015 Employee Recognition Report, while 74 per cent of companies have service anniversary programs, “only 22 per cent of companies reported having an excellent program, 47 per cent rated it as good and a full 31 per cent rated their program as fair or poor.”

How to improve? Here’s advice from industry leaders.

Understand why recognition matters
Peter W. Hart, CEO, of Rideau Recognition Solutions Inc. in Montreal, sees a talent crisis looming. “Companies that don’t have a culture that attracts folks, that retains them and engages them, they should be fearful for their survival.”

Create values-based programs
While research links recognition with better employee engagement and retention, the key is values-based programs where employees are recognized for exemplifying core company values, such as customer service. According to Globoforce, 90 per cent of respondents found values-based recognition improved employee engagement, compared to 67 per cent of respondents with basic programs.

Recognize early
More companies are marking short service anniversaries (one- and three-year), says Steve Huffman, VP of Recognition Services at Bi Worldwide in Minneapolis, MN. Rick Trevail, a director at Williams Recognition Ltd., in Sherbrooke, Que., attributes this shift to millennial preferences. “Who wants to stay on the job an extra five years for a BBQ?” But he notes rewards don’t have to be costly. A meaningful shout-out on social media could suffice.

Leverage technology
Today’s employees like immediate feedback, says Trevail. “They’re not left wondering ‘Have I done a good job?’” He notes the suitability of cross-platform social networking tools: “People can log into a site and provide feedback to their colleagues.” Also popular are online rewards programs and auto-reminders. As Hart explains, an employee change of address to HR could be a trigger: “And we send them a housewarming plant.”

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