Guest Column - September/October 2011

Are Service Awards, Recognition & Engagement a Lost Art Form?

By Joe Zanone


In recent conversations with some of my fellow industry colleagues, some have suggested that the idea of the service award seems to have become a thing of the past. No longer will the emphasis of recognizing a person for years of service be part of the corporate landscape. "People today are lucky to even have a job." "I do not think that just because you showed up for five, or even 10 years that you deserve a special award." "All the people do is complain about the awards we give them anyway." The value of service awards and even recognition seem to be waning in today's corporate world.

Or is it?

Regardless of the impact of the economy, leaders in today's marketplace hold their most valuable asset of their companies close to their chests. The employees are the most valuable assets of any successful company. Yes, there are an awful lot of very talented people out of work today, and yes, the people who are employed are facing daunting tasks that used to be handled by teams of people, but to have to go out and find, hire, train and retain new employees is a much larger cost than just taking care of who you have on staff now. Even more so in today's competitive marketplace, is it necessary to engage, retain and recognize the employee in order to build a more sustainable corporation.

Mission-Critical: Retention & Recognition

As the baby boomers retire and gen X , gen Y and gen next come into the workforce, companies need to be able to retain talent. The talent pool will shrink as time goes on. The latest census shows that there are fewer children being born, which will lead to fewer workers, especially as the baby boomers retire.

Looking at the bigger picture, jobs will be available for anyone who wishes to work, but savvy employers know that retention of talent is the key to their growth.

As part of retention, recognition is playing a larger role. As recognition plays a larger role in retention, the idea of the service award expands. It may not be a traditional service award program as we knew it yesterday. Everything you read in today's business books touches on retention, recognition, cultivation of employee-centric management styles that enforce the concept of reward, recognize, inspire, create and retain. World-class companies share the insights that make them world-class, and it always comes back to the talented workforce employed by that company.

What is the cost associated with recognition? It is really hard to calculate, I am sure. Everything I have read in the past 10 years on the topic of employee retention, training, safety, wellness, productivity and overall employee satisfaction consistently refers back to motivation and recognition. The cost is intangible.

The simple act of recognizing someone for their efforts can be as simple as an e-card or as elaborate as an all-inclusive vacation. It could be the "gold watch," or it could be as simple as a luncheon with peers. Whatever the cost, the outcome will only bring the company closer to achieving the world-class status that every company wishes to obtain.