Do Years-of-Service Awards Still Matter in the 'Gig Economy'?
By Brian Summerfield
Milestones: What's in a Number?
By Michelle M. Smith
One of the most exciting discoveries to come out of O.C. Tanner research on service awards was the revelation that "5 years is very different than 20 years." In other words, different milestone celebrations require different rewards and recognition to reflect each distinctive career stage. Leaders who can capture the spirit of each of these anniversaries will deliver more meaning to recipients and build a sense of belonging in the company.
In year one, we're excited to have made it through the bulk of our learning curve. We're still soaking up information and cultural nuances, but we have pride in what we've achieved and the value we've added to the company thus far. This is a critically important year, as 86 percent of new hires make their decision to stay or leave within the first six months.
By year three, we're fitting into the culture and becoming very comfortable with our immediate team. We're adding value, interested in growing our career and looking ahead.
As we celebrate our fifth year, we've likely worked diligently and sacrificed much to develop our area of expertise. We're genuinely valuing the relationships we've developed in the workplace and may begin thinking about this organization as a permanent home. However, some employees at this stage are also feeling a bit restless and considering a fresh start, so leaders will want to address career development concerns.
We begin to feel real "ownership" in the company and our role in it at the 10-year mark. We see co-workers as extensions of our family and have developed a strong sense of belonging, although we're still solidifying our path within the organization.
We're pretty settled and heavily invested in the company and our role by the time we celebrate 15 years. At this point, we've figured out how to balance our personal and work lives and are seeing lifelong value in our partnership with the organization. We're proud of our contributions and feeling comfortable.
At 20 years, we're seasoned veterans who have seen a lot of change and have invested a lot in the company. Those two decades have created a wealth of knowledge and experiences that we're beginning to share with newer employees—and enjoying this new role.
All employees in our research study agreed that 25 years was the most significant milestone year and an accumulation of all the other milestones. It's one of triumph—a celebration of a long string of accomplishments, past and present.
With plenty left to offer the company, we're more reflective and nostalgic at 30 years. Our focus switches to imparting our expertise and experience to others within the organization, and in the broader community.
Michelle M. Smith, CPIM, CRP, is vice president of marketing at rewards and recognition company O.C. Tanner. She's also served as president of the Incentive Marketing Association and vice president of research at the Business Marketing Association.