Taking employee recognition to the next level

Stick figures holding up a sign that says 'Great Job'

As it relates to recognition there is one idea that truly stands out.

Genuine recognition does not need to be complicated or extravagant. The most important aspect is to recognize people for their contributions directly or better yet in front of their peer group.


Let’s look at a hypothetical scenario that’s all too common in corporate recognition programs today.

Bob, a manager, receives an automated notification that one of his valued employees is coming up on their 5-year anniversary. Being the busy manager he is, he proceeds to ask Linda, his assistant, to get something nice for Leon.

Linda proceeds to get a gift card and a greeting card to pass around the office for the staff to sign. When Leon shows up to work on his anniversary date, he finds a card with the word ‘Congratulations’ on the front, a gift card inside, and several words of congratulations written on the card by his coworkers.

Though Leon appreciated the gesture, something was missing even though Bob’s intentions were good.

In a day and age where automating optimal points in an employee's career should make it easy to recognize him for his contributions – it should also be an opportunity to lift them up and let them know their importance to the organization publicly.


Some would ask, why is this so important?

To answer that question, let’s take a quick look at the average US Employee Tenure Statistics.

It is reported by Zippia.com that in 2023 the expected median employee tenure in the US for men is 4.3 years and 3.8 years for women.

Zippia also reports that age, gender, occupation, industry, and education level all play factors in the average tenure, and that companies should make an effort to ensure long-tenure opportunities are available to all employees.

Assuming long tenured employees are important to the company, as mentioned above, Leon reaching the 5-year mark should be recognized as a significant milestone.

This is especially true if it’s important for the company to keep future training and employee development costs down, and potentially celebrate Leon’s 10th anniversary in another handful of years.



Now let’s take a look at some pro’s and con’s of how Leon may have been better served by Bob and the company as a whole.

The use of an automated system to remind Bob of important dates is an excellent way to stay on top of employee milestones.

Whether a simple notification triggered by your calendar or using a reminder app like ‘Microsoft To Do’, the few minutes it takes to set up employee birthdays, anniversaries, and important events can make a big impact on how well employees feel valued by the company.


Bob followed through on the reminder to recognize Leon.

Yay Bob! You cared enough to initiate a process to let Leon know he is valued and has been with the company for 5 years.

Even though it was a simple gesture, Leon’s accomplishments did not get overlooked.


Linda did a good job on finding a gift and greeting card to give Leon.

It was especially nice to have the card passed around so the team could write something to Leon.

We would expect that the greeting card had more sentimental value to Leon than the gift card and even that the company remembered his anniversary.


This is a good time to mention that automation, though often the simplest solution, can be a very impersonal way of communicating to an employee that they are valued.

For instance, a ‘fulfillment company’ will track the anniversary dates of your employees and send an email asking them to pick a gift or gift card from an online catalog as a token of the company's appreciation for reaching the milestone. And then proceed to ship the gift with a thank you note.

Though this takes much of the legwork off of the manager or HR department, it can leave the employee with a sense of detachment as if the company does not care enough about them to thank them personally.



Now let’s discuss some ideas for a more personal approach to recognizing a team member.

In this case Bob was on the right track, and Linda did a nice job of getting a greeting card and asking the team to sign it – and yet Leon still felt like something was missing.


It’s this ‘something missing’ idea that opens a door for any employer who wishes to take recognition to the next level, make a few changes and help encourage employees to stick around longer.

Now, let’s take a look at some practical, low-cost ideas that may keep Leon around for another major anniversary milestone.

Since the entire process began with an automated notification, Bob could have taken that opportunity to privately let Leon know he’s valued and that the company knows he is coming up on his 5th anniversary.

A few good things come from personally communicating to Leon that he is valued. One that his manager cares enough to take the time to thank him and the second that he is not just a cog in the machine.


Better yet, Bob could take Leon to lunch, ask how he’s doing at work, and thank him personally for his commitment over the past five years.

As a manager, the conversation could be beneficial to understanding how happy Leon is at his job plus provide opportunities for the company to make changes that could benefit Leon, the company, and the other employees.


Employees want to know they’re valued, and Bob could take it up a notch by creating an opportunity for Leon to be recognized for his commitment in front of his peers.

This doesn’t need to be anything fancy. A simple pizza party on Friday and taking a few minutes to single Leon out could send him a message that the entire team appreciates his service. Plus, it sends a message to every other employee that the company cares about its people.

Though gift cards are nice, they're not the best tangible and lasting reminder that can be held onto, set on a shelf or hung on a wall.

Along with a gift card, consider presenting a years of service award in the form of a trophy or plaque.

Bringing a piece of hardware home has the added benefit of letting the recipient's family know he’s a valued member of the corporate community.


These ideas are simple enough, however it’s important to put them into practice and treat employees equally.

For more resources on recognition and how you can implement it into your organization, check out some of our previous articles on ‘The Benefits of Employee Recognition’ and ‘Appreciation + Recognition = Validation’.


US Acrylic Awards is a manufacturer of fine corporate deal toys and awards. Manufacturing beautiful works of art since 1984 for corporations around the US and Canada.

Our team of recognition experts can help you design a custom line of years of service awards to take your recognition programs to the next level.

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