Service Awards May Be Old School, But They Still Help With Retention and Loyalty

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Jan 4, 2018

Two big myths that still exist around service awards are that people aren’t interested in building a career with one organization, and the days of loyalty between an organization and an employee are long-gone.

The reality is quite different.

The war for talent and the high cost of turnover has led employers to an increased focus on employee retention and engagement. Various sources put the cost of turnover at 30%-50% of the annual salary of entry-level employees, 150% of middle-level employees, and up to 400% for specialized, high-level employees. Add in the non-quantifiable, but equally critical, loss of industry and client knowledge and experience, and employers’ are highly motivated to keep valued employees.

Employees Want Careers

What has changed is that employees now want to invest in careers, not just jobs. Building a meaningful career with an organization is something to which many employees aspire today. They want to work for a company where they feel they fit in, they belong, and where they can make a commitment.

But how do organizations best support these employee goals? Research points to celebrating an employee’s career achievement over time as an effective strategy on multiple levels.

1. Celebrating loyalty drives tenure

A global quantitative and qualitative study by The Cicero Group, looked at the impact of years of service programs and found that celebrating career achievement is strongly correlated to increased tenure. In fact, organizations that offer a career achievement program keep employees an average of two years longer than organizations that don’t. If the program is perceived to be effective, employees plan to stay at their current employer for an additional two years on top of that.

2. Celebrating career achievement actively improves key employee engagement metrics

81% of employees feel career celebrations help them feel appreciated for their work. Our own research found that 19% more employees strongly felt their current company cared about employees and 18% more employees strongly felt they fit in and belonged at their current company if the company offered service awards

3. Reinforce your culture and deepen employee commitment

Celebrating career milestones provide unique opportunities to teach and reinforce what matters most in the organization. During the service award presentation, a clear connection is made between individual employees and company brand values, and training managers to connect employees’ actions to organizational goals can help create the meaning your employees’ are seeking in their work.

The connection gives your employees a purpose; making them part of the bigger organizational vision. This communication assures employees they have an active role in the organization’s success.

Managers’ roles are also enhanced, because they take the time to consider the service and contribution of every employee — when they ordinarily might not have done so.

4. Opportunities for connection and inspiration

Working with thousands of clients, I’ve seen how celebrating careers at key milestone years is a unique, one-of-a-kind opportunity to focus on an individual. It showcases an employee’s entire history of contributions, not just one single event or annual result. It provides opportunities for leaders to connect with their employees, enabling them to be exposed to new talent.

And, it creates moments that inspire peers to grow their own contributions to the company.

A version of this post appeared on

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