Organizational Wellness

Honoring Dedication: 25 Creative Examples of a Years of Service Award

Dec 21, 2023
Last Updated Dec 21, 2023

In today's competitive talent market, attracting and retaining top performers is a constant challenge for HR leaders. One powerful tool to cultivate loyalty and boost employee engagement is the years of service award. These acknowledge employees' contributions by demonstrating an organization's appreciation for their dedication and long-term commitment.

Years of service awards are more than just a plaque or gift. They are a way to show employees you appreciate their hard work and dedication. That helps create a workplace where everyone feels valued and appreciated. By recognizing employees for their achievements, HR leaders can create a stronger team that is more successful.

Dive into what years of service awards are, what they can do for your company, and 25 creative ideas to recognize your team. Let’s make work anniversaries something memorable for you and your employees! 

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What Is a Years of Service Award?

A years of service award is a type of recognition celebrating an employee’s time at your company. Typically, these awards are given to mark significant work anniversaries, like one year, five years, 10 years, and 25 years. 

They don’t have to be reserved for only major milestones, though. Your company could give these awards for someone’s seventh year at the company, for example, rather than waiting for the tenth. The goal isn’t just to thank employees for showing up every day. Instead, these awards are designed to recognize what an employee has contributed during that time —  their knowledge, work relationships, successes, and more. 

The Importance of Years of Service Awards

Employees spend most of their time each week at work. That time symbolizes their dedication to your organization. Rewarding your employees for that investment into your company has several advantages for your employees and your business — these are four of the key benefits that years of service awards could provide for your team. 

Enhancing Employee Performance Metrics

Awards can help foster connections between the business and employees. Recognition helps show individuals that their contributions benefit their teams and the company. That can tie your team members to your organization. Helping your employees connect with your company is important to engaging and retaining employees

You can also support employee-to-employee connections with recognition. Awards help people see how their work affects the big picture — and each other. That establishes ties between employees. Employee relationships are also a piece in the retention puzzle: 46% of respondents in a SHRM survey were more likely to leave their jobs due to loneliness. In this way, awards can contribute to key HR performance metrics like retention and engagement. 

Cultivating a Culture of Commitment

Years of service awards thank employees for their dedication to your company. Recognizing that is a way to cultivate a culture of commitment. These awards help people want to stay at your company. That’s because they’re 20 times more likely to be engaged and almost four times as likely to feel connected to the culture. When more than a third of U.S.workers say they plan to quit their jobs this year, it’s important to reward commitment.  

Aligning with Employee Expectations

Oftentimes, your workforce may expect you to recognize their accomplishments. They may begin to feel unappreciated and disappointed when you don’t recognize major milestones.  In fact, recognition is so critical that nearly 80% of employees who leave their job say they did so because their employer failed to express appreciation.

Reflecting Organizational Values

Utilizing awards intentionally gives you an opportunity to reflect your organizational values. For example, if your company values empathy, you can use awards to highlight how a particular employee embodies empathy in their work.  Doing this is a way to solidify the importance of your values to the company. 

Innovative Ideas for Years of Service Awards

When celebrating a work milestone, it's easy to default to the standard plaque, trophy, or gift card. However, creative awards that reflect your company culture can be more meaningful for employees while reinforcing your brand values in memorable ways.

Offering Memorable Experiences

Some companies offer certain experiences as recognition for employees hitting milestone work anniversaries. This type of celebration can make your years of service awards more unique. Who wouldn’t love a vacation, concert ticket, or night out with dinner and a show?  This can have the added benefit of your  employees associating the positive feelings of that experience with your company. 

Conducting Celebratory Ceremonies

Hosting an event to celebrate the employees who are receiving their years of service awards gives the occasion gravitas. You could gather all of the employees together, which creates an opportunity for connection. Here are a few ideas for a celebration: 

  • Highlight the employee’s accomplishments. Take some time and showcase what the employee has accomplished in their five, 10, 15 years at the company. 
  • Have someone high up bestow the award. Having someone in a leadership position personally thank the employee can make the presentation special for the employee. 
  • Hold a celebration afterward. Invite the friends, family, and team members of the employee to celebrate the momentous occasion. Maybe you hold it at work, maybe you hold it at a nearby restaurant. 

Holding a ceremony adds weight to the award. It helps create the sense that this award is a big achievement in the employee’s career. 

Sharing Handwritten Appreciations

If you’re looking for a way to make an award even more special, consider adding a personal handwritten note. Seventy-six percent of people save handwritten notes, so including a note is likely to be memorable for your employee. Try to make each note personal and to thank each individual person for their individual contributions. 

Making Charitable Contributions

Looking for a unique way to thank your employees? Consider making a charitable donation to a charity they’re passionate about as part of their years of service award. You can ask the employee’s coworkers, family, or friends for ideas of where to donate.  This can ultimately help with retention: Employees working for an employer who makes a positive impact said they were 11 times more likely to stay for the long haul, according to a Great Place to Work survey.

25 Creative Examples of Years of Service Awards

The ideas don’t stop there! Here are 25 more examples of memorable rewards: 

  • An engraved plaque
  • A monetary award
  • A spa day
  • A year’s subscription to an entertainment service of their choice
  • A nice backpack with your company logo
  • A giftcard to the movies
  • Travel vouchers
  • A dual monitor setup
  • Cooking classes
  • A smartwatch with a branded band
  • Nice headphones
  • A gym membership
  • A new office chair
  • Custom luggage
  • A subscription to a gourmet food delivery service
  • A hot air balloon ride
  • Concert tickets
  • Artwork commissioned from a local artist
  • Access to masterclasses for their other interests, like writing, cooking, and photography
  • Tickets to a local theme park
  • Vouchers for professional attire, like a tailored suit or pantsuit 
  • A weighted blanket
  • Nice cookware
  • A kayaking tour
  • A branded hammock

Elevating the Significance of Years of Service Awards

Years of service awards can be an important moment of recognition for your team. Leveraging the following strategies can make your rewards program as impactful as possible. 

Engaging the Whole Organization

When you put more emphasis on your years of service awards, you’re actively working toward creating a culture of recognition. Companies with active recognition cultures reduced turnover by 31%, compared to organizations with weaker programs.  To truly embed this in your culture, consider involving the whole company. 

Consider creating a points system that incentivizes employees to recognize each other regularly. You might involve the leadership team in recognition ceremonies. Or you could encourage managers to write handwritten appreciation letters to their team. The goal is to get everyone involved in actively recognizing each other’s work. 

The Importance of Leadership Involvement

Thank-you’s from leadership go a long way. Forty-four percent of employees in a Deloitte study said they value recognition from higher levels of management more than when it comes from their direct supervisor. It’s memorable to be singled out by the CEO!

You might have leaders present at ceremonies. They might sign cards or write thank-you letters. Consider utilizing an automatic tool to remind management of employee anniversaries, so they’re able to plan ahead. 

Personalizing Awards

It’s a nice touch to make every award unique. That might mean adjusting the awards based on the amount of time the employee has spent at the company. For example, you might have different awards for a one year anniversary versus a ten year anniversary.  In addition, consider adding a personal touch to each individual award. That might be a handwritten letter or curating the reward to interests. 

Integrating Incentives

Consider utilizing these awards as a way to encourage effort. The awards could improve year after year, leading to truly substantial awards. For example, you could award employees extra vacation days early on and a sabbatical after ten years. You could even include additional retirement benefits as part of the award. 

The Spectrum of Long-Term Service Awards

In addition to regular years of service recognition, some companies also give out long-term service awards. These awards are usually given at significant milestones, like five years, 10 years, 20 years, or even 30 plus years. You might consider adding something special to the award to make it memorable. Maybe you hold a ceremony for these particular awards or add big rewards.  

Honoring Milestones Beyond Time

While time matters, consider the value of service awards for other achievements. Other career markers you may want to honor include:

  • Promotions
  • Achieving a big win for the company
  • Getting a certification or degree
  • A great year of performance reviews
  • Excellent customer service metrics

Improving Employee Retention

Years of service awards are a great way to celebrate employees as they reach major career milestones. They are also a testament to your company — employees spend years with employers that provide a positive work environment.

Employee wellbeing is foundational to retaining employees: 87% of workers say they would consider leaving an organization that does not focus on employee wellness. Your company can meet this expectation with an employee wellbeing program, which gives your workforce the support they need to thrive. 

This can have a measurable impact. Companies that offer Wellhub, for example, have seen upwards of 40% improvement in retention. 

Create a culture that keeps employees around. Talk with a Wellhub wellbeing specialist today!

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Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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