Why long service awards don’t have to be long

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It’s often said that long service awards no longer have a place in today’s world of work

The traditional carriage clock or pen, given in recognition of a long employment service of maybe 10, 15 or 20 years, is not so appropriate with a more transient workforce. However, the principle of an award – where it was not the monetary value of the item itself that was prized but rather recognition of commitment and loyalty to the company – is still relevant.

Is job-hopping the new norm?

Today more people are looking to change jobs every few years for different opportunities, challenges or simply more money. While job-hopping can mean a steady wage increase and better career prospects for the employee, for an employer it can result in higher staff turnover, costs of recruitment and possibly unrest among those who choose to stay.

With the concept of ‘a job for life’ no longer expected, or often even sought after, does this make the long service award redundant?

It’s not just about turning up for work

It’s clear that the concept of long service needs to be re-imagined. In industry sectors where high employee turnover is a problem, such as retail or hospitality, many employers are giving long service awards after just a couple of years to help with employee motivation and retention. Some organisations are even introducing first-year congratulations.

In these instances recognition for years of turning up for work regularly is less relevant. What we are really talking about is rewarding loyalty aligned to the specific needs of individual businesses.

But what about those that do stay?

Having said all that, a long-term career with the same organisation is still prevalent in some sectors such as government and civil service, health, utilities, accounts, and manufacturing. Those employees that choose to stay have a depth of knowledge and skill that is extremely valuable, but they can be seen as lacking ambition or enthusiasm. The challenge is to keep them motivated and engaged as well. In the excitement of new people joining it can be easy to overlook the old retainers. Keeping all your employees loyal has become the new challenge and yet many organisations haven’t reviewed their loyalty and long service policies in years.

A job well done

Maybe we should take this a step further, recognising your employees for their commitment and performance rather than simply attendance. This can help to keep all employees motivated whether they’ve been in the job 10 months or 10 years.

There’s no doubt that recognising employees for a job well done (whether from a peer or a manager) with an email, in a newsletter or even on the canteen noticeboard has been proven to boost morale, engagement and even improve productivity and customer service.

Harnessing social media

Simply saying thank you or celebrating a birthday, work anniversary or other life event can go a long way to making people feel appreciated. In addition, saying thank you in a way that everyone knows you’ve been thanked is even better. There are myriad ways to say thank you, however one method that we are seeing increasingly is the use of company social media, which is easily accessible to most people via smartphones. Comments and thank yous can be seen by all and colleagues can like posts and give kudos.

A structured approach to thank yous means that actions that go above and beyond normal duty can be aligned with company values, which encourages and perpetuates company values. With an even more structured approach, thank yous can be put forward for awards.

Something for everyone

Which brings us back to the carriage clock. It’s important to make your recognition tangible with a reward to give it value and desirability. The key is to give something that is valued by your employees and since everyone is different, with unique circumstances, this means providing a choice. To be successful a reward programme needs to ensure that there is something for everyone.

There’s no doubt that recognising loyal service has certainly come a long way from the humble carriage clock.

Andy Caldicott is MD of PeopleValue

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