Utilizing Work Anniversaries and Recognition to Create a Meaningful Employee Experience

A positive work environment relies on a supported and engaged workforce to succeed. So, it’s essential that HR professionals evaluate employee needs and create an infrastructure that not only acknowledges employee milestones, but also encourages prosocial engagement.

It may seem obvious, but it’s important to note that the most successful companies are usually those that prioritize work environments that support and motivate their employees. After all, employees who feel valued by their teams and leadership are more likely to participate more actively and form stronger workplace loyalty.

Employees who feel safe, happy and empowered by their employers are also more likely to remain with their company, which improves both productivity and retention rates, according to Forbes. When team members enjoy their work, they’re more likely to report overall job satisfaction and uphold positive company values.

So how can employers foster a meaningful work experience for their teams? A seemingly simple plan is to celebrate important employee milestones and anniversaries. If your company already has recognition processes in place, it’s still essential that HR teams follow updated best practices, which may improve upon standard methods.

Set consistent work anniversary or milestone expectations

This may seem obvious, but consistency is key when it comes to employee recognition. Nothing can hurt an employee more than if a co-worker on another team gets recognized for one year with the company, while their anniversary went by without acknowledgement.

Make sure everyone in leadership positions understands company policies and practices when it comes to awards for service, anniversaries and other milestone moments. Communicate across departments, so that each employee within the organization can share the same level of recognition and positive reinforcement regardless of what team they’re on.

By doing this, employees can learn to look forward to their work anniversaries and form stronger bonds with their team and supervisors.

Personalize gifts and include coworkers

A generic gift card or cash gift may check the box as “recognition gifts” but they don’t properly show meaningful appreciation toward the receiver. They’re nice, but they’re mostly symbolic — they won’t inspire employee loyalty or encourage positive team interactions.

Although every employee should be able to expect recognition on their work anniversaries, it’s critical that each celebration and gift be unique to personal experience with the company. After all, it’s good to tell an employee that you appreciate them, but it’s even better to also show it. A positive work environment thrives when employees each feel individually valued for their unique contributions.

So in addition to recognizing an employee’s 10-year work anniversary, your team should choose a personal gift equal to that career stage. This can be a card with personalized notes from every colleague or a team lunch at that employee’s favorite restaurant. Just keep in mind that the gift should express gratitude for all the employee has accomplished and how their commitment has made a difference to the company.

Make time for the smaller moments

Maybe it’s a colleague’s birthday or an employee just got married or a team successfully finished a demanding project: Either way, these moments are great opportunities to encourage team-building recognition. Make it a point that supervisors and managers know it’s important to take a moment to let employees know how their involvement impacts the company.

Meaningful work experiences are built on the daily exchanges that happen between employees and their employers. It’s not enough to only celebrate the larger milestones, because those don’t make up the majority of an employee’s time with the company.

Although these moments may not be as significant as a work anniversary, they are part of the day-to-day occurrences that build the overall employee experience. If you can improve an employee’s day through a card or company treat, then you should.

Ask for feedback

Open and honest communication is the backbone of a meaningful employee experience. After all, your HR recognition programs are only as strong and as relevant as the feedback they receive.

When your workers feel safe providing their opinions and ideas, your company will be able to grow and evolve to fit their specific needs. For example, perhaps your company has employees who would prefer not to celebrate or announce their birthdays or personal anniversaries. In those cases, an open dialogue can alert supervisors as to how to be sensitive to their employees’ wishes.

Feedback can also identify potential recognition weak points, which can then be discussed and improved upon. Helping employees feel heard is a form of valuable everyday recognition that companies should prioritize.

Don’t forget remote or virtual celebrations

In the past year, many employees have transitioned into remote or hybrid roles, which mean they won’t be in-office for moments like birthdays, work anniversaries and so on. This can lead to an engagement gap between those on location and those who can only connect virtually.

In those cases, HR departments need to strategize how best to extend company culture and acknowledge the hard work of remote employees through the digital space. A good place to start is by scheduling video meetings where employees can celebrate these memorable occasions with each other without geographical constraints. By setting aside a specific time for the team to acknowledge colleague accomplishments, employers will show how much they value their employees.

Similarly, company leaders can go the extra mile and cover lunch for employees through a food delivery service or gift card. This way remote or hybrid team members can celebrate from their home office and know that their employers care about their work experience, too.

Make meaningful work experiences a core value

Employees are the heart and soul of a successful company. By taking extra steps to recognize worker accomplishments, companies can ensure that their work environment reflects their core values.

Investing in your employees’ experience is just as important as investing in increased productivity, improved collaboration and higher employee retention.