Take Inspiration from Relationships: Years of Service

cakeI’m a big fan of recognizing people at work for their contributions and their efforts. And I’ve talked about the good, bad and ugly of service awards before – one thing that drives me crazy is when we think it’s sufficient to applaud someone just for sticking it out at our crappy company for a given amount of time.

And I really hate it when when the bestowing of service awards becomes just another task-to-do of the HR Manager.

Look…I get it. Sometimes the phrase ‘planning and execution of the company’s annual service awards lunch’ is actually listed on the HR Manager’s job description. It’s a legacy process at her organization, left over from the industrial era, that she has neither the energy nor resources to get changed. The CEO (who inherited it) and his VPs (who could care less) are just not interested in giving it much thought; there are widgets to make after all. So service awards and recognition become something that can, as far as they’re concerned, continue to reside firmly in HR’s domain.

But you know what? If you’re in HR and as fed up with pins and postcards and an annual boring luncheon you can change all that pretty easily.

Service awards, as part of your company’s recognition process, can have a huge impact. It’s easier than you think to ditch the laser-engraved card and polo shirt with the company logo. Make a bold move from the check-listed chore that needs to be squeezed in sometime between the time your EEO-1 Report is due and Open Enrollment kicks off.

If you embrace a holistic system of recognition and celebration, then regular acknowledgement and reinforcement of the behaviors that the organization wants and cherishes will become second nature.

A while back an employee named Patsy who worked on my team celebrated 20 years as an employee. She had been with the company from its origin – a “founding member” if you will – and everyone knew her. We didn’t have much in the way of technology beyond email and our intranet but we had lots of memories. So almost everyone in the building gathered in the employee cafeteria for cake (white cake with white frosting!!) and drinks. A handful of employees brought photo albums and someone from Marketing dug up company newsletters from the mid 90’s. The CEO, choking back some tears, reminisced about the days when she and Patsy shared a desk when the company opened its doors.

What was particularly awesome about this day was that we celebrated Patsy’s service by letting all her coworkers and colleagues honor her. She had spent so much time with everyone in the company and they all had the opportunity to publicly share their stories.

I was reminded of Patsy recently when checking out this video from Globoforce about their new product Service Timelines. I like it a lot. (note: this is an actual Globoforce employee celebrating her 15 year anniversary).



That – to me – says human. That – to me – exemplifies the type of people processes I want to embrace. Honoring employees and making sure they continue to feel connected to my organization in a personal and meaningful way.

You can gather in the cafeteria (like we did for Patsy) or you can take videos and post on message boards and internal networks (cool for a dispersed workforce of course). The key though is to gather input from across the organization. After all, it’s not just the employee’s manager with whom they work. It’s Steve in Accounting. It’s Bill in the next cubicle. It’s Carrie who worked with her on a project team.

That’s the stuff that makes people happy; that’s the stuff that makes people want to stay and work for you. Relationships of all kinds matter. Not just the one with the boss.


note: I’m partnering with Globoforce as a paid contributor and, as I should, am disclosing this to you in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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