Building an employee recognition program offers employers an invaluable tool in fostering a positive and productive workplace culture. However, if employers and HR teams design an employee appreciation program based on an outdated recognition and rewards model, they might not experience the desired outcome. 

The workplace has changed dramatically over the past five-to-10 years as the business landscape continues to undergo several massive changes, including changing the generational guard and associated professional attitudes and rapidly evolving technologies. These factors result in an emerging set of employee values and expectations from employers to feel that they are part of the bigger organizational picture and that their place within it has meaning beyond presence and productivity.

For employers who want to provide meaningful recognition to the current and future roster of valued employees, it is essential to explore the various ways employee recognition programs have changed in 2020. 

Years of Service (YOS) Award Programs

An employee's loyalty is a gift to an employer. Having learned the ins and outs of their respective industry, loyal employees make operations easier for companies that are building or thriving since the business does not need to retrain these employees and instill institutional knowledge in them, over and over again.

For several decades, businesses have taken the time, effort and expense to say "thank you" to long-time employees who have stayed with the company for 5, 10, 15, and 20 or more years. Employers have shown their appreciation in ways such as awarding them with lapel pins engraved with their years of service, gift cards for local or national restaurants or retail stores, and cash bonuses. The value of gifts often increases in value in chronological alignment with the employee's YOS. 

In recent years, these gifts have evolved with employers beginning to offer more extravagant employee appreciation awards. Instead of a pin, an employee might receive an all-expenses-paid vacation, concert tickets, or some other kind of experience related reward. 

How the YOS Model Has Changed and Continues to Change

The shift from a Baby Boomer-heavy workplace culture, to one where Millennials now compromise half of the American workforce, has made a significant change to the YOS model. Such a shift also includes upcoming Generation X and Generation Z. Still, the main driving force has long focused on Baby Boomers and Millennials, according to a 2016 article from The HR Digest. Previous generations might have had a stronger desire to find an organization, find their niche within it, and spend their entire professional lives with the company, however Millennials do not hold the same sense of professional continuity.

Consider a few key expectations of professional Millennials to gain a better understanding of what they might want in an employee awards gift:

  • Social responsibility
  • Allowance for innovation
  • Frequent constructive feedback
  • Work-life balance
  • Opportunities for leadership

Without these core values and opportunities firmly in mind, modern employees are more willing than ever to seek another job that fits their vision and goals.

According to professional forecasts over the past five years, Millennials are expected to comprise 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025, and it is critical to understand their YOS expectations. 

Learn How Frequently Employees Want Recognition

In the past, employers could wait five years to offer the first milestone gift for service. However, it is now vital to offer earlier employee recognition to acknowledge their contributions in near-real-time. Many organizations that experience high-turnover rates increasingly offer one-year mini-milestone awards to foster employee appreciation and encourage retention.

Learn How Employees Want to Feel Recognized

Employees want employers to understand their priorities and goals, so an increasing number of business leaders survey employees to learn what they think of existing YOS programs and what they might change to improve the experience for themselves and their peers. Today's employees often want programs that recognize more personalized experiences versus a date on the calendar, marking a span of time. Millennials and Generation Z desire a more holistic and comprehensive employee recognition philosophy that recognizes and praises everyday effort and achievements. They gravitate toward companies that foster a sense of belonging, social responsibility and peak moments.

How Businesses Can Strengthen Employee Awards Programs

It is important for today's business leaders understand how imperative it is to work with the workplace's prevailing attitudes and strive to improve their years of service awards programs.  Employers should recognize that employees need to look beyond tenure alone. Here are a few ways employers are meeting employees' recognition expectations:

  • Set Goals. Set meaningful goals to help serve as guideposts for employees trying to get their footing. If employees achieve goals quickly, let them know the value of their fast-paced learning and reward them with the chance to learn more. If employees do not meet goals, offer opportunities to help them get up to speed and excel in the short-and long-term.
  • Be Consistent. Maintain the same basic strategies with all employees and work to create an overarching culture of recognition and appreciation.
  • Incentivize Managers to Reward Employees. Work with managers to recognize employees' daily efforts to do their best and help them strive for peak productivity, job satisfaction, and a belief they are a valued member of their team. 

What Are Some Recommended Ways to Incentivize and Reward Your Employees?

If you want to help engage your newer generations of employees, providing incentives and rewards still lies at the foundation. You need to find the right ways to incentivize and reward them according to how they see the world. The best part is that, while their worldviews are different from previous generations, they offer a net positive for them and your organization.

Here are a few ways to incentivize and reward your employees.

Performance-Based Incentives

Performance-based incentives are standard employer strategies for recognizing employees for achieved goals, such as exceeding sales numbers or committing few or no errors. Incorporating points into your reward system can help to award prizes and give employees the option to pick the reward they receive. 

Team-Based Rewards

Project teams and the entire workplace team benefits from rewards and recognition as much as individual employees do, so remember to foster the collaborative spirit by focusing on team achievements in: 

  • Group decision-making and problem-solving
  • Relying on one another for support and encouragement
  • Extending the team attitudes across the organization to deliver shared company goals

Volunteering Incentives

Today's employees want their workplace to have a sense of social purpose in addition to pursuing profit. Therefore, they respond well to incentives that allow them to represent the organization while doing good work for the community. Reach out to your employees to learn what shared passions they have and what types of volunteer programs with which you can collaborate with your employees' assistance or on their behalf.

Peer-Choice Rewards

Peer-choice rewards focus on peer-based recognition of fellow employees' accomplishments. Such employee appreciation awards help employees take a step outside their own work to recognize their teammates' efforts and accomplishments, whether in departments outside of their own or up and down the corporate ladder. Our People Are Everything™ engagement platform incorporates peer-to-peer recognition, allowing co-workers to share rewards and points with one another. 

Wellness Rewards

Since work-life balance has become a crucial focus for modern workers, employers need to offer wellness rewards that might include gym memberships, health insurance discounts for achieved fitness goals, and gift certificates for spas or yoga sessions.

At C.A. Short Company, we more than 80+ years of experience helping employers build award-winning engagement strategies and retain their top talent. Contact us or schedule a demo to learn how you can update your years of service program and other rewards incentives to engage all your valued employees now and long into the future! 

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