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Years Of Service Awards: A Guide To Recognize Tenure At Work

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Finding the right employees can be a difficult task for companies.But retaining them is far more challenging. Despite these challenges, if you have employees who stick with you through thick and thin, it’s time to give back. Their loyalty and dedication deserve recognition, and one way to celebrate their tenure is through years of service awards.

This blog will cover the basics of years of service awards and show you how you can make them meaningful. You will also come across much-needed service awards ideas to help you build a thriving culture of recognition in your company.

Key Takeaways

  1. What Are Years of Service Awards
  2. What are the Objectives Behind Years of Service Awards
  3. Detailed understandingof Years of Service Awards Milestone to celebrate
  4. Years Of Service Awards Ideas
  5. Virtual Years of Service Awards Ideas
  6. What are the Benefits of Having Years of Service Award Program
  7. How to Build a Successful Years of Service Award Program
  8. Why Should Companies Recognize Years of Service
  9. Changing Trends in Employee Tenure

What Are Years Of Service Awards?


Years of service awards or service awards celebrate the tenure of employees who have worked with the company for a considerable amount of time. It is a type of employee recognition method that includes commemorating work anniversaries or years of services (5, 10, 20 years, etc.).

However, it is crucial to note that employees are not rewarded for showing up to work every day. The companies aim to recognize the reasons that made these employees stay for such a long time. These reasons may include their learnings, achievements, work relationships, and shared successes.

Think about those “participation certificates” you receive when you attend an event. Now compare it to the award that you got for your extraordinary efforts on a project.

Which one would you rather have? I’m sure you’d prefer the latter.

Objectives Behind Years Of Service Awards

A Forbes survey found that 87% of company recognition programs emphasize tenure.

People want recognition for things they do rather than just their attendance. They want to know that their years of hard work have paid off and played a significant part in the company's success.

Service awards aim to recognize all the above: their efforts, value, and professional development.

Thus, years of service awards have evolved to become more than just celebrating tenure. They are associated with recognizing service milestones at different phases in the employee lifecycle.

That’s why years of service awards are also known as milestone awards. Companies also refer to them as long service awards, employee service awards, or service award recognition. Regardless of the type, they play an essential role in making employees feel valued.

Years of Service Awards Milestone to Celebrate

Years of service awards aim to honor employees at different stages of their employee lifecycle. But to provide the right kind of employee appreciation, we need to understand what these stages entail.

Here’s a detailed understanding of the key career stages of an employee in an organization:


Service Awards for 1 Year

It is the stage of learning. Employees begin to understand the company culture and are proud to complete their first year.Let us get into the details-

Importance of Onboarding and Early Development:

  • Effective onboarding plays a significant role in determining employees’ success and engagement within the organization. It helps them acclimatize to the company's values, culture, and expectations, allowing them to understand their role better.

  • Introduce them to early development opportunities like mentorship, training programs, and regular feedback sessions. This helps in nurturing their talent in the long run. Strengthening their foundation during the initial stages helps them develop professionally, boosting their engagement levels.

Awards Focusing on Growth and Potential:

You can confer them with the following awards-

  • Rising-Star Award: You can recognize employees for showcasing potential, exceptional growth, and initiative-oriented during their first year.

  • Learning Champion Award: Acknowledge employees for enthusiastically pursuing learning opportunities and utilizing them to fuel their personal and professional growth.

Tips to Make Newcomers Feel Welcomed and Valued:

  • Assigning a dedicated mentor or buddy to new employees will help them guide throughout the onboarding process and provide advice and support.
  • Conduct regular check-ins and performance reviews to offer constructive feedback to new employees. This will help them understand their strengths and weaknesses. Hence, will allow them to align with the organizational goals. Encourage and involve them in team-building activities and social events. This form of participation fosters camaraderie and helps new employees develop relationships in the workplace.
  • Providing professional development opportunities like training, workshops, seminars, and skill-building exercises empowers employees to reach their full potential.
  • Celebrate milestones and achievements, such as completing probationary periods or successful project launches.

Service Awards for 3 Years

It is the stage of fitting in. Employees become comfortable with their teams. They are enthusiastic and want to grow professionally.The section below will delve into a detailed understanding-

Recognizing Employees' Contributions and Development:

  • Conduct a personalized ceremony to recognize employees' contributions and development over the past three years. Make sure to highlight their milestones, achievements, and the positive impact they had on the team and organization.
  • Provide specific instances of the projects they excelled in, the skills they developed, and how well they demonstrated their leadership and teamwork abilities. This will show that their efforts have not gone unnoticed.

Awards Demonstrating Appreciation and Career Progression:

You can confer them with the following awards-

  • "Excellence in Performance Award": Recognize employees who have consistently delivered extraordinary performance over the years. This award is a testimony to their hard work, dedication, and contributions to the team and organization.

  • "Career Growth Achievement Award": Acknowledge employees who have displayed significant growth and development in their careers after joining the company. This award celebrates their progress and commitment to continuous learning and improvement.

Tips for Fostering Long-Term Engagement and Motivation

  • Continue encouraging open communication and feedback between employees and managers. This makes employees feel valued, heard, and supported in their roles.
  • Foster a positive work environment that promotes work-life balance, recognition, and collaboration. Recognize and celebrate achievements regularly to keep them motivated.
  • Offer career progression opportunities within the organization, such as promotions, lateral moves, or new project assignments. This works best in engaging employees, bringing out the best in them, and keeping them motivated for the long term.

Service Awards for 5 Years

It is the stage of expertise. Employees are confident and expert in their areas. They value their work but also wonder about better opportunities elsewhere. Below are the things that you can try to make the service year award memorable-

Celebrating Significant Contributions and Impact on the Team:

  • Host a special recognition ceremony or event to commemorate employees' 5-year service milestone. It could be at a team outing, formal dinner, a virtual celebration, or an annual event. It should totally depend on the preferences of the team.
  • Amid the celebration, ensure to highlight employees’ contributions, achievements, and the positive impact it has created on the team and the organization in general. Share success stories, collect testimonials from colleagues, and give instances of projects or initiatives to which they have contributed significantly.

Awards Emphasizing Teamwork and Leadership Potential:

You can confer the following awards-

  • "Team Excellence Award": Recognize teams or employees for demonstrating robust teamwork, collaboration, and synergy toward achieving common goals. The award is a celebration of the collective effort and camaraderie within the team.

  • "Leadership Achievement Award": Confer this award to employees who have demonstrated strong leadership qualities by undertaking initiatives in their roles. The award acknowledges those employees who have the potential to-

  1. Inspire and motivate others
  2. Drive positive change and
  3. Contribute to the organization's success through their leadership skills.

Ideas for Recognizing Individual Expertise and Achievements:

  • Feature their personal achievements and expertise by showcasing them in company newsletters or internal communications.
  • Allot them a budget for professional development activities and attend conferences related to their expertise. This will keep them updated on industry trends and advancements.

Service Awards for 10 Years

It is the stage of belonging. Employees feel a sense of ownership in the company. However, they want to solidify their role in the company.Below are the things that you can try to make the service year award memorable-

Acknowledging the Employee's Valuable Experience and Mentorship:

  • Arrange a special recognition event or ceremony to honor employees who have reached the 10-year service milestone.
  • During the event, highlight their valuable contributions to the company. Acknowledge their role as mentors and advisors for positively influencing the growth of their colleagues and team members.
  • Give employees a platform to share insights into their 10-year journey with their peers.
  • Gift them a beautifully crafted box for storing mementos and keepsakes from their time with the company. Give it a personalized touch with their names and years of service engraved.
  • Additionally, you can sponsor a weekend outdoor adventure such as a guided hiking trip, or kayaking excursion or any activity they seek that amounts to an unforgettable experience.

Awards Showcasing Loyalty and Dedication to the Company:

You can confer them with the following awards-

  • "Decade of Dedication Award": Recognize employees for demonstrating their unwavering loyalty, dedication, and commitment to the company over the decade. This award celebrates their long-term service and contribution to the organization's success and growth.
  • "Mentorship Excellence Award": Reward employees for excelling as mentors and guiding and supporting their colleagues to unlock their full potential. This award acknowledges their invaluable mentorship contributions and the positive impact they have had on the development and success of others.

Tips for strengthening Long-Term Commitment and Fostering Legacy Building:

  • Encourage long-tenured employees to engage in knowledge-sharing sessions to share their experiences, insights, and lessons learned among their colleagues. This helps build a legacy for peers to follow.
  • Create opportunities for long-term employees to undertake leadership roles and participate in special projects that allow them to put their expertise and experience into practice.
  • Establish a formalized legacy program that honors long-term employees' contributions and achievements. This includes creating a hall of fame, publishing commemorative materials, or naming awards or scholarships in their honor.

Service Awards for 20 Years

Employees have seen the ups and downs of the company and are considered to be veterans. They prove to be good mentors.Below are the things that you can try to make the 20th service year award memorable-

Impact and Potential:

  • Significant Contributions: Acknowledge employees’ significant contributions to the organization over the past two decades. Highlight their efforts on specific projects and achievements which had a lasting impact on the company's success.
  • Expertise and Mentorship: Recognize employees' expertise in their field and their impactful role as mentors to others. Highlight how they have shared their knowledge, skills, and experience with colleagues and helped develop the next generation of talent within the organization.


  • Leadership Development Program: Offer employees the opportunity to participate in a specialized leadership development program tailored to their interests and career goals. This could include seminars, workshops, or executive coaching sessions focusing on enhancing their leadership skills and strategic thinking abilities.
  • Industry Conference Trip: Send them to a prestigious industry conference or event relevant to their field of expertise. This will keep them attuned to the current industry trends, assist in networking with peers, and gain valuable insights beneficial for the organization.
  • Personalized Learning Experience: Provide a personalized learning experience based on the employee's interests and aspirations. This could include funding for online courses, memberships to professional associations, or access to resources.


  • Custom Jewelry: Present the employee with a custom piece of jewelry with the company logo intact or other meaningful symbols to commemorate their 20 years of service. This will serve as a tangible testimony of their dedication and commitment to the organization.
  • High-End Tech Gadget: You can also give the employees a high-end tech gadget that assists and enhances their work life. This could be a new smartphone, tablet, smartwatch, or other innovative device.
  • Arrange for an exclusive travel experience for your employees. Offer them a private guided tour of iconic landmarks and a luxury cruise to exotic destinations.

Service Awards for 25 Years

It is a significant milestone in an employee’s career. It signifies triumph and is a time to celebrate all the previous accomplishments.

From here, it is primarily a stage of reflection and nostalgia. Employees are more interested in passing on their acquired knowledge.Let us see how you can make this service year award memorable-

Legacy and Appreciation:

  • Lasting Impact: Make this event a grand affair. Celebrate the employees’ legacy and lasting impact on the company's history and culture. Highlight specific achievements, milestones, or initiatives where their contributions have made a sustainable difference.
  • Dedication and Loyalty: Show deep appreciation for the employee's dedication and loyalty to the organization over the past 25 years. Acknowledge the milestones and challenges they've encountered throughout their journey and recognize the unwavering commitment they've showcased to the company's mission and values.
  • Contributions Across a Quarter-Century: Reflect on their journey and contributions over the past 25 years. Discuss how their expertise, leadership, and mentorship have shaped the organization and influenced their colleagues' and teams' development and success.


  • Customized Trip: Organize a customized trip for the employee with a destination of their choice. This could be a dream vacation, a bucket-list adventure, or a cultural immersion experience catering to their interests and passions. The trip will give them ample time to relax, rejuvenate, and create lasting memories to cherish.
  • Dream Event: You can also offer tickets to a dream event or experience tied to the employee's passions and interests. This could include VIP access to sporting events, concerts, theater productions, or exclusive cultural events. Granting them an opportunity to attend a once-in-a-lifetime experience will help them indulge in their hobbies and interests and memorably celebrate their milestone achievement.


  • High-Value Item: Gift the employee a high-value item that perfectly symbolizes their 25 years of dedicated service and commitment to the organization. This could be a piece of fine art, a customized watch with the employees' initials engraved on it, or any prestigious item with the company’s logo.
  • Exclusive Membership or Club Subscription: You can also opt to gift a membership to an exclusive club. This could include a golf club, country club, or private members' lounge, where employees can get better networking opportunities and enjoy leisure activities.

Years Of Service Awards Ideas


Here are some great ideas to make your years of service awards more meaningful:

1. Symbolic Awards

These include things like service certificates, plaques, service pins, or trophies. They help represent the years of service in a unique, meaningful way. Employees can also connect these awards to something they cherish.

2. Time-off

These may include extra vacation days or weekend getaways. This way, they will enjoy their work anniversary with some quality for themselves. It instills the thought that you care for them and acknowledge their contributions.

3. Personalized Rewards/Gifts


Personalized corporate gifts allow employers to know their employees on a personal level. This paves the way for stronger employer-employee relations.

Consider gifting them accessories like a coffee mug or a shirt with their name on it. For significant service contributions, you may give luxury items or personalized wrist-watches.

Provide them some choice over their service award gift. For example, employees may choose between electronics, work from home items, sports items, travel accessories, etc.

4. Stock Options

You may let your loyal employees buy company stocks at lower prices. Allowing employees to invest in the company gives them a sense of ownership. This acts as an acknowledgment of employee loyalty and an effective employee retention strategy.

5. Recognition Letter From Leadership

Instead of a pre-formatted email, arrange to send out a personal note of congratulations from the company CEO or senior leadership. Plan a nice dinner or lunch party or an outdoor event, where you include the senior leadership along the team to celebrate employee services.

6. Gift Cards and Cash


With gift cards or cash, your employees have the choice to get the things they wish to buy.

Points-based reward systems can also come in handy in this case. In this system, points are tied to a specific monetary value. These points are usually redeemable for merchandise and other incentives.

7. Promotions

Work anniversaries are an excellent opportunity to promote deserving employees. Make their work anniversaries special by announcing promotions based on their performance or experience.

8. Training and Development Opportunities

While money and security are essential, the majority of employees seek career growth. Providing them with learning opportunities demonstrates that you care about their development as well.

Pay for a certification course or training session for your employees to level up. Help them with their education expenses through tuition reimbursements. You may also consider giving them options to pursue their hobbies of choice.

Read more: 23 Awesome Ways To Make Every Employee Work Anniversary Memorable

Virtual Years Of Service Awards Ideas

Most of the above ideas, like gift cards, stock options, promotions, etc., can also be used to cherish remote workers’ service anniversaries. But you may also explore other options to make their special day memorable. The ideas are as follows:

  • Arrange fun virtual activities like “things I like about you” or fellow employees sharing fun facts.
  • Arrange for delivery of personalized goody bags, gifts, or even their favorite food to their homes.
  • Upgrade their work-from-home office setup with new pieces of equipment and other amenities.
  • You can send a personalized handwritten letter from their boss or a customized booklet with messages from the team.


Employee Engagement platforms like Vantage Circle offer a Service Yearbook feature, which is a personalized online yearbook. It allows peers to collect and share memories for someone’s service anniversary.

5 Benefits Of Having Years Of Service Award Program

1. Improves Employee Retention

Years of service awards improve the retention rates of the company. Employees reportedly stay for 2 to 4 years longer when their company has a dedicated service award program.

2. Increases Employee Loyalty

SurveyMonkey partnered with Bonusly to find out how recognition and retention are related. Out of 1,500 respondents, 63% of those who were “always” or “usually” recognized said that they are “very unlikely” to job hunt in the next 3–6 months. In contrast, only 11% of those who are “never” or “rarely” recognized would agree.

Years of service awards motivate employees to remain loyal to the company. They cultivate a sense of belonging among the employees. When they get genuine recognition consistently, they’d want to stay and contribute to the company’s success.

3. Drives Employee Satisfaction and Engagement

Loyal employees tend to show higher levels of satisfaction. They feel that the company values their efforts, and this, in turn, can drive employee engagement. It not only improves employee experience and productivity but also organizational performance.

4. Strengthens Company Culture

When you celebrate service milestones of employees, it sends out a signal to the whole workforce that the company appreciates their contributions. This, in turn, positively impacts employee motivation and helps reinforce good behavior.

5. Attracts Top Talent

Service awards don’t just help in employee retention, they also help attract top talent. Prospective candidates know that your company values and recognizes true talent.As a result, they show an inclination towards your company.

How To Build A Successful Years Of Service Award Program?


Years of service awards are one of the most popular recognition programs that companies use.

Companies recognize employees on their work anniversaries and send congratulatory emails. Some programs offer certificates, plaques, and other gifts to symbolize their value. But it can still be a very transactional process.

Companies should strive to turn the special occasion into a memorable occasion. Years of service awards must have a personalized touch so that an emotional connection can be built.

While designing their service awards program, companies need to contemplate the following questions:

  • Are there any clearly defined goals and objectives? What do you want to achieve with your service anniversary program?
  • Do you know the average employee tenure in your company?
  • What are the expectations of the employees from you for their service anniversaries?
  • Do they like the last career milestone award that they received?
  • Is receiving a service award a memorable experience for them?
  • Do these awards reinforce the connection your employees feel towards your organization?

The major goal of years of service awards is to express gratitude to employees. So to find out what makes them feel valued, ask the employees how they want to be recognized.Get feedback from recently recognized employees for suggestions to improve the experience. Employee surveys and check-ins are of enormous help to gauge employee expectations.

Building an impactful service awards program will require you to keep yourself updated with the current trends. When designing your service awards program, it's essential to ensure it remains relevant to the current generation. Hence, you should opt to modernize it. This means that you must update the program to align with the needs and preferences of today's workforce.

Let us see how you can modernize your service award program.

  1. Ensure more personalized rewarding experiences. While appreciating employees, be personal, specific, and genuine. Try to focus on their unique role and how they contribute to the company’s mission.

  2. Appreciate daily efforts, but don’t use the same techniques to recognize a major milestone. Combine personalized awards with symbolic awards to make them memorable.

  3. Know that 1 or 5 years is different from 25 years. Ensure that the service awards reflect the expectations of the employees at different career stages.

  4. Recognize their value, their efforts, and their successes. Don’t limit service awards to simply recognizing length of service.

  5. Incorporate social recognition methods by involving team members, mentors, peers, family, and friends in the celebrations.

  6. Empower managers with all the resources and tools they need to create a meaningful experience while recognizing the service of their team members. Train them in meaningful storytelling so that they can efficiently highlight employees’ contributions.

  7. Include different types of awards depending on the milestone you are celebrating. Ideally, the longer your employees serve, the more value their rewards should be.

Why Should Companies Recognize Years Of Service?


Recognizing years of service is essential for companies, particularly to keep long-term employees intact. Long-term employees are vital for companies for several reasons. They are as follows:

  • Long-term employees develop an overall familiarity with the company culture and expertise in products and services. Having witnessed the ups and downs, they know how things operate, what works in their favor, and what does not.
  • They serve as great mentors for the new employees by becoming a constant source of support to them.
  • They reflect stability amidst job uncertainties. This helps in boosting the morale of the workforce.
  • Retaining long-term employees is rather cost-effective. It saves on recruitment, onboarding, and training expenses.
  • Recognizing long-term employees satisfies the expectations of the millennial workforce, which is expanding.
  • With the brewing competitive war for talent, long-term employees will stay with you despite opportunities elsewhere.


Consider the following facts around employee tenure: (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • The average tenure of a salaried employee in 2020 was 4.1 years.
  • If we consider the age group of 25-34 years, this number drops to 2.8 years.
  • Ten years back, the corresponding figure for all salaried employees was 4.4 years, and for the 25-34 age group was 3.1 years.

In other words, employees today stay engaged with businesses for shorter periods.

According to a 2021 study, 73 percent of employees would consider leaving their jobs for the right offer, even if they weren’t looking for a job at the moment.

Millennials change jobs within the first few years to strengthen their portfolio, higher pay, or better opportunities.

Additionally, it is the era of the gig economy. More and more people are opting for self-employment and freelancing.

It may not be wise to wait for a 5, 10, or 20th work anniversary to recognize their worth. The concept of years of service awards needs to evolve accordingly.

Final Takeaway

Years of service awards programs should aim to make work anniversaries meaningful, memorable, and fun. They should move beyond honoring employees’ contributions to creating an experience that builds an emotional connection between them and the company.

When done well, years of service awards boost employee morale and make employees feel a true sense of belonging in the workplace. They act as a medium of reflection of the good times spent through celebrations of relationships and successes.


How can companies ensure the effectiveness of their years of service awards program?

To ensure the effectiveness of their years of service awards program, companies should do the following-

  • Regularly review and update their recognition practices,
  • Seek feedback from employees,
  • Tailor awards to individual preferences and
  • Align the program with the company's values and culture.

Can years of service awards be customized to reflect individual preferences or interests?

Yes, years of service awards can be customized to reflect individual preferences or interests. You can offer an array of gift options or allow employees to choose their preferred form of recognition. Customization can enhance the personalization and effectiveness of the awards program.

This article was co-authored by Riha Jaishi and Swati Baruah, who work as digital marketers at Vantage Circle. For any queries reach out to editor@vantagecircle.com.

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The Ultimate Guide to Employee Rewards and Recognition

The Ultimate Guide to Employee Rewards and Recognition