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Employee Recognition Do’s and Don’ts: Work Anniversaries

By October 31, 2023November 29th, 2023No Comments

Work anniversaries aren’t just another day on the corporate calendar. They’re a clear indication of your employees’ loyalty and commitment to the organization. Each year – from their first to their last – is a celebratory moment because they choose to stay. 

It’s not like they don’t have options! If there’s one thing we know, it’s that there are plenty of jobs “out there.” The chart below shows some of the roles that are increasingly in demand post-pandemic, so the fact that your employees are still your employees is certainly worth celebrating.

But work anniversaries are also golden opportunities to boost employee engagement, maximize motivation, and solidify retention. Recognizing and celebrating these employee milestones can drive a more connected and committed workforce, meaning more and more work anniversaries to celebrate. See how that works?

You obviously want your employees to feel appreciated. You want them to know just how much you value their contributions over the year(s) and continued commitment to their team and to the company. But like everything else, there’s a right way and a wrong way to handle employee work anniversaries. 

We all remember the story of Kevin Ford. Kevin was an employee at the Las Vegas airport Burger King who was rewarded for his 27 years of loyalty with what was described as “a goodie bag of pens, candy, keychains, and other knick knacks.” His daughter was so disturbed by the level of recognition of her father that she took to the internet – and WON. Over 14,000 people agreed with her and made donations to his GoFundMe page, which has raised over $437k to date.

Now that’s how you celebrate employee loyalty! 

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But the damage to the reputations of Burger King and the Harry Reid International Airport has already been done and will take some time (and a financial investment) to improve. 

Keep reading to get clear on doing the “do’s” and avoiding the “don’ts” so your employees know exactly how much you appreciate each year they invest in your organization.

The Don’ts: Avoiding The Pitfalls

We’re starting with the don’ts because once you wipe these off the whiteboard, the do’s will be a piece of (work anniversary) cake. Aside from don’t give your employees “a goodie bag of pens, candy, keychains, and other knick knacks,” when it comes to celebrating work anniversaries, what you don’t want to do is:

  • Ignore/Forget

The most significant mistake you could make is to let work anniversaries go by unnoticed. This sends a clear message to your workforce that you don’t value them, their time, or their contributions. Why should they stay here? 

Fortunately, Caroo’s membership program can handle all the tracking and reminders of your employees’ work anniversaries so all you have to do is choose the gifts.


  • Take a “one-size-fits-all” approach 

Not every employee feels motivated or appreciated by the same type of gifts or recognition. And PS, it’s definitely more than the thought that counts. Avoid the universal gift bear trap with RecognitionDNA

By sharing this (*free*) assessment in a company-wide email blast, you’ll find out exactly how each of your employees prefers to be recognized so that you can reward them in their preferred care language.


  • Dismiss small milestones 

Sure, the major milestones are important, but neglecting the smaller ones can be more demotivating to your employees than a pay cut. They’ll never hit year 40 without getting through year three, year seven, and every, single in-between year from then on. Show your ongoing and consistent appreciation by celebrating every trip they make around the sun as a member of your team.

  • Suffocate them with swag

Swag is a hot-button topic when it comes to work anniversary gifts – some love it, some hate it. But one thing’s for certain – too much swag – or any amount of generic, thoughtless swag – can definitely tip the employee satisfaction scale (not in your favor, to be clear). If you really want to give company swag as a milestone gift just keep these 2 things in mind – 1) choose quality products that are practical and functional because 2) your employees aren’t walking billboards.


  • Be inconsistent 

It’s crucial that you don’t be inconsistent, show favoritism, or forget some team members while celebrating others. Consistency is more than just being repetitive in your actions and being inconsistent in your “how” can be just as momentum-crushing as being inconsistent in your “when” and “why.” Inconsistency hides in many places so be sure to look at your entire process when recognizing work anniversaries. 


  • Give meaningless (to them) gifts

We get it! Protecting endangered rhinos is near and dear to your heart and we love this for you! But maaaaaaybe giving your employees preserved rhino feces in support of your personal passion isn’t the best work anniversary gift decision you could make. Seriously, what are they supposed to do with that? Your employees deserve gifts that are meaningful to them or there’s really no point. (Please, please don’t give the gift of poo.)


  • Treat employees like friends/family

This may be an unpopular opinion but hear us out. Your employees deserve to feel respected and appreciated at work – of course! But they also deserve leadership. Structure. Guidance. Professionalism. It’s cool to chat it up with your employees about the latest microbrew that just opened down the block. But giving them some off-color branded merch from the place for a work anniversary gift could send a damaging message to other employees when they open their shiny new company-branded pen cup (see #6).

The Do’s: Making Work Anniversaries Shine

Obviously, you’ll want to do the opposite of the don’ts, but let’s go just a little deeper.


  • Acknowledge Every Work Anniversary

No matter how big or small the anniversary number, a simple email, a shoutout in a team meeting, or a personalized note can go a long way. Making sure every anniversary is on the calendar and appreciated appropriately is much easier with an effective recognition platform. A Caroo membership offers your employees over 1000 gifts to choose from so there’s no shortage of valuable options for every milestone, big or small.


  • Personalization matters

Tailor your work anniversary recognition to each individual. Some employees prefer a quiet celebration, while others may appreciate a more public acknowledgment of their years of service. Knowing your employees’ interests and what they value is crucial to making their work anniversary rewards personal to each of them. Another great reason to invest a whopping 5 minutes in checking out Caroo’s RecognitionDNA benefits.


  • Make your gifts thoughtful

Consider giving gifts that aren’t just company-branded swag or the best-of bulk merch. Try something a bit more individualized. Maybe the latest book about something they’re interested in, a beer-making kit for your IPA fans, a gift card for a class related to a hobby they’re into, or an extra day off work. These thoughtful gestures show you respect their time outside of work and care about nurturing their personal interests. 


  • Acknowledge the majors

While every work anniversary obviously deserves to be celebrated, major milestones like 10, 20, or 30 years with the company certainly merit a little extra hoopla. Much like our own birthdays, we tend to celebrate those “big ones” in more significant ways than the in-betweeners. Consider a more significant gift for those employees moving up in years of service.


  • Ask for feedback

Who better to tell you how they’d like to celebrate their work anniversaries than your employees themselves? And each of them may have a different care preference so make it as personal as possible by identifying their RecognitionDNA. You may be shocked to learn that some of your employees don’t even like tangible gifts. They’d rather have more flex time or a banner spread across the front lobby with their face on it so everyone knows it’s their day. Feedback is golden!

The Power of Work Anniversaries Done Right

Work anniversaries are significant milestones for your company as well as your employees. They mark the passage of time and the growth of both the individual and the organization. When celebrated thoughtfully, work anniversaries can strengthen employer/employee relationships, improve morale, and positively impact the company’s retention stats and financial bottom line. Everyone wins!

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