Maritz Motivation Solutions Releases New White Paper, The Future of Service Awards and Milestone Recognition

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Service award programs have impact, although five-year anniversary recognition misses the mark for Millennials, according to the CultureNext® paper

Maritz Motivation Solutions has released The Future of Service Awards and Milestone Recognition, a new white paper that outlines the significance and impact of service awards, provides a checklist for HR practitioners to assess their current awards programs, and offers ways to make them more effective.

While research shows that service award and milestone recognition programs do have impact for employees, many programs miss opportunities to recognize younger workers, according to the paper. Programs typically begin with five-year anniversaries, and Millennials’ average tenure with a company is 2.3 years, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics.

“Almost all organizations have some way of recognizing anniversary milestones; however, HR managers may be taking their impact for granted. Researchers have found milestone recognition programs have a strong causal impact on key engagement metrics like length of tenure, sense of belonging and positive feelings toward the organization,” said Kimberly Abel-Lanier, VP and General Manager for CultureNext® at Maritz Motivation Solutions.

The white paper cites a study by Dr. Trent Kaufman which shows that companies offering a years of service award program retained employees an average of two to three years longer than companies without a program. According to the study, employees stayed at their previous company with a milestone program an average of 6.7 years, compared to 4.7 years at companies without a program.

“However, there is concern about how Millennials respond to milestone recognition programs. By 2020, Millennials will make up 50% of the workforce. With many programs offering the first milestone award at five years, the question is whether Millennials will stay with an organization long enough to be recognized,” Abel-Lanier said.

She said the first step for HR practitioners is to evaluate whether their programs meet standards for best practices, by asking these five questions:

  •     Does the program have clearly defined goals and objectives?
  •     Are expectations for employee and manager participation clear?
  •     Is receiving a milestone award from your organization a personal, memorable experience?
  •     Do employees want the gifts they receive at milestone anniversaries?
  •     Do service awards create and reinforce connections for employees to their sense of purpose and the impact of their contributions to your organization?

Beyond basic best practices, Abel-Lanier said that for service award and milestone recognition programs to be effective, it is crucial for HR practitioners to adapt programs to fulfill new expectations of meaningful awards among Millennials and Gen Z. She offers these tips to revitalize your programs:

  • Implement early milestone recognition. Milestone programs that begin recognizing anniversaries beginning at five years miss significant opportunities to include, engage and retain younger workers. Consider acknowledging contributions beginning at year one with mini-milestone awards in high-turnover organizations, as well as at year three.
  • Focus on your company’s legacy. Culture is important in today’s business environment. Incorporating your company’s legend, story, tradition and meaning in the way milestone awards are given can enhance the internal perception of service awards.
  • Ask employees how they want to be recognized. Ask employees how they feel about existing years-of-service programs or if recently recognized employees have suggestions for improving the experience. Incorporate social media sharing to give employees the opportunity to be recognized by their friends and connections online.

About Maritz Motivation Solutions

Maritz Motivation Solutions has been a global leader in employee engagement for over 75 years. Maritz’s CultureNext solution empowers employees to transform their organizations into amazing places to work. CultureNext provides organizations with flexible technology, tools, services and expansive rewards to help connect people worldwide to create a culture of engagement, passion and purpose. For more information, visit us at
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Meghan Busch
Rubenstein Public Relations
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