How to Make Career Milestones an Experience to Remember

Celebrating an employee’s career milestone is a big deal to them and should be to you. But many organizations struggle with how to acknowledge people’s length of service with the company.

I am going to show you how to honor your employees or colleagues for their career milestone the right way.

Follow these 4 P’s and you’ll turn any award presentation into a memorable celebration.

#1: Purpose

Ask yourself the following questions and work with others organizing the celebration to think about them too.

  • Why are we honoring this employee?
  • What should we be remembering?
  • How do we want them to feel?

A person’s length of service has been their life’s contribution to making a difference in whatever positions they fulfilled. People want to know they have been valued for all they have done.

Find out the attributes of the individuals so they can be shared, if appropriate, within the presentation. The presentation is about the person and not about the award they chose and already know they are getting.

Discover what is most meaningful to this person’s work and honor them for it. Highlight the difference they have made with a story that captures their life as an outstanding employee.

#2: Plan

This is the organizing and preparation well before the event that helps make every award occasion a success. By being prepared you can iron out any kinks in the works. You can also learn more about each recipient to make the event extra special.

For example, consider the following:

  • Who should be invited? Past colleagues? Family? Friends?
  • What would the honoree like to have happen?
  • Where is the best place to hold the awards event?

Check with the award recipient ahead of time if they’re okay with this being a public event. Research shows on average 20% – 25% of employees do not want to receive an award or any form of recognition publically or in front of others depending on their profession.

Some people just prefer a small private affair. They don’t like the limelight or being paraded in front of others. Respect this and see if time and resources permit a more personal experience.

Finding the right place and setting can add to the whole award moment. Don’t just drop the award off on their desk and have no personal interaction with them. This is not a mail delivery. This is a personal memory that becomes either a memorable milestone for the recipient or a deplorable millstone wanting to be forgotten.

Remember to capture this special occasion on camera and/ or video and make sure to send them copies after the event.

#3: Personalize

A person’s time and service with a company bring a flood of memories to a person. Milestones elicit feelings of gratitude and positivity that far outweigh any typical upsets that happened along the way.

To make this milestone award event more personal remember to do the following:

  • Are you using their preferred name versus their given name?
  • What is their history with your company?
  • Do you know why they selected their particular award gift?

It’s very important to get the “right” person to make the presentation to each employee. In most cases it will the their immediate manager. But depending on relationship at the time or meaningful connections over their work experience, there just might be someone else.

A person’s name is always music to their ears. Make sure you have the correct spelling on any printed items and practice the pronunciation for all unfamiliar names to you.

Your goal is to make this the most memorable experience for each recipient.

#4: Present

Typically, each recipient has already pre-selected his or her award gift. That means they know what they are getting so it is not the most exciting thing for them. Your job in presenting or facilitating the presentation is to add the icing on the cake to the gift being given.

Think about these questions:

  • What is ONE thing you could do to turn this into a “celebration” and not just a “presentation”?
  • Can you connect this person’s contributions to the organization’s’ values?
  • Are you prepared to sincerely and specifically thank them for all that they have done?

Presenting their milestone award the right way can make a lasting impact or, if done inappropriately, will ruin everything the recipient holds dear to them about working at your company.

With every planned set up, invitation, communication, etc. make a positive memory in everything you do for each honoree. Treat them as a star celebrity, because on this day they really are.

Lastly, remember to acknowledge each person’s achievements and to tell him or her, and others, the incredible difference they have made by working at your company.

Question: What do you do to make your career milestone award events a great experience?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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