Right Words of Recognition for Years of Service

What do you say to a person who reaches a specific milestone level in their years of service with the company?

This is something that is very important but frequently overlooked.

Over the years I have seen different milestones of recognition celebrated at many years of service award events.

Too often the years of service recognition is relegated to an online or manual process that makes things happen.

But planning the right words of acknowledgment to use isn’t always in the mix.

There should be thought put into the right words of recognition to use that accompany the event, the one on one encounter between a manager and employee, or the gift given to the employee.

I will give you some guidelines to consider for the right words of recognition.

A Typical Milestone Recognition Situation

Whether self-managed or through vendors, the milestone recognition scenario tends to repeat itself and may look something like this:

  • Employee is emailed or spoken to and acknowledged for their upcoming milestone with the company about a month or more before the actual anniversary date.
  • They may receive with the email a digital or printed congratulatory certificate.
  • They are invited to go to an online portal to select a gift award from a catalog or use a hardcopy catalog with the gift selections specific to the monetary value associated with the employee’s milestone year.
  • The selection may consist of lifestyle gift award items or manufactured items such as rings or other jewellery.
  • The employee’s immediate manager or supervisor is also notified so they can personally express acknowledgment to the employee for their anniversary and encourage them to select a meaningful gift.
  • An invitation may be extended for a celebration event that is held on a monthly or annual basis depending on how the milestone recognition is celebrated at the company.
  • A presentation package with the selected gift may be shipped to their manager for a formal presentation to the employee.
  • If there is an awards ceremony there is finalizing the names for each milestone year level, printing programs, event organization, rehearsals and event catering.

There are lots of permutations and combinations of how the process is done but this gives a general idea of what you are likely most familiar with.

Getting the Recognition Words Right

Key to choosing the right spoken and written words to use in recognizing employees for their years of service is remembering the purpose of milestone recognition.

You want to create an experience they won’t forget. You also want to honor your employees or colleagues with their service award.

Here are some guidelines for you to consider as you start pondering what you will say to the celebrating employee.

1. Purpose of Service Awards

Ask yourself the following questions.

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

Remember that a person’s length of service to the company has been their life‘s contribution to wanting to make a difference. Identify with others the contributions they have truly made to colleagues, customers and the company.

e.g. “John delivers a level of competence in his services that very few people ever achieve.”

There are always personal qualities that people are known for. Find out the attributes of this individual so they can be shared, if appropriate, within the presentation.

e.g. “Maria is a positive person whose smile brings light and comfort to all she works with.”

Each of us sees the results of the actions we do at work. But do you know what is most important to the individual? Discover what is most meaningful in this person’s work and then honor them for it.

e.g. “Malcolm’s personal mission is to provide the best patient-care that he can, and I believe that he does that in an exceptional manner.”

2. Gearing Up for the Presentation

Consider these questions to stimulate some ideas.

  • 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’svalues?
  • Are you prepared to sincerely and specifically thank them for all that they have done?

Presenting a person’s milestone award can make a lasting impact or ruin everything they hold dear to them about your company. That’s why it is so important to write down meaningful, memorable and motivational words to honor them.

Make a positive memory in everything you do for this honoree. Craft a story or simply a sentence that captures everything about them.

Treat them as a star celebrity because on this day they really are. This is a chance to create a headline that says it all about the employee.

Remember to acknowledge their achievements and the difference they have made. People want to know their contributions have been valued and this is a great opportunity to highlight one or two.

Solicit input from the employee’s managers(s) and fellow employees. Get a sentence or two from their manager that you might use verbatim.

Final Suggestions for Right Words

  • Be specific about their contributions and their attributes
  • Indicate the impact their work and actions have made
  • Keep verbal acknowledgements short and sweet, as there are a lot of other milestone recipients.
  • Use the longer content you’ve collected to print in a card signed by their manager(s) to accompany the gift.

Question: Are you making enough time to craft the right words to acknowledge your milestone award recipients?

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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