· 2 min read · Features

Should long service awards be renamed 'lethargy of service' awards?


Are rewards for length of service actually valued by those who receive the reward or are they seen as a reward for those who are a just filling a seat, and who should be moving on to allow for new energy to join the business?

According to the New Face of Long Service Awards report, published earlier this year by benefits provider Edenred, the majority of organisations (83%) still reward long service among their employees and more than half the organisations surveyed (58%) said it was valued as part of the recognition mix. However, only 9% saw long service awards as a driver of employee retention.

Changing times

Long service awards are important not just to the employees who receive them, but also to their colleagues and peers. These days people are more mobile and potentially more likely to chop and change jobs regularly so developing staff loyalty to the business is a major challenge for HR teams as it reduces costs associated with recruitment and inductions.

It's for this reason that giving a carriage clock for 25 years of service is no longer relevant. Businesses have significantly shortened the length of time before long service awards are given with awards after five, 10 and 15 years. In some high employee turnover industries such as call centres long service awards are awarded after 6 months and a year.

The but…

Are we simply giving away more to those employees who really need a wake up call? Does a 10-year service employee feel like they have a job for life and feel it's ok to kick back, take it easy and do a '9-5'?

Is it right for the employee to think a new younger recruit will take on their slack so they need not push?

Is it right that the employee achieves the minimum requirement to tick the appraisal box?

And, therefore, is it right for the employer to recognise the lethargy?

Or actually is this employee a devoted, loyal individual who during their time has proven their worth hence their continued employment?

Who's lethargic?

Perhaps it's not the employee who's lethargic but the employers and the internal teams running the reward scheme.

Despite a commitment to investing in recognition for long service, are employers falling short when it comes to communicating and celebrating the reward?

More than a third of employers (35%) said their employees didn't know when they were eligible for long service awards, while 68% said the awards were not celebrated within the business.

Key element

Long service is a key element of a recognition programme and it's still highly valued by employees because it's recognition of their on-going commitment and loyalty to the business.

When employees are deciding whether or not to change companies they look for signs they are valued. Long service awards are an effective way of showing employees that their contribution and loyalty is appreciated.

Employees can become stuck in a rut after 10 years of service, but a long service award delivers recognition to the employee that will inspire a fresh burst of productivity and re-engage them in the business.

Communication is crucial

The best employers are good at communicating the award and make the most of public presentations so that the award will also have a positive impact on the recipient's peers and co-workers.

Forward thinking employers are holding annual 'anniversary' events for all staff that have completed a specific milestone.

The success of a long service award programme is two-fold. Not only must the employee know they are eligible for the reward but it's important that the purpose of the award is reinforced to everyone in the award presentation to the employee.

John Sylvester (pictured) is director at P&MM