All The 2021 Guide for Employee Service Awards

The 2021 Guide for Employee Service Awards 

Use this Guide for Employee Service Awards to create a great experience for your employees’ years of service celebrations.

user icon Sara Ana Cemazar date icon July 20, 2020 clock icon 7 minutes
service awards
service awards

Employee service awards are a great way to express appreciation to your employees. In the world where people change jobs more than ever, it is important to celebrate your employees’ loyalty to your company. 

In this article, you will find your complete guide for planning and executing employee service awards programs, with creative ideas, templates and messages to include.  

🏆 First, get our Employee Recognition Playbook and learn how to build a long-lasting and effective employee recognition program in your company. 

Why You Should Implement Employee Service Awards 

Every HR Professional will tell you that business success starts with employees. Recognition is one of the best ways to improve your employees’ motivation and productivity, and to express your appreciation for their work. 

In that sense, employee service awards are given on occasions of work anniversaries and milestones. It is not only nice, but also expected of you to thank your employees for their years of service and loyalty to your company. However, as you will see, it is important to celebrate big milestones as well as the smaller ones. 

Recognizing your employees’ loyalty 

By presenting your employees with service awards, you are thanking your employees for sticking with you through thick and thin. Your employees probably had offers to switch jobs throughout their careers – but they chose to stay with you. That’s a reason for celebration and acknowledgement of their allegiance! 

As one of the most common employee recognition practices, employee service awards confirm all the benefits of employee appreciation, such as boosting motivation, productivity and morale in the workplace. 

Improving employee retention rates 

Giving your employees service awards for their work anniversaries is simply the right thing to do – but it also has benefits for your company as a whole. For one, you are celebrating the fact that your employees have been working in your company for significant amount of time, directly making the connection with your company’s employee retention rate. 

employee retention

By endorsing work anniversaries with celebration and service awards, you are showing your employees that you care that they choose to stay in your company’s service. By appreciating your employees in this way, you are helping to improve your company’s employee turnover rates. 

Improving company culture  

Celebration of your employees’ work anniversaries and presentation of their service awards usually involves informal gatherings, chatter and festive environment. In such casual situations, company culture thrives as your employees are bonding and forming relationships that go beyond professional ones. 

Of course, company culture is built throughout consistent efforts and encouragement of desired behavior, but employee service celebrations present a good opportunity to strengthen the ties between your employees. 

Showcasing your employer brand 

Honoring your employees with service awards is a great opportunity to showcase your employer brand. If there is a celebration involved, you can take pictures and post them to your careers page or your company’s social media. 

Sharing your employees’ experience working in your company and showing you are celebrating their years of service is a good way to demonstrate that employees are valued in your company. Building your employer brand with personal employee stories can help you attract high-quality candidates, thus ensuring that your company always performs at its best. 

Boosting employee engagement 

It is probably no surprise to you that employee recognition significantly affects employee engagement. With employee disengagement being a massive cost to companies, it is worth to utilize all the available strategies at your disposal to engage your employees. 

When you celebrate your employees’ milestones with service awards, you are recognizing the ongoing effort they put in their work. By doing that, you are motivating your employees to deliver their best work and improving the state of your employee engagement.

Steps to Build a Service Awards Program in Your Workplace 

For your employee service awards program to be effective and inclusive, you should plan it. Without taking care of the specifics, you are risking the unequal treatment of your employees. Furthermore, you might be late to plan the specific activities or budget confirmation for certain gifts. 

Take a look at these steps for building a service awards program in your workplace and never miss an opportunity to appreciate your employees the way they deserve it. 

1. Get executives’ buy-in 

First and foremost, you must convince your executives that celebrating work anniversaries and allocating resources for service awards is a noteworthy idea that will pay off.  

Explain to your executives all the benefits of employee recognition program, such as its proven record of boosting motivation, productivity and customer satisfaction. Furthermore, present your superiors with the exact plan for budgeting and aligning the service awards program with your company values, showing it will strengthen your employees’ ties with your organization. 

2. Align with company values 

It goes without saying that your service awards should be in line with your company values. Your service awards should incite the behavior and mindset you want to see in your employees, like innovation, open communication and integrity. 

3. Use the right recognition software 

If your organization is big, it is hard to track any of your employees’ relevant data – like work anniversaries, birthdays or career progress. That is why it is crucial that you have the right employee recognition software. 

Your employee recognition software should enable automated service anniversaries. When connected with employee data from HRIS system, recognition should be automated, or it should send notifications about service anniversaries 

Furthermore, your employee recognition software should help you accomplish goals related to employee appreciation and allow you to track the results of your initiatives. Of course, it should also match your budget and other key players’ requests. 

🏆 Get our comprehensive Employee Recognition and Rewards Buyer’s Guide to choose the right recognition software provider for your organization. 


4. Tie to wider Employee Recognition Program 

Your service awards should be tied to wider employee recognition program that also rewards your employees for their goal accomplishments, career advancement or specific actions you want to promote among your employees. 

Therefore, link your service awards with already established employee recognition program, or use service awards to build one. Our employee recognition playbook can help you find out all the whys and hows. 

5. Celebrate both minor and major anniversaries 

You probably know that Millennials already comprise more than half of world’s workforceFurthermore, this young generation plays by the different rules than previous ones – they change jobs more often and have somewhat different criteria for choosing their employees, looking for meaningful work and appreciation of their efforts. 

Therefore, it is useful to celebrate not only big anniversaries, like 5, 10 or 20 years working for a company. Many organizations today celebrate 1st, 2nd and 3rd work anniversaries of their employees, knowing that employee attrition is more common among Millennials: 49% of them expect to quit their jobs within 2 years. 

millenials in the workplace

6. Adjust the award with the importance of the event 

It is crucial for you to adjust the service award according to the number of years your employees have been working for your organization. For example, a 10-year service award should bear more significance and value than 1-year service award. 

If you skip this step and randomly assign service awards, you are risking the unequal treatment of your employees’ effort and loyalty. It might lead to some of your employees feeling left behind or unappreciated for. 

7. Make celebration social 

Work anniversaries are sort of work birthdays – therefore, throw a party! Of course, it should be in line with the work atmosphere, but your company probably allows team lunches or cakes that present an opportunity for employees to gather and relax for a bit. 

Furthermore, share the pictures of your parties or service awards on social media or internal employee communication channels. That way, you are once again reinforcing your employer brand, as well as showing your other employees what they might expect if they continue working in your organization. 

8. Offer a variety of gifts  

Your employees are different, and they would prefer certain gifts over others. To ensure that everybody gets what they want, it is wise to offer a variety of gifts to choose from when it comes to service awards. 

🏆 Check out the inclusive catalogues within our Employee Recognition and Rewards Platform JobPts that allow your employees to choose the perfect service award for themselves. 

9. Give a personal token of appreciation 

Even though it is best for your employees to choose their own rewards, it is important that you personalize the award with a small token of appreciation. You can accompany your service award with a card, letter or certificate that makes the award more meaningful and intimate. You can find the messages and certificates you can use below in this article. ⏬ 

Out-of-the Box Service Awards Ideas 

There are plenty of service awards ideas to choose from, and traditional ones usually include company merchandise or gift cards. These are also great gifts, but in this section, we wanted to present you the less-usual service awards ideas that you might like to use in your company. 

employee rewards

Take a look at our ideas! 

Theme work anniversary party 

If your employees are fans of certain TV show or keep talking about that vacation on Hawaii they took years ago, throw them an anniversary party with a twist. Decorate the office space according to the theme of your choice and surprise your employees with a unique festive experience! 

Framed photo 

In case you have funny photos of your employees from team buildings or from the office, frame it and present it as a gift. Some would also opt for creating a meme out of the picture, so be creative and make your employees laugh out loud. 

Milestones scrapbook 

Although it takes more time to create, employee milestones scrapbook is one of the best personalized gifts you can give to your employees. This gift is especially intimate if you are celebrating bigger anniversaries, and it can also be used as a retirement gift. 


A good book has the power to change someone’s life, wouldn’t you agree? Therefore, an inspiring book represents a thoughtful gift – especially if you know your employee is a bookworm. Include an inscription on the first page of the book to make the service award more personal. 

Day off 

Reward your employees with a day off as their service award. Better yet, include a spa coupon they can use to relax and afford a day just to themselves!  

Social media post 

Your younger employees are probably present on social media, and they would feel honed and recognized if you dedicate them a Facebook or Instagram post. 

employee work anniversary

If you know your employees love to travel, there is no better award than to give them a gift card they can use in a travel agency or plane tickets to a certain destination. Obviously, you should tie the monetary value of the travel itself with the importance of the anniversary. 

Dinner coupon 

Another bulletproof reward for your employees is a dinner or lunch coupon in a fancy restaurant. Allow your employees to treat themselves and a guest with this unique experience, especially if you know they are foodies! 

Movie tickets 

Tickets to a movie theater are a cool service award you can give to your employees. There are movie theater gift cards that can allow your employees to choose the movie they like and get some popcorn while they watch it. 


Make a donation in your employees’ name as their service award if you know there’s a charity especially close to their hearts. It will reflect your employees’ humanitarian nature. 

Land on the moon 

Did you know that you can buy a piece of land on the moon? There are several companies offering this unique reward that oozes coolness! Apart from it being one of a kind, the note that accompanies this service award writes itself: your work is always out of this world – so we got you a piece of land on the Moon! 

Animal sponsorship at the Zoo 

Another unique ideas is to sponsor an animal shelter or certain species of animal at your local zoo in your employees’ name. As you can imagine, this idea would be loved among your animal-loving employees. 

10 Messages to Thank Your Employees for their Years of Service 

Use these editable messages to accompany your service awards and personalize your employees’ appreciation experience. 

  • Dear [employee name], happy anniversary! You joined [company name] a long time ago and helped it grow and become what it is today. We are lucky to call you our employee, and we are grateful that you chose to give us your time and effort over the years. All the best from the entire team! 
  • Dear [employee name], congratulations on your [n]th anniversary! In a world where professionals like you have more choices than ever, we are honored that you chose to work with [company name]. Your expertise and talent are what gets us ahead. Thank you! 
  • They say that good employees are hard to find – and we are beyond lucky to have found you. Over the time, you showed nothing but greatness in work attitude, ethics and professionalism. Thank you for that! We wish you a joyful celebration of your [n]th work anniversary. 
  • Happy anniversary, [employee name]! We can imagine it was not easy to work with us around… We promise to be better if you stick around! 
  • [employee name], thank you for trying so hard in everything you do for [company name]. You have truly been with us through thick and thin, and your input has made the company what it is today. Happiest anniversary from all of us! 
  • Happy work anniversary, [employee name]! You are an inspiration to us all. Your hard work and awesome management skills have helped many of your teammates to advance in their careers. Keep on rocking and bringing the best of your wisdom and talent to the table! 
  • We feel privileged to call you our employee. Your work performance is nothing short of stellar, and we could not be more proud of you. We wish you all the best for your anniversary. Congratulations! 
  • Dear [employee name], we have been working together for [n] years now. During that time, you have earned not only my respect, but true admiration of your professionalism and kindness. Thank you for teaching me everything you did. Happy work anniversary, and cheers to many more! 
  • Dear [employee name], I cannot imagine coming to work and not seeing you there. You simply make my day with your positive attitude! I am lucky to have you as a teammate, and I look forward to seeing you thrive in your work in the following years. Happy work anniversary! 
  • Dear [employee name], you have been contributing to [company name] for [n] years now. We can honestly say that our lives wouldn’t have been the same without you. Thank you so much for setting such great example for all of us here. Happy work anniversary! 

Service Awards Certification Templates 

As explained earlier, you can personalize your employees’ service award with a certificate to make the experience more meaningful and intimate. This is why we have prepared 5 editable templates for you to download, edit and send to your employees for their work anniversaries. 

 🏆 Get these editable work anniversary certificate templates right here. Adjust these certificates to reflect your company’s brand and appreciate your employees’ years of service. 

Work Anniversary certificate templates

Years of service certificate #1  

Here is a classic, formal years of service certificate you can use to congratulate your employees on their work anniversaries. You can print it out and even frame it, or simply email it together with your service award points if you are using an employee recognition software. 

work anniversary certificate

Years of service certificate #2  

Have fun with your employees work anniversary certificate! Of course, if your company culture allows this. Use this certificate to congratulate your employees on their work anniversaries in a relaxed and festive manner. 

work anniversary

Years of service certificate #3  

This years of service certificate can be used in companies with both formal and informal cultures. It is a safe bet if you are not yet 100% sure what your workplace culture is like. 

service awards

Years of service certificate #4   

Accompany this years of service certificate to your service award. It is a nice way to honor your employees’ loyalty and continuous effort in working for your company. 

work anniversary certificate

Years of service certificate #5 

You can make this certificate a gift itself – print it in a larger format or frame it and accompany with a cupcake or similar token of gratitude for a simple, yet effective service award. 

happy work anniversary