Category All, Best Practices What are Anniversary Milestones and Why Teams Should Celebrate Them Professional milestones are career-defining moments. Rest assured, employees, remember those moments forever and so should their management and HR. November 17, 2022 By Ivo Jurcic In this blog post, we’re going to discuss what are anniversary milestones, why are they an integral part of the employee experience and share advice on how to track and celebrate anniversary milestones successfully. What are anniversary milestones? A work milestone is best defined as an achievement, development, or point in one’s career that has a significant impact on the course of their employee journey. Usually, larger milestones, such as promotions of the hiring date are the first that come to mind. However, there are smaller work milestones, such as completed first project, or learned new skill, that are important and deserve attention. By the same token, anniversary milestones are anniversaries of impactful milestones. The traditional approach to celebrating anniversaries is usually focused on the first, fifth, and tenth anniversaries, but today that view is outdated. With more organizations paying attention to their corporate culture, commemorating milestones is becoming increasingly important in the workspace. In addition, the rising awareness of Moments that Matter (MTM) as critical moments for employees and the organization also gives HR and line managers a new lens to observe anniversary milestones. When it comes to anniversary milestones, it’s important to differentiate between anniversaries of important individual milestones and milestones that are team achievements. As mentioned, individual employee milestones are critical moments in one’s professional career that have a profound influence on their experience as an employee or a member of an organization. In the context of work, these are anniversaries of such events where employees look back and reflect on their achievements. For example, an employee might look back on the time when they just got hired; they started the onboarding process and learned all the ropes in their new position of sales. Eventually, they scored their first big sale for the team, and at that moment; they felt like a winner. Regardless of how many years the employee spends in the company or how many sales they secure, they’ll always look fondly to their first major milestone as a sales officer. Chances are, they’ll likely remember the date or at least the time of the year when they achieved the milestone. Their team should make the effort to do the same. Besides individual employee milestones, there are also group anniversary milestones that commemorate collective achievements. Group milestones have a special meaning because they represent the moments when employees banded together and acted as a unified front. In fact, healthy, empowering company culture is built on collective achievements and showing appreciation for each other’s efforts. When teams or departments celebrate anniversary milestones together, they remind themselves of the chemistry they have as a team. Crucial Individual Anniversary Milestone Examples: Hiring anniversaries For many employees, their first year at a company has a profound impact on the rest of their employee experience. Just in the first few months, the employee will have some of their memorable moments at a company, so looking back at the hiring anniversary will almost always be emotional. It’s worth mentioning that reaching long tenure is a rare thing these days, especially with Millennial employees. A survey from Deloitte found that 49% of Millennials are likely to quit their job in the next two years. The survey is based on the answers from 13 416 Millennials questioned across 42 countries. If employees are to reach long tenure, their hiring anniversaries have to be celebrated and recognized. Promotions Nobody forgets their first big promotion in their company; being promoted effectively means rising up the ranks of the organization and being recognized as a powerful asset to the firm. In the working culture of Millennials and Gen Z, opportunities for advancement are immensely important. That’s why celebrating an employee’s first promotion reminds employees of their ascent in the organization and more career opportunities that lay ahead for them. Closed first sale Closing the first sale is considered a rite of passage for many employees. It marks stepping out of the onboarding, honing your skills, and finally closing the first sale. As with any rite of passage event, this meaningful anniversary should be celebrated by the entire team, as a way of showing support for their team member. Similarly, we can also list the anniversary of reaching a major sales target for a quarter or breaking a company record. Most Commonly Celebrated Collective Anniversary Milestones: Team forming anniversary The date of the team/department’s formation is considered to be a collective counterpart of the individual employees’ hiring anniversary. It’s a special occasion where the collective can reminisce about the early beginning and remind themselves of what they achieved as a team. Celebrating the team-forming anniversary milestone gives everyone a chance to strengthen team bonds, reinforce a strong, appreciative company culture and cultivate team spirit. Anniversary of the first major completed project as a team The feeling of completing a first major project as a team is nothing short of incredible. It embodies the collective effort in the team and represents an achievement everyone can share. Celebrating this particular anniversary every year ensures all team members understand the significance of this achievement and keeps them motivated and engaged in new projects. Anniversary of important restructuring A critical moment for any team is when the company or the organization undergoes restructuring. Restructuring implies a significant change in the operating environment, be it the merging of departments, new company leadership, or any impactful event that fundamentally changed things for the team. When team members reflect on restructuring anniversaries, they often perceive them as a threshold of a fresh experience. Therefore, teams should not pass out on the opportunity to celebrate them. Yes, we have moments that matter for the individual worker; they’re thinking about making a career change, something’s going on in their life, or they need to take some time off… Clearly, there are many significant moments that matter at the micro-level so to speak. Moments that matter for the organization, like corporate restructurings, are on the macro level and the effect they have on the individual. Steve Goldberg, top 100 HR tech influencer, HR process & tech leader at 5 Fortune 500 companies Why are Anniversary Milestones Critical for Teams? Anniversary milestones play a tremendous role in demonstrating recognition for employees, both on an individual level and that the collective. Feeling recognized and valued for your work is an intrinsic human need; deep down, every single employee wants to be celebrated for their accomplishments and contributions. When employees are deprived of recognition, they feel unappreciated at their company. PlanBeyond studied the causes of the Great Resignation and released a survey in 2021 with answers from 1000 full-time US workers. The paper cites a lack of appreciation or feeling undervalued as the top reason for employees wanting to resign. Another interesting finding is that the survey undermines the traditional notion that younger workers, most notably Gen Z, are likely to quit because of their age. According to this survey, full-time workers under the age of 45 are most likely to quit their jobs in the next 6 months. Workers in the age group of 25-34 years report a 52% likelihood of quitting, followed by workers in the age group of 35-44 years, with 49% claiming they plan on quitting in the next 6 months. What this means is that professionals who are well into their careers are almost as likely to consider resigning as their 10-years younger peers. This certainly comes as no surprise since the demand for experienced workers is rising all across the board. You can’t possibly underestimate the importance of proper employee recognition. Whether they’re just starting out, or have been in the company for 5, 10, or 15 years, everybody wants to feel appreciated. When companies take time to notice and actually say “thank you” for a job well done, employees naturally feel valued. Employee recognition is truly priceless and shouldn’t be practiced every 5 years. Ana Binovska, Professional Services Team Lead at Semos Cloud How do anniversary milestones tie in with the above-mentioned study? As stated before, the essence of celebrating anniversary milestones is showing appreciation for employees’ accomplishments throughout their tenure. It effectively demonstrates that great work is never truly forgotten. Employees, especially company veterans, will not feel undervalued if their entire team celebrates their anniversary milestones. More appreciation at the workplace goes a long way toward securing talent. This is accurate both for collective and individual appreciation. Besides keeping employees, giving more recognition to employees increases engagement. Another interesting survey, this time from Harvard Business Review, interviewed over 550 C-suite executives of enterprises and large companies to investigate the practices they used to improve their employee engagement initiatives. Circling back to various anniversary milestones above, let’s take reaching a major sales target as an example. If a sales team breaks the company record for a quarter, an encouraging manager would empower the team to commemorate the anniversary of that milestone to show their appreciation and engage employees. Remember, celebrating anniversaries is a powerful tool precisely because it raises awareness of big milestones and empowers the entire team to do something about it; namely, give recognition. When you think about it, celebrating anniversary milestones is the brick-and-mortar of keeping top talent and cultivating employee engagement. How to Track Anniversary Milestones? when you have a large global workforce divided among many teams. Celebrating anniversary milestones can also be a challenge, and we’ll get to that as well. Employees reach new milestones every year. Their milestones stack, and so do their respective anniversaries. As teams grow, new employees are introduced and before you know it, it becomes impossible to track which milestone happened how many years ago. As a result, many teams only celebrate the anniversary milestones that are easiest to track; the hiring date. This practice is a missed opportunity that wholly ignores the benefits of recognizing employees’ moments of triumph. What’s even worse is that employees can feel undervalued if nobody remembers to congratulate them on an anniversary of a career-defining moment. To put things in context, consider this fact. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in January 2022, the median employee tenure for men was 4.3 years, and for women, 3.8 years. If a company only celebrates hiring anniversary milestones and does so on the 1st, 5th, and 10th-year mark, judging by the median tenure, employees barely get any formal recognition for their milestones, which definitely contributes to the feeling of being undervalued. However, things can be changed for the better. The first step is to raise awareness of the importance of milestone anniversaries. Most people understand well why it means a lot to them when others celebrate their milestones but are not as willing to start the practice from the get-go. If it’s not commonly practiced at the workspace, it might be strange to do it all of a sudden. The second challenge is for team members to start logging their important milestones. It’s impossible to celebrate anniversaries when there’s no record of the reached achievement. By the same token, it’s not reasonable to assume team members will remember every single anniversary of an important milestone. An efficient, recognition-centered workspace has HR tech available that keeps track of individual and team milestones. That way, no worthwhile anniversary milestone will go undetected. Once all the milestones are tracked, we can talk about celebration challenges and solutions to fixing them. Business Problems around Anniversary Celebrations Logistics Behind Anniversary Celebrations The first thing that comes to mind when celebrating anniversary milestones are the logistical requirements necessary for the success of the endeavor: how to organize the delivery of the celebration, how to involve all the stakeholders, and how to acquire and deliver the goods intended for the receiver of the celebration, i.e. the celebrated employee. It’s easy to imagine why these problems can be difficult for a team that celebrates dozens of anniversary milestones a year. First off, the team has to have an established delivery platform that enables employees to celebrate virtually in case the whole team is dispersed or unavailable to celebrate together physically. In a traditional scenario, team members would’ve gathered in the office and celebrated together. However, this may very well not be feasible for dispersed or dynamic teams. The delivery of all celebrations has to be consistent, meaning every team member has their celebration ensured, be it for smaller anniversary milestones or bigger, critically important ones. The logistical challenge here is to maneuver through all roadblocks in the way of celebration, which only highlights the importance of having celebration delivery enabled in virtual space. Second, celebrations are by definition inclusive events, which means the whole team has to be involved. The leader of the celebration project has to be able to reach out to all team members and provide a channel by which they can celebrate together. A strong practice is to involve more peers outside of the team to celebrate an employee’s anniversary milestone. For instance, co-workers from other departments, senior leaders, and other professionals can join in on the celebration and send their best wishes. In terms, this magnifies the feeling of being recognized and reinforces the celebrated employee’s positive feelings toward the organization. Regardless if the celebrated employee is gifted with a token reward, praise, or a monetary reward, the project runner has to define how to acquire the payload and how to deliver it. A staple example is to design and send company-branded swag to the celebrated employee to achieve a strong sentimental feeling tied to the organization. In this case, the logistical feat involves finding a product manufacturer, creating the product, and delivering it to the employee on time for their anniversary milestone. Keep in mind that the cycle has to be repeated many times over for every celebration. Undefined Budgets for Anniversary Milestones It’s not feasible to celebrate multiple anniversary milestones without defined budgets. While enterprises do have resources in place intended for celebration and culture-centered activities, the budgets for anniversary milestones are often undefined, which puts stress on the entire operation. Then, project runners are not clear on how much they are allowed to spend, and stretched-out resources impact celebration delivery. In the context of global enterprises, with teams stretching out across multiple counties, an additional problem is the lack of a centralized channel for defining budgets for celebrations. Without an established channel that allows managers to understand how many resources they have to organize the celebrations, the company risks unequal treatment of employees, which definitely sends the wrong message, since equality is a principal value of a positive company culture. Unaligned Celebrations across Different Departments We’ve talked about the importance of collective anniversary milestones and their impact on teams. With companies with complex structures, different departments can be unaligned when it comes to celebrating anniversaries of important events, leading to departments celebrating different anniversary milestones that should’ve been celebrated by all branches of the organization. A plastic example would be when one team celebrates the anniversary of a restructuring, and the other doesn’t even mention it. The likelihood of this happening is increased in companies with international teams. Unaligned celebrations send a dispersed message and paint a picture of a fragmented culture. FTE for Celebrations and Planing Celebrating multiple anniversary milestones for every team member can extract a heavy workload. Consider how many hours would line managers have to dedicate to track every anniversary and tackle all the logistical challenges mentioned in the paragraph above. It’s hard to tell how much time would it take for a 10-person team, let alone a large department. They would have to spend their time intended for leading projects, on anniversary milestone celebrations. Or designate a team member to it. Whichever way you put it, it’s a loss because it adds hours to pursue activities that are not a part of the standard workload. Without automation, celebration project runners would have to do everything manually and send notices in advance, which would be a logistical nightmare with lots of room for errors. Automation is arguably the biggest advancement in the history of HR, as it frees up unimaginable amounts of time and ensures consistent and error-free delivery. How Companies Win at Anniversary Milestone Celebrations With all the difficulties mentioned, it’s only reasonable to ask what is the best solution to tackle the logistical challenges behind tracking and celebrating anniversary milestones. The successful celebration involves a range of activities, spanning from tracking, communication, delivery, and execution. In addition, process management also has analytical needs that stretch out throughout the operation, and enable learning and improvement. The best approach is to deploy a centralized Recognition and Rewards solution that is built on top of the organization’s HCM platform so it can leverage the full weight of employee data without losing any historic data tied to important milestones that happened in the past. A centralized platform enables line managers, HR, and project runners to manage the whole logistical scope of the operation, from start to finish, without having to master several separate solutions to do a great job. Instead, professionals can manage everything from a single point of access. The second notable benefit is that a centralized solution solves the problems of undefined budgets for anniversary celebrations and unaligned celebrations of important collective anniversary milestones by consolidating all departments under one roof. And finally, the HR technology with automated service anniversaries relies on core HR data to mark the most important events in an employee’s journey, such as promotions, service anniversaries, and Moments that Matter, and after the initial setup, automate celebration delivery. This saves tremendous amounts of time that would otherwise be spent on manual tasks and removes the possibility of error. I like to think of great HR tech as natural extensions of ourselves that help us complete our everyday practices with flying colors. In the context of communications, a top-notch solution empowers you to make memorable, jaw-dropping, visual communications that will put smiles on employees’ faces when they check their company inboxes. Ivana Boshkovska, Product Owner at Semos Cloud The essence of celebrating anniversary milestones and involving the entire team is all about having reliable HR tech that works hand-in-hand without the need of adding more separate dispersed solutions to the current HR tech stack. Conclusion In this blog post, we looked into anniversary milestones and explored them on an individual and team level. We discussed why they are so important in the context of engagement and securing top talent. Finally, we talked about how teams can track their important milestones and use automation to ensure the new practice becomes standard. Change is difficult, regardless of how small or straightforward the new practice initially seems to be. However, introducing new ways of showing more recognition at the workspace is absolutely necessary if you want an engaged workforce that feels appreciated by their peers. The good news is that there are plenty of outstanding tools out there that make the transition possible and ensure the new employee recognition practice truly comes to life.