Your employees likely have many options for where to work, where to bring their skills and their knowledge and their enthusiasm. So when they choose to remain loyal to your company for years — one year, five years, or even more than a decade — you want to be sure you’re rewarding them for their years of service with thoughtfulness and care.
Celebrating work anniversaries is both meaningful and fun, for both you and your employees. But they only have the desired impact on employee engagement and retention if you celebrate them the right way, with each employee’s individual preferences and your office culture in mind.
Celebrate employee milestones, effortlessly! See how Cooleaf streamlines anniversary recognitions.
These work anniversary ideas are just a starting point — but they can inspire you to create a company culture that is rich with regular employee recognition and appreciation, particularly on those special days and milestone service anniversaries.
1. Treat Them to a Meal
Sharing a meal, whether together in-person or simply sharing a Doordash gift card, shows employees you truly care about their well-being and appreciate their hard work. It’s one of the most fundamental ways humans connect with each other, and so it’s a meaningful gesture.
If your team gathers in-person, every day or just every so often as part of a hybrid work arrangement, this meal could be one of your team-building activities too as you gather for a team lunch.
On the other hand, if the employee you’re recognizing is remote — or your whole team is — you can figure out creative ways to gather, like over a Zoom lunch hour after sending a food delivery gift card so the employee can treat themselves to a nice meal.
2. Custom Company Swag
Your employees, especially your long-serving ones, are (hopefully) proud to be associated with your company — so why not let them show it off in style? Typical company swag is fine, but you can take it up a notch with personalized gifts like a monogrammed messenger bag with your company logo, a customized shirt, or anything else you can dream of.
It’s a creative approach to service awards that you can customize to each employee and your company culture — the flexibility and personalization make it special. For the more elaborate gifts, you don’t need to give these every year, but they can be wonderful for significant milestone anniversaries.
3. Have a Happy Hour
Happy hours typically bring to mind in-person booze-filled gatherings, which aren’t inclusive of everyone (or even most people). But if you re-frame the happy hour as “an hour spent on something that brings joy”, the possibilities expand.
You could take your team out for a walk to grab a sweet treat like a cupcake, plan a trivia outing after work, or even organize a small office party with coffee and treats from their favorite bakery. The goal is to spend a happy hour — in the morning or afternoon, with or without alcohol — together with a sense of joy and camaraderie, whatever that means for your employee and your team.
Looking for even more ideas to celebrate work anniversaries? Download our free resource!
4. Dig Into the Archives
For employees who are celebrating significant milestones, especially ones with a long tenure at your company, you can celebrate their employee anniversary by checking your company archives for memories of the employee when they first joined. Pictures are great here, but don’t forget to uncover any memorable projects they worked on, accomplishments, and so on.
You can further round out the celebration by adding in what the company logo looked like when they joined if it was very different, or images of an old building they worked in, to remind them of how far they’ve come and how much they’ve been valued at every stage.
And if they’re the kind of person who would enjoy some public recognition as well, you can share one or two of the memories you’ve uncovered on social media!
5. Send Them a Little Bit of Nature
Brighten up their office with flowers or a plant, delivered to the office or to their home depending on where they work, so they can be reminded of how much you value them
If you’re looking for more thoughtful gift ideas to mark an employee anniversary, you can’t go wrong with a plant. They have multiple proven health benefits, and can brighten up an employee’s workspace too. If they work in the office most days, be sure to get them a plant that thrives in whatever light your office receives (fluorescent lighting is not enough for many plant varieties to thrive), or you can send remote team members a plant for their home office.
6. Give Them an Office Makeover
Speaking of improving the work environment, why not give them a reward for their hard work with an office makeover or upgrade? If they’ve been with your company for many years, their office furniture might be tired or in need of a refresh, and you can either gift them something new to use or let them pick what they want with a set budget.
Remote employees would enjoy this too — perhaps you give them a budget for a new office chair or whatever improvements they would like to make to their space to make it a more enjoyable and productive space to spend time.
And if they’re the type to enjoy this kind of celebration, you can fill their office, cubicle, or desk with balloons for a festive atmosphere (confetti is also fun but hard to clean up!).
7. Upgrade Their Work Tech
A tech upgrade also might be in order if it’s been a while since the employee celebrating their anniversary has had one. You can upgrade their laptop and monitor, their accessories like a mouse and keyboard, or anything else they need to do their job.
You can also reward them with enhancements like noise-canceling headphones for their home office or their in-person work, or anything else that helps them do great work. Feel free to get creative here, depending on what exactly your team member needs (or wants) to have when they’re working!
8. Offer an Exciting New Experience
There are plenty of resources for traditional employee rewards out there — but what if you gifted your employee an exciting new experience they’ve been craving for an anniversary gift? For the adventurous, that can mean skydiving, and for the ones who simply want to recharge it could mean something wellness-related like a spa day or tickets to a local film festival.
Experiences are not just fun — they’re extremely memorable, so they’re a great way to add some out-of-the-box employee recognition and perks for a big milestone. Bonus points if you offer some extra PTO too, like a half or full day off so they can go enjoy their experience without dipping into saved time or their personal time on weekends.
9. Give Them the Power of Choice
The most meaningful work anniversary gift is one they chose for themselves, instead of a one-size-fits-all tshirt or mug. Gift cards can be a substitute for this at smaller companies, but be sure the amount matches their contributions through the years and is more personalized than a generic Amazon gift card.
Empowering employees to choose their own anniversary gift is a thoughtful way to show employee appreciation. Just be sure your catalog of choices offers options for employees of all ages, genders, and interests so everyone can choose what they will truly use and love.
10. Write Them a Thoughtful Note
A handwritten note might seem old-fashioned, but that’s what makes it so memorable for employees at all levels. These thoughtful work anniversary messages take time to write and send, and so they’re more meaningful to employees than an email (or even a LinkedIn shoutout, as nice as those might be). Employees can save these notes and look back at them for years to come.
Plus, if you’re a remote team, a note means getting something in the mail which is an added bonus. Just be sure to write and send the card in advance of the day so it arrives on time (you can ask their team members to contribute too), and ensure the sentiments enclosed are meaningful and very personal to make the most impact.
Best Practices for Celebrating Work Anniversaries
These celebration ideas can serve as a jumping off point for your own creative plans. To ensure that whatever you plan for these important employee appreciation moments makes it a truly special day, take the time to make the celebration truly personal and authentic.
Every employee likes to be celebrated in a different way — some thrive on public recognition, while others shrink from it, for example — so to ensure the anniversary recognition makes the employee feel special, tailor it to them.
And if you’re looking for a platform that makes celebrating employee anniversaries easy and personal, Cooleaf is here to help!