As a manager with deadlines, projects and budgets, finding time to mark employee anniversaries is challenging, but neglecting them can have detrimental effects on a company's culture. Day-to-day responsibilities can interfere with the important, but less frequent, task of honoring years of service.
Gifts honoring a service anniversary shouldn't be one-size-fits-all symbols of passing time, but personal tokens of an employee's professional commitment to organizational success. Below are some employee anniversary gift ideas that inject personal touches that will make employees feel appreciated. It's by no means a hard and fast guideline, but rather a series of recommendations that can serve as inspiration for how you'd like to honor workers as they reach major milestones.
1-Year Work Anniversary Gifts
Recognizing the first year is vitally important to help prevent voluntary turnover. In an environment where employees are always checking to see where the grass may be greener, celebrating a first anniversary can re-engage employees at just the right time. Some gift ideas include:
- A hand-written note. Emphasis on hand-written! There may be nothing more low-tech, inexpensive or meaningful than a hand-written note. It's more meaningful to the employee because you took the time to write it, and more memorable (both emotionally and cognitively) than something typed.
- Personalized corporate clothing. Remember the feeling of making a team and getting your jersey with your name on it? Same feeling.
- Additional celebrations or gifts. If an employee has made it to one year with the company, you can give any number of smaller, but still valuable gifts, such as a brief office party or staff lunch, a restaurant gift card or headphones. These types of gifts can be repeated on any anniversary.
3-Year Work Anniversary Gifts
Lasting three years at a company shows you've become part of the culture and have displayed potential to be in it for the long haul. Some great gift ideas for a three-year anniversary are:
- A one-on-one meeting with decision makers. This is a gift that can keep on giving. Inviting employees to meet with decision makers conveys an employee is valued for both their productivity as well as their ideas.
- A donation to a charity the employee supports. Giving feels great—and it's a tax write-off.
5-Year Work Anniversary Gifts
The 5-year work anniversary is an especially important one. The employee has shown expertise at their role, and losing them would be not only an inconvenience, but costly to the company. Employee anniversary gifts for this auspicious milestone should be considered with that in mind. Some solid employee gift ideas include:
- Stock options. What better way for employees to feel like they have skin in the game than making them part owners? Startups use this as an inexpensive way to show appreciation when every dollar is being re-invested into the company.
- Dinner with the boss. Meet at a local restaurant near the office or invite the employee and their family to dinner at the house. It's a surefire way to develop more of a bond with your team members.
10-Year Work Anniversary Gifts
At 10 years, you are more than just an employee. The sense of ownership is evident. A long-term future for the employee and the organization are parallel goals. Some employee gift ideas for this milestone are:
- Leadership training. Devoting a decade of time, talent and labor to an organization's success could show potential for leadership. This is another win for both company and employee.
- An executive-y piece of swag. Something that helps keep their eyes on the prize. This kind of gift is attractive and also lets them picture a future corner office.
Gift ideas for employees should first and foremost have meaning. A meaningful gift to an employee says as much about the giver as it does about the employee.
15-Year Work Anniversary Gifts
This employee has invested enough professionally to the company to be there until retirement. They've proven their commitment and the work anniversary gift idea should reflect this. Some employee gift ideas include:
- Mentorship. Give your employee the gift of sharing their gifts with others. Leaders recognizing leadership in others is a huge boost to the ego, costs nothing, and the gains are considerable.
- Paid off-site. We hear about these often for rewarding sales staff, but recognizing a 15-year service anniversary with a trip to a conference that incorporates some fun is a great way to show your confidence in them. Employees often return rested with fresh, implementable ideas for your company.
20-Year Work Anniversary Gifts
This is a veteran employee who's seen the company through at least one business cycle and has used their abilities to navigate the company through volatile times. Some employee gift ideas for this valuable individual are:
- A rare piece of memorabilia. The desk clock from a catalog engraved with the person's name doesn't cut it. Make it personal, meaningful and unique. The shovel from groundbreaking, a framed picture of the OG group of employees that our 20-year veteran was a part of… never underestimate the power of nostalgia.
- Peer recognition. 20 years of a company's life is a lot to live through. Celebrating with the people who also lived through it can be a reward more meaningful than any swag. Throw a formal event such as a dinner or award ceremony, with the employee as the guest of honor. Help organize it with the people who helped the veteran employee build the organization. This is a touching option to honor an anniversary of this magnitude.
Make It Meaningful
Gift ideas for employees should first and foremost have meaning. A meaningful gift to an employee says as much about the giver as it does about the employee. An appropriate anniversary gift is an appreciative boss saying to an employee, “You are a valued member of this team" without it coming off as a cliche. Don't worry too much about getting it just right, though. You'll know the best gift for the employee based on your company culture, and your own personality as leader.
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