Years of service recognition is still the most common rewards program in organizations today. According to the 2015 SHRM Employee Recognition Report, 74 percent of companies report having formal years of service recognition programs, yet, just 22 percent of companies reported having an excellent program.


The emergence of the millennial generation in the workforce has prompted some adjustments to these programs. Many companies are recognizing employees prior to the five year benchmark. Accelir Rewards and Recognition’s 2014 Trends Report indicates that nearly 70 percent of organizations agree that employees should be recognized and rewarded for their service beginning with their one year anniversary. While there is some evolution occurring, I am an advocate of broadening the scope of employee recognition even further to include not only defined service milestones, but also behavioral recognition—namely the “stepping stones” that comprise the employee lifecycle.


The premise is basic: Regardless of industry or market sector, there are checkpoints along each employee’s career path that signify “engagement.” These engagement indicators are opportunities for formal reinforcement and recognition. Consider the following stepping stones as examples:

  • Successfully completing the onboarding process
  • Perfect attendance
  • New employee referrals
  • Tangible display of organizational core values
  • Serving as a coach, mentor or preceptor
  • Community outreach and volunteerism
  • Wellness benchmarks
  • Customer and patient satisfaction
  • Safety milestones
  • Training, certification and professional development
  • Birthdays
  • Formal years of service milestones
  • Retirement


Certainly the list of stepping stones is nuanced somewhat by industry, yet the pattern and thought process is similar. In Maximizing Your Employee Recognition Framework, I propose that adoption of a Point-based recognition framework allows organizations to move past the confines of traditional service anniversary recognition programs. A structure where employees earn Points not only for years of service, but also for a defined set of “stepping stones” and engagement indicators allows an organization to optimize their recognition investment throughout the employee lifecycle.


Ultimately, service anniversary recognition is important, but lifecycle and behavioral recognition is a more progressive approach that will yield better business results.