Years of service awards: how to create a unique incentive program

Samantha Mikos

Commitment is one of the most important values to honor. For your employees who have been with you through your organization’s highs and lows, they deserved to be recognized. With years of service awards you can celebrate your most dedicated team members while inspiring loyalty in others. After years of creating custom programs for countless clients, the Cristaux team has gained immense knowledge. Continue reading to learn how to set up a unique years of service award program.

What are years of service awards?

Years of service measure the time employees have spent working for your organization. The corresponding awards celebrate their major work anniversaries. It is typical to recognize employees after one, three, five, ten, fifteen, twenty years of service, and so on. Additionally, honors become more prestigious and personalized as you celebrate larger achievements.

What do the milestones mean? Plus gift ideas

To provide the right kind of appreciation for your employees, it is important to understand what the years of service stand for. Each milestone year can take on a new meaning, and with that, comes the need to craft a unique form of recognition for the deserving recipient.

1 year of service

In their first year, employees learn a lot and begin to understand the company culture and structures. It is crucial to recognize your newest employees because turnover is most common during their first few years with your organization. To keep your valued team members, show appreciation for what they’ve accomplished during their short time with you. Celebrate how they’ve become an important part of your company and how excited you are to see what they will achieve.

Gift ideas:

  • Lapel pins
  • Company swag
  • Gift cards

Lapel pin for 1 year of service

3 years of service

In this stage, employees become part of the team and want to grow. To celebrate 3 years of service, you may want to start small. This way, you have plenty of room to grow and expand your recognition efforts.

Gift ideas:

Additionally, it’s important to issue these pieces at an organized event. This way, those commemoration can inspire others to seek the same recognition for themselves.

Thank-you-letter and a cup of coffee

5 years of service

Employees in this stage are experts in their area and know about their value for the company. They may begin to think about better job opportunities. Considering today’s high employee turnover rates, reaching this career stage should not go unnoticed. You want to elevate your recognition and stress how irreplaceable they are for your organization.

Gift ideas:

  • Personalized plaques and internal signage
  • Company branded awards
  • Mention in your company newsletter
  • Framed certificate
  • Extra days of paid time off
  • Dinner at a high quality restaurant

FCB Colored Numbers for 5 Years of Service

10 years of service

Employees feel like an invaluable part of the company and have already achieved a lot. To address this recipient, celebrate their specific achievements over the past ten years of service. You and your team would not be where you are without them. This impressive milestone needs to be acknowledged.

Gift ideas:

  • Office celebration in their honor
  • Custom award statue for their desk or office
  • Featured story in your company newsletter
  • Stock options
  • Paid time off of sabbatical

10 years of service custom recognition award

15 years of service

Employees with 15 years of service have invested a lot in the company and are a crucial part of the company’s foundation. But what do companies give employees for a 15-year anniversary?

Gift ideas:

  • Luncheon for the employee being celebrated
  • Gift of choice, within a limited budget
  • Custom and engraved award or gift for their office
  • Personal thank you letter: For your years of service thank you message, emphasize the importance of their commitment to your company’s mission and vision. Make it personal and thoughtful.

15 years of service honorary building replica

20 years of service

After 20 years of service, employees have displayed supreme loyalty to your business and goals. Employees in this stage can be seen as absolute experts. They have experienced highs and lows and contributed a lot to the company’s success. Any celebration may seem to pale in comparison, but this milestone must be met with great recognition.

Gift ideas:

  • Naming a company building or branch after the honoree
  • Donation in their name
  • Company-paid vacation

20 years of service company luncheon event


A business is able to sustain grown through the hard work and dedication of every employee. The individuals that put in the time to shape your organization deserve to be recognized for those milestones.

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Why is it important to celebrate years of service?

Having long-term employees, you can rely on is vital for every company. They have already become familiar with the company culture and values. They are now experts in your company’s field. Long-term employees have a lot of knowledge they can use for daily business and share with other employees. These are only some of the reasons why you should celebrate your employees’ years of service.

Years of service awards also have many advantages for your business and growth:

  • Increased employee retention
  • Improved employee engagement
  • Greater feelings of belonging and appreciation
  • Better relationships between employees and employer
  • Inspirations for others to work harder
  • Objective and well-respected awards
  • Attracting new talent
  • Strengthened company culture

How to set up a unique years of service award program

The main goal of a years of service awards program is to appreciate your employees’ achievements for your company. To do that you might use one of the following tips to create a unique recognition program for your employees:

  • Make your program personal. Write personal letters and focus on the very unique role of your employees and on what they have specifically achieved.
  • Recognize the little things as well. It is important to celebrate major milestones. But also consider the daily efforts and make employees feel valued for them.
  • Involve team members, peers, and family. Let other people participate in the years of service celebrations.
  • Give awards depending on the years of service. The longer your employees serve, the more they should be recognized and rewarded since they have achieved a lot for your company.
  • Acknowledge not only length of service. It is important to celebrate employees that have served for your company for a long time in a special way. However, don’t forget to cherish your employees’ everyday value and successes as well.

Post-its with company values

Recognizing employees with years of service awards

Years of service awards are consistent initiatives to bolster your recognition efforts. Whether celebrating new or veteran staff, these awards will shower your team with positive energy and growth. Keep employees engaged, and keep employees, period. Whether creating custom plaques or gifts, your vision will come true.