Are long service awards a thing of the past? We caught up with CEO of Simply Thank You, Colin Eglington to get his take.

“I was looking at some interesting data on search terms around long service awards. Here’s a graph charting the searches for long service awards.

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Viewed over a long time period, it’s very interesting. It’s certainly a downward trend. But why?

Are long service awards dead?

Well, there are a few ways to read this.

The first is people already have their solution. They aren’t actively looking for new ideas to innovate long service in their business or have found the perfect ways to thank people for long service. Alternatively, people aren’t looking for phrases around long service. Perhaps the terminology is now more focused on employee experience, employee engagement, and ongoing boosts rather than one ‘big’ moment, some way in the future.

Perhaps long service awards simply aren’t relevant anymore, outgunned by platforms that offer ongoing reward and recognition, incentives as well as treats and perks.

Our belief is that it’s a mixture of both – driven by an additional fact that people aren’t hitting those big landmark, milestone anniversaries anymore.

What is long service anyway?

There might not be that many instances of long service in a time frame we might traditionally consider ‘long’ – in fact, the median number of years to work is currently 4.6 years, according to an Economic News Release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How does that breakdown?

  • The median tenure for workers age 25 to 34 is 3.2 years.
  • The median tenure for employees age 65 and over is 10.3 years.
  • Workers in management, professional, and related occupations had the highest median tenure (5.5 years).
  • Workers in service occupations had the lowest median tenure (3.2 years).

That means a switch every 3- 5 years is about average now.

My question to you is – does it matter?

We all like to follow a trend and it’s important to stay abreast of what people want and how to best serve the interests of your teams and your business.

But, only you can understand your teams and in my opinion, a long service award that changes with the times is still unbeatable, alongside ongoing reward and recognition.

It’s not about lamenting the new trend of short tenure – but about seeking ways to make those 3, 4 or 5 years as productive and impactful as possible for employee and employer.

The average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime and whilst the dates of the landmarks may have changed, the act of giving shouldn’t.

Celebrate what feels right to you.

If 5 years is now relative to what would have been 25 years – then give them a reason to stay beyond 3 years.

Celebrating one, two or three years of employment might seem strange for an older generation who’ve had a pair of jeans in their wardrobe for over 30 years, but it may be the way forward.

One thing I’ve learned is that when everyone is doing one thing. Sometimes it can be a very worthwhile exercise the do things the other way.

Dates and lengths of tenure have changed, but human nature hasn’t.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is in the value of listening to the thoughts, ideas, and concerns of our colleagues and customers. Any company can only succeed if it is willing to listen and learn from the combined experience of all those who work there.

So ask – what rewards, gifts and perks do they really want – and when do they want them?”