Turning Career Milestone Events into Something Memorable
Posted by Roy Saunderson on Thu, Oct 27, 2022 @ 01:00 PM

An employee’s career milestone is an important event to acknowledge. Celebrating an employee’s work anniversary should be easy to highlight. After all, you are thanking them for their length of service with the organization and expressing appreciation for their contributions.

I will lay out for you the 4 P’s you need to follow so you honor every employee’s career milestone the right way and turn the event into a memorable experience.

#1: Purpose

Think about what you really want to achieve. What is your purpose for celebrating an employee’s career milestone anniversary? Consider the following questions and work with others organizing the celebration to think about them too. It will be quite revealing when you collect everyone’s responses.

  • Why are we honoring this employee?
  • What should we be remembering?
  • How do we want them to feel?
  • Have past presentations seemed meaningful to you? If not, why not?

Keep in mind that a person’s length of service with an organization has been their life’s contribution to making a difference in whatever positions they filled. More than anything else, celebrants want to know you and others value them for all they have done.

Tip: Before any celebration takes place, learn the positive attributes of the individuals and, if appropriate, share those in the presentation. Remember that the presentation is about each individual and should be personal.

#2: Plan

Career milestone celebrations take longer to plan in the hybrid workforce world, especially with the current supply chain issues. The biggest key is to organize and prepare well in advance to make the occasion as successful as possible. Iron out as many potential problems as you can ahead of time. The more you learn about each award recipient and use the information wisely, the more you make this an extra special event for them.

Consider the following questions:

  • Who should you invite? Past colleagues and managers? Family? Friends?
  • What would the honoree like to see?
  • Where is the best place to hold the awards event?
  • How can you make a virtual presentation more special?

Find the recipient’s preference for public versus private recognition ahead of time. Research shows that, on average, 20%—25% of employees do not want to receive recognition publicly in front of others. This varies depending on their professional role, but it is important to respect this no matter what. Some employees prefer a small private affair with their immediate manager and maybe a few colleagues.

Tip: Finding the right place and setting can add to the entire experience. Don’t just drop the award off on their desk without personal interaction with the employee. This experience becomes either a personal and memorable milestone for the recipient or a disastrous milestone wanting to be forgotten.

#3: Personalize

A person’s time and service with an organization is a flashback of memories. Milestones elicit gratitude and positivity that outweigh any upsets that might have happened along the way.
To make this milestone event even more personal, remember to ask yourself:

  • Are you using their preferred name versus their given name?
  • What is their history with your company?
  • Do you know why they selected their particular award gift?
  • How will everyone remember them for what they have done so far?

Do whatever it takes to get the “right” person to present the award to each employee. It will most likely be their immediate manager. But depending on relationships, the length of time working with their manager, or other meaningful connections over their work experience, there might be someone else who is a better fit.

Tip: Keep in mind the importance of an employee’s name. It is like music to their ears. Make sure you have the correct spelling of their name on any printed items. And find out the correct pronunciation of their name, whether it seems familiar or unfamiliar to you.

#4: Present

How are you and your organization's leaders honoring and celebrating career milestone recipients? Hopefully, you are presenting their milestone award the right way, which will make a lasting impact on employees. However, if the presentation is ill-prepared and done inappropriately, you will ruin everything the recipient holds dear to them about working at your organization.

Think about these questions:

  • What is ONE thing you could do to turn this into a “celebration” and not just a “presentation”?
  • Can you connect this person’s contributions to the organizational values?
  • Are you prepared to sincerely and precisely thank them for all they have done for the organization?
  • What do those who know them best say is their most outstanding quality?

With every planned setup, invitation, communication, etc., make a positive memory of everything you do for each honoree. Remember to acknowledge each person’s achievements. Tell them and everyone present about the incredible difference they’ve made working for your organization.

Tip: Many milestone recognition programs allow each recipient to select an award from a catalog. If the selection process has happened before the celebration, it would be the icing on the cake to have the gift presented during the event.

Topics: Employee Experience

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