Recognise This! – When thinking of employee rewards, at the forefront of your mind should be “What is rewarding to the employee?,” not “What have we always done?”

I had coffee with a group of friends last Sunday morning. One friend is a 25-year-old who works at one of the well-known Silicon Valley high tech companies.

We were all talking about our lives—kids, jobs, dogs—and I brought up the fact that I had been in Las Vegas recently for business. I told them that a colleague and I had been there working with a company on their Service Awards programme. Prior to our meeting, we walked through the facility asking workers how they felt about the company’s service anniversary awards programme and what rewards they had received recently.

We approached the gentleman who had valeted our car. He told us that he is 22. I asked him how long he had been working at the company. Almost a year. I asked him what he would be receiving for his one-year anniversary. He said, “I don’t know. Do they give us something?” I told him, “Yes. They’ll give you a lapel pin.” To which he replied, “What’s a lapel pin?”

Everyone at the table laughed. Then our 25-year-old, Silicon Valley friend said, “What’s a lapel?” Fair question for a young, high-tech nerd who wears flip-flops to work.

When it comes to service awards, you might want to start thinking more strategically. Think hard about your employee population. Who are they? What motivates them? Is your service awards programme encouraging them to stick around? It might just be time to revisit your Service Awards programme. Here’s your first step.

What would be a meaningful service anniversary experience for you?