Long service awards aren’t just about rewarding individuals for turning up every day for 20 years. They are an invaluable stand-alone tool to help organisations improve staff retention and reward staff loyalty and commitment, which is why they are one of the most popular benefits offered by organisations to their employees.

However, there are huge differences in the way the public and private sectors award their staff for their loyalty.

In these changing times a job for life is almost a thing of the past and employees are moving organisations and changing jobs with increasing frequency which means that the time spent working for an organisation is decreasing. Whilst private sector long service award schemes have evolved and developed to keep up with these changes in working patterns, changes to long service awards in the public sector have been slow, if not non-existent.

Public sector v private sector recognition

In the private sector long service awards are awarded earlier, with many schemes starting at five years and offering regular awards thereafter, such as every five to ten years. Yet in the public sector, employees can be expected to wait until they’ve been with their organisation for 20 years before qualifying for an award.

And the differences aren’t just limited to length of service; there are differences in the value of the award. In some public sector organisations the award for 20 years of loyal service can be as low as £200 whilst in the retail sector, which suffers from high staff turnover, a 20 year long service award can be as much as £1,000.

If public sector organisations want to reduce their employee overheads then they need to catch up with the private sector.

Advantages of long service awards

The long service award is an opportunity for an organisation to reward an employee for their loyalty and commitment, as well as recognise their experience. But it also has added benefits for the organisation.

For example, long service awards:

What makes great long service award?

Recognising staff loyalty doesn’t have to be about cash. In fact, a cash award doesn’t leave much of a lasting memory, so choose something that your employees will remember. There are numerous options available which include selecting a gift from catalogue, receiving vouchers to spend or even extra days’ leave just for that year. Plus non-cash gifts can take advantage of Inland Revenue tax exemptions.

The best way to find an award that will have a genuine impact on your employee behaviour is to consult with your employees and work with them to develop a scheme that is appropriate to your organisation.

You might also want to consider the starting point and intervals for long service awards. Five years is a traditional starting point but if your business or industry suffers from high employee turnover then you may want to start as early as three years.

Long service or length of service?

These days’ long service awards are about retaining good employees, improving staff retention and rewarding staff loyalty and commitment. It’s no longer about receiving the traditional carriage clock after 25 years, and that is why they should be thought of as length of service awards rather than long service awards.

But however you think of them, quite simply long service awards make great business sense.