Recognise This! – Celebrations should do what they promise and involve everyone with a story to share to “celebrate” the person being honored.

Last week was the first school picture day for my five-year-old son. Let’s just say he didn’t love the fancy shirt I picked out for him to wear to school that day. It was a battle getting him dressed that day, and I’m not entirely confident he didn’t just strip the shirt off the minute he was out of my sight.

The whole experience seems a bit anachronistic to me in today’s age of the Smartphone camera, selfies, and constant posting of kid pics on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Annual school photos have been a gold mine for decades, though. Photographers have a captive audience, and it’s a requirement if you want your child to be included in the yearbook (and yes, we have them for elementary school). I think they know they’re an anachronism, though. They’ve tried to spruce up their offering by giving you a choice of six different backgrounds, photoshopping of blemishes, and imprinting your name and grade on the front. (And I will admit that is a vast improvement over the innovation of my school days – the layered “memory” shot.)

But really, if that’s all you’ve got after 80 years, perhaps you should admit defeat to the new era.

The same is true for the employee anniversary experience. The years of service celebration has been locked into a pattern of certificates given by the manager (and perhaps a lapel pin) on the “nickel” years – 5, 10, 15, 20, etc. Do you know why most companies wait until year 5 to first recognise an anniversary? Because, in the US and Canada, companies get a tax break if you meet a series of convoluted rules, but only for the “nickel” anniversaries. But average tenure is three years. So in most traditional programmes, we’re missing the opportunity to honor a significant contingent of our workforce.

Kick the anachronism to the curb. Let’s move into the new era. Can you imagine a birthday party with just you and the birthday boy or girl? Of course not! So why is the anniversary celebration usually just the manager and the recipient? Involve the recipient’s entire work circle! Let his or her colleagues reminisce and share stories of past experiences and successes. Broaden the experience. Bring it into this era.

What might that look like? I had the opportunity to contribute to just such an experience for my friend, Niamh. She’s been with Globoforce 15 years, 13 of which I’ve had the privilege of sharing with her. Watch this video to see how we celebrated Niamh. (You’ll see me talking about wool suits in Arizona. What a fun memory to share!)

Think about your best friend at work. What stories would you want to share to celebrate them on their next anniversary?