Recognise This! – Your years of service anniversary approach sends a very loud message to employees. Is it the one you want them to hear?

Many years ago, I was a radio disc jockey. One of those years, I was actually voted “Best DJ in Utah” by readers of one of the local papers. I was flattered, thrilled, and excited!

I walked into work that day and my cubicle was decorated with balloons and streamers. All of my colleagues had signed a card congratulating me, and during lunch my boss gathered everyone around, talked about the amazing work I was doing and presented me with my “Best DJ in Utah” plaque. Everyone cheered and I floated on a cloud all day. I was truly adding value and making a difference at the company!

If only it had happened that way. The truth?

The morning that I read the newspaper and saw my award, I was flattered, thrilled, and excited! I walked into work and people said “good morning” and walked by me as usual. My desk was cluttered with mail and CDs, as usual. My boss had locked himself in his office, because he didn’t want to be interrupted, as usual.   During lunch when he emerged from his office, I asked him if he had seen the paper about my award. He said, “Yeah, that’s pretty cool.” I asked about my plaque—does the station have it? Does he have it? “No, if you want it, you have to go pick it up at the newspaper office.”

I was deflated. No one cared. This was a big accomplishment for me, and no one even acknowledged it. Maybe I didn’t make a difference or add value, after all.

Is this what service anniversaries are like at your company? How do you celebrate employees after one year, three years, or five years? What message is your service awards programme sending to your employees? Could it actually doing more harm than good? Think about it. Because whatever that message is, they are hearing it loud and clear.