New research finds huge discrepancies between public and private sector recognition of employees for their length of service.

According to research that our voucher division (The Voucher Shop) has recently undertaken, there are significant differences not only in the length of service that is rewarded, but also wide variations in the values of rewards between, and also within, the two sectors.

Our research found that a private sector organisation is much more likely to start rewarding staff relatively early on in their career, with one leading high street retailer, for instance, rewarding staff after just three years of employment.  In contrast, the public sector begins to provide rewards after 10 years of service at the earliest and in some cases is not recognising employee loyalty until 20 years have passed.

However, it is a reflection of how long employees now stay with an employer that, while most private sector organisations no longer specify rewards for more than 20 years of service, several councils have scales recognising 25, 30, 35 and 40 year milestones.

Will this change? Will the public sector, in order to boost morale, performance and engagement in the difficult times ahead, take a lead from the private sector and start recognising employees earlier or at more frequent intervals? Whatever the answer, I expect there will be significant changes in the near future.

It is also interesting to observe that the values of rewards vary significantly amongst the organisations surveyed. Looking at rewards for 20 years of service, which the majority of public and private sector organisations recognise, the public sector in some instances set the value of a reward at £200 while a leading high street retailer offers reward values of £1000.  Similarly one chemical and business supplier provides rewards worth £30 for 10 years of service while, for the same period, a transport company says thank you with rewards of £250 and a high street retailer £500.

Recognising employees, taking the time to thank them and show appreciation for their efforts is a crucial element in encouraging them to stay with an organisation and build up their knowledge and skills so they add even more value to the organisation over time.  Feelings of dissatisfaction will come to the fore and staff turnover may increase if a long service scheme is poorly researched, offers derisory amounts or only starts rewarding after 25 years of service.

In today’s business environment, if an employer wants to encourage loyalty and increase staff retention by offering long service rewards, I believe that rewards have to start relatively early on and be set at a level that clearly says that the organisation values loyalty.

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