Diary of a Mad Milestone Recognition Planner

This is my story about how thoughtfully planning a personal milestone celebration down to the minutest of details—not a one-size-fits-all approach—created a meaningful experience with family who mean the most to me and my husband Dan. It reinforces how the agony of details makes the difference in creating an authentic, trustworthy business culture that joyfully helps retain key employees.

Last month at the airport with my husband Dan, I couldn’t stop pinching myself. We were waiting for our children and grandchildren to launch a 10-day trip in celebration of our anniversary and the family we had become over the last 40 years. When I met Dan 42 years ago, we could not have imagined what it would take to create a life, raise children, welcome their spouses, and experience the joy of watching your children become parents and making us grandparents.

Celebrating this milestone with the people who mean the most to us and creating memories for all that will last a lifetime was worth every detail poured into the planning process, which began late last fall. In addition to the challenge of creating a trip that would be enjoyed by our clan—from 18 months to 63 years of age—I factored in that flexibility and redundancies are required to accommodate how quickly situations change (Thanks, COVID.).

Kids presented all of us with this t-shirt at dinner one evening.

Mastering the Details

To make this meaningful and fun for our diverse group required accounting for individual needs—definitely NOT one-size-fits-all:

  • some with motion sickness tendencies—no helicopter rides, no wavy boat rides;
  • diverse dietary needs;
  • one little one that needed a serious daily nap to function;
  • two older little ones with a ton of energy requiring activities to help them burn it off; and
  • a few with regimented exercise routines that needed time to sweat daily.

As chief planner, I wanted to make sure every detail was handled before the trip, so I could hit the “enjoy” button and “just be” with my family once the trip began. Here are a few more personalized details I wove into the plan:

  • calendar (school and work) coordination;
  • house rental with a family friendly layout and a pool;
  • meal planning that did not require eating out 3 meals a day for 10 days AND that none of us were working in the kitchen to prepare meals – this was a vacation;
  • detailed grocery list with everyone’s favorite foods (30 minutes from large full-service grocery stores);
  • transparency for adults who are not “morning people”, accommodation of early riser children by heading out early most days and returning for nap and pool time; and
  • determining the best activities to do as a whole family and those that would be best if we divided and conquered.

Savoring Success

We were all grateful to be together in a beautiful place that offered diverse experiences. We explored caves made from lava tubes, hiked to a summit watching fresh flow from inside the earth at the Kilauea volcano, swam and built sand castles at beautiful beaches nestled in volcanic bays, learned to body board, snorkled among brightly colored fish and green sea turtles, and more. But the big payoff was the joy of seeing pure delight in everyone’s faces.

Applying Personal Experience to Culture

Like one’s family, work colleagues who share strong bonds typically enjoy personal fulfillment and business success. Recognizing and celebrating achievements on multiple levels—company, departmental and personal—is a proven way to build engagement. However, in order to make the effort authentic, careful consideration should be given to honor individuality in lieu of a one-size-fits-all approach. Details are what make milestone recognition authentic.

Further consideration should be given to frequency, according to Gallup: only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days. In fact, it’s not uncommon for employees to feel that their best efforts are routinely ignored. And those who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they’ll quit in the next year.

Read how one company revamped its online recognition program.

Next Steps

Elevate the experiences you create—from national sales meetings to recognition practices, from trade shows/conferences to golf outings—with well thought out, detailed plans. If you’re limited on time, consider outsourced services that can provide expertise and guidance to make these experiences authentic to your culture, brand and values.

Authenticity is a critical ingredient in the culture mix, because it inspires trust, which is earned through a series of bite-size moments. Leaders can’t expect employees to trust them, but rather their consistent actions and messages create a solid foundation on which trust is built. What better way to do this is there than through recognizing and celebrating a variety of milestones that express gratitude and caring?

How do your employees and clients perceive your organization’s culture? Our employee and client assessments will help you assess your efforts to engage and retain those who matter most to your business. And if you’re not getting the results you expect, we’re here to help. Let’s start the conversation. Call 952-933-8365 or email hillary@askhillarys.com.