Real Service Recognition Resonates

Service recognition is often a program that hums quietly in the background. While companies pump human and financial resources into their program, it rarely is nurtured with thoughtful attention. This can lead to a tired program that actually creates resentment and disappointment rather than conveys authentic and appropriate recognition for years of service.

Here are a couple examples of companies that asked us for help in rejuvenating programs that were falling short of accomplishing meaningful recognition.

A professional services organization asked us to provide new products for their program. But the real issues were in the process:

When nearing a service anniversary, the employee received a congratulations email and an invitation to visit the “gift store” to select a gift from a wide variety of name brand options, including items that support the latest trends (mobile devices, health and wellness, and more). The gift the employee selected was sent to the employee’s home.

While it sounds adequate on the surface, the process lacked:

  • Personal touch point, with only online contact.
  • Acknowledgement from a manager or senior leader.
  • Personal, hand written note.
  • Sharing the employee’s milestone with colleagues.

We revamped the company’s service recognition program and restored positive employee feelings with the following process improvements:

  • Introduced a personal touch point.
  • Provided tools that helped middle managers become comfortable acknowledging their employee publicly and privately in a way that was meaningful to the individual.
  • Helped create a service recognition section on the company’s intranet that acknowledges the employee’s tenure, areas they have served, and a personal/funny note about them.
  • Worked with senior leaders to help them recognize the importance of reaching out personally in an authentic way.


As part of a project to help a large, rural healthcare organization reach a higher level of employee engagement with people-centric practices, our assessment found that their service recognition lacked meaning for employees. In addition to identifying the issue, we provided insight about important considerations for changing the program.

Everyone celebrating an anniversary was recognized at the company annual holiday party with a plastic plaque award. Many recipients shared they tossed the award on their way home from the event since they didn’t have a desk where they could display the plaque. Most folks we interviewed shared that it would be nicer to get a warm thank you. They felt that management didn’t even know who they really were.

Based on our findings, the program was revised to include a personal presentation about each person recognized at the holiday event. In addition to an attractive pin that could be worn on their badge, each employee now receives a gift that reflects their personal interest. For instance, one woman who loves gardening and birds got a birdbath for her garden. Another who loves football and the Green Bay Packers received, as she put it “ a sweet Green Bay Packers Jacket.”

I happened to be on campus the week after the event, and ran into several employees who had been recognized. In short conversations about their response to the program, there were huge smiles and comments about how their managers and others had made them feel special by doing something thoughtful. The few that I saw that day were all sporting their new anniversary pin on their badge.

The organization took a carefully thought out approach with a long-term commitment to ensure the revised program’s continued success.

Service Recognition Best Practices

The moral of these stories reflects that service recognition needs to fit in with an organization’s unique culture AND be personalized. Consider elevating the value of and awareness for your program by:

  • Posting an article in internal communications or on bulletin boards
  • Sharing at internal huddles or department meetings
  • Posting a video on your intranet
  • Making it appropriate for the individual’s work environment (Do they work in an office, manufacturing plant or remotely?)
  • Personalizing as many aspects of the process as makes sense

Keep in mind that employees are people first. People want to feel thought of. Don’t waste an opportunity to make loyal employees feel important.

If you’re looking to be intentional about transforming your company’s service recognition program into an engagement win we have creative ideas. Let us help you implement down-to-earth strategies that are aligned with your company objectives, brand, message and voice. Call us.

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