Work anniversary gifts are a great way to let employees know how much you appreciate them — here's how to make it meaningful.

Work anniversaries are the perfect opportunity to look back at everything an employee has accomplished over the past year, to thank them for their loyalty to the company, and to celebrate all of the opportunities that still lie ahead. It’s a chance to express gratitude and spark renewed motivation. Work anniversary gifts are a simple way to make this milestone feel substantial. As a leader, there are a few best practices you should keep in mind to ensure the gifts you give are maximally meaningful.

From picking the right item to taking steps to help stretch feelings of appreciation all year long, there are a variety of ways you can ensure work anniversary gifts make an impact. Perhaps the most important idea to consider is that while work anniversary gifts do pertain to one specific occasion, they should really be an extension of the many things you do to let employees know they’re valued throughout the year. 

The recommendations below are all ways to underscore the impact of work anniversary gifts. Keep these in mind next time one of your employees celebrates their anniversary of joining your team, and it will help them feel appreciated and excited to keep moving forward with your company.

1. First: Give Employees Perks Year-Round

Before we delve into ways to give meaningful work anniversary gifts, it’s important to establish some foundational best practices to make sure employees feel valued on their anniversary, but also through the rest of the year. Once-a-year recognition via work anniversary gifts is far from sufficient. The best companies offer their employees perks like exclusive corporate discounts, ongoing peer-to-peer recognition, and other benefits that contribute to a positive employee experience.

Work anniversary gifts are just one part of creating an incredible employee experience.
Work anniversary gifts are just one part of creating an incredible employee experience.

Perks like these are an easy way to continually show employees you care — when they save on things like gym memberships, travel, and other purchases, it sends a clear message that your company takes care of its people both in and outside the office. By providing employees with access to a catalog of these unique, relevant, and curated offers, you will inspire them to celebrate the fact that they are employed by your company all year round. On top of that, perks programs can provide useful insight into employees’ tastes and interests that help make work anniversary gifts that much more personalized.

As you consider the rest of the recommendations in this article for making work anniversary gifts meaningful, don’t lose sight of the fact that the goal is to make working for your company feel special all the time — not just on the anniversary of someone’s employment.

2. Pick the Right Gift

Once you’ve set the stage for employees to feel valued year-round, it’s time to shift your attention to work anniversary gifts. Start by making sure you pick the right item to make the recipient feel truly appreciated. When considering options, look for a gift that’s big enough to make the occasion feel momentous, and also well aligned with the recipient’s interests and tastes so it feels specific to them. That doesn’t mean you need to deliver extravagant, ultra-personalized work anniversary gifts to each member of your team — just keep in mind that a little effort will go a long way.

The first step in giving great work anniversary gifts is, of course, picking the right gift.
The first step in giving great work anniversary gifts is, of course, picking the right gift.

Many companies choose to give employees standard years of service awards so that all team members receive the same reward in honor of each milestone they hit. If this is the route your company chooses, try to get a bit more creative than the outdated gold watch. Modern takes on standardized work anniversary gifts range from electronics to designer goods to personalized items like company swag and photo blankets. Knowing what they’ll earn at each milestone can help employees build anticipation as they approach these milestones. If you go this route, be sure to include a thoughtful note so the gift still has a personal touch.

Alternatively, some leaders prefer to give their team members personalized work anniversary gifts that match the specific interests and taste of the recipient. Depending on the size of your team, you may or may not have the bandwidth for that level of customization. If you do, it can be an excellent way to make the gift memorable and also incorporates a fun element of surprise. 

Here’s one insider tip to make personalized work anniversary gifts easy: if you already have an employee perks program in place, it might provide public information on which rewards are most popular with your employees. For example, if you know your team members love to redeem travel rewards, you can use this data to ensure you give relevant work anniversary gifts specific to what your employees like .

If gift giving doesn’t come naturally to you, Fond’s Employee Appreciation Gifts guide is a great place to look for inspiration. It features a variety of gifts for all budgets and tastes. Picking the right items for work anniversary gifts is an important first step, and the recommendations below will help ensure the gift you give is maximally meaningful.

3. Give It a Why

Work anniversary gifts should be about more than just the passage of time. True, a year is a significant stretch of time to spend with a company, but these gifts should really be oriented around the actions, achievements, and growth that took place in the span of that year. The more specific you can get, the clearer it will be what (and why) you are celebrating.

When giving work anniversary gifts, don't forget to express why you appreciate the recipient.
When giving work anniversary gifts, don’t forget to express why you appreciate the recipient.

Perhaps the most straightforward way to ensure the message comes through is by including a note or card with all work anniversary gifts. Think back on the biggest accomplishments the recipient made over the past year and cite them as reasons this individual is a valuable part of the team. You should also call on other team members who work closely with the person receiving the gift and ask them to share a few words or memories that show why they appreciate this colleague. If your company has an employee recognition program in place, you can also look back through the recipients’ recognition history to see what their peers appreciate them for most.

Mentioning specific qualities that make an employee such a valuable member of your team is a great way to give work anniversary gifts a “why.” This will elevate the experience of receiving the gift for the recipient by giving it important meaning.

4. Deliver Work Anniversary Gifts Publicly

Work anniversaries are to colleagues as birthdays are to friends. As you can probably imagine, celebrating employees’ work anniversaries with the whole team makes them feel a lot more, well, celebratory. When you involve the recipient’s colleagues in giving work anniversary gifts, it makes the occasion feel more momentous.

Be sure to make work anniversary gifts feel celebratory in the way you deliver them.
Be sure to make work anniversary gifts feel celebratory in the way you deliver them.

One way to involve the rest of the team in work anniversary gifts is by having them chime in with words of appreciation in a card, as we discussed in the previous point. Another option is to give the gift at a celebratory lunch (or for remote teams, a virtual happy hour) where the whole team attends. If you can, try to bring together the recipients’ closest colleagues and deliver the gift as a group.

Work anniversaries should also be called out and celebrated on a platform accessible to the entire company. All-in-one rewards and recognition feeds provide a solution to do this, as well as regular peer-to-peer recognition and access to exclusive corporate savings. To maximize your HR team’s efficiency, investing in this kind of solution is critical.

The overarching point is, the more people you can involve in the celebration, the more momentous it will feel. When coworkers are there to chime in with congratulations, work anniversary gifts will not only leave the recipient with a meaningful object but a memorable interpersonal exchange that reflects back the value they bring to the team.

5. Focus on the Future

While work anniversaries are in part about celebrating all the things an employee has accomplished over the past year, they can also be an opportunity to use that momentum as a springboard for the possibilities that lie ahead.

Work anniversaries aren't just about everything the employee has already accomplished, they're also about everything that lies ahead.
Work anniversaries aren’t just about everything the employee has already accomplished, they’re also about everything that lies ahead.

Your work anniversary gifts will be motivating, energizing, and inspiring if you incorporate an element that focuses on the future the recipient has at your company in addition to all of the things they’ve already accomplished. This might be as simple as a line or two in the card that mentions the bright future that employee has at your company. It could also be a new benefit, such as a reserved parking spot or upgrade to a new corner office. Or, it might be something that relates directly to their career, like a voucher to take a professional development course. In some cases, it may even be appropriate to offer employees a raise or promotion in tandem with their work anniversary.

Whatever you choose, finding a way to relate work anniversary gifts to an employees’ future at your company is a great way to send the message that you’re not only celebrating everything the employee has done with and for your company, but also their future.

Make Work Anniversary Gifts Meaningful and Easy

While it might be feasible for leaders at smaller companies to track and deliver work anniversary gifts manually, at a larger enterprise organization, work anniversaries are one of those processes that you’d be wise to enlist technology to support.

Use these recommendations to give work anniversary gifts that are meaningful and memorable.
Use these recommendations to give work anniversary gifts that are meaningful and memorable.

Using a recognition platform makes it easy for you to not only remember, but also deliver work anniversary gifts. Plus, employee rewards and recognition platforms like Fond support a positive employee experience throughout the year with exclusive access to corporate discounts that show your company cares.

Companies run on people, and you should never miss an opportunity to celebrate all of the great things your employees do for you. When you put in the time and effort to let your team know they’re valued, they will know that they are appreciated for all of the great work they already do and feel ready to accomplish that much more.

Katerina Mery is a Marketing Specialist at Fond with a background in cognitive psychology and a passion for improving the way people live and work. She especially enjoys learning about how to accomplish this through rewards and recognition. In her spare time, you can find Katerina running outside, admiring art, and exploring the latest and greatest local restaurants.