FROM THE BEGINNING
Getting a good start can make the difference between truly making the most of this employee incentive opportunity and simply hoping for the best.
Planning should begin at least one year in advance. Even if the goal is only a simple picnic, allow plenty of time to handle all the minutia that makes this celebration different. After all, you can't resolve to do it differently next time because there is only one 20th employee anniversary recognition program.
Management should appoint one person to direct the employee anniversary recognition program. Undoubtedly, the project manager will assemble a group to handle all responsibilities, but only one person should sit at the head of the table. Consider building the planning unit from a good mix of departments to promote a variety of ideas and skills.
Here is a broad outline of the numerous tasks the group needs to address in the early planning stages:
HOW MUCH DO I SPEND?
The budget for an employee anniversary program is as individual as the company commemorating the event. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules on how much should be spent, or where funds should be allocated.
Ideally, create a separate budget line for the entire employee anniversary program. Since the project will involve different elements which are usually handled by several departments, it makes sense to keep the employee recognition program finances autonomous.
How much is enough? The simplest scenario allots what is normally spent on company events plus an extra percentage to cover elements related specifically to the employee anniversary recognition.
Through clever partnerships an organization can defray some of the costs of its employee anniversary recognition program. For instance, it can find another company celebrating its employee and join marketing forces.
A publishing firm was able to save money with its choice of venue. Most of its employees worked in the new downtown headquarters, but it still had operations in the building where it had existed for nearly 20 years. Located in a quiet suburb next to a park, the grounds turned out to be perfect for a companywide picnic. The event possessed a strong nostalgic feel and helped employees realize just how far the company had come.
CHOOSING AN EMPLOYEE FIFTEEN YEAR EMPLOYEE ANNIVERSARY GIFT
A employee anniversary recognition gift serves as a visible reminder to the recipient that he is a valued part of the company's success. Anniversary business gifts can be tricky since they must cross gender, ethnic and age differences.
Some companies distribute the same fifteen year employee anniversary recognition gift to all 15 year employees. Others prefer to use a tier system based on tenure. One electronics firm offered employees with 10 years of service an additional wrist watch for a spouse or significant other.
A food manufacturer treated one of its contractors to lunch-not just the sales rep or management, but the entire company to celebrate its 25th employee anniversary dates all at one time.
If gifts are delivered outside of the official party, ensure it still feels like a celebration. Make it part of a companywide coffee break, for instance. Or at least arrange for supervisors to distribute them to their people.
CELEBRATING WITH EMPLOYEES
An effective employee anniversary recognition program should generate excitement for weeks leading up to the official event. Instead of just a single party, the employee anniversary becomes a collection of activities and experiences culminating in a gala affair.
All employee anniversary recognition incentive programs should employ an anniversary theme, whether for internal employees or outside representatives. Perhaps introduce a new award specifically honoring the employee anniversary recognition milestone.
As for the celebration itself... make sure it is a true celebration. No one enjoys four hours of presentations. This is a party not an employee meeting. If the employee anniversary recognition is combined with Company Day, don't take the joy out of the occasion by making if feel like a regular day at the office.
One of the positives of employee anniversary picnics is entire families attend. The opportunity to connect with the personal side of your employees can't be underestimated.
On the other hand, sit-down affairs reinforce the fact this is a remarkable achievement worthy of a more elegant tone. Ultimately, budget and employee anniversary image will determine where the celebration lands on the party spectrum.
An accessories manufacturer chose to celebrate its 25th employee anniversary recognition over an entire week. The program kicked off with all employees receiving a special t-shirt as well as a trivia questionnaire. Those who provided all the correct answers became eligible for three weekend getaway drawings.
CELEBRATING WITH THE PUBLIC
For companies that distribute products nationally or globally, an employee anniversary program is a perfect marketing hook. Consumer incentive promotions or sponsorships can have far-reaching effects that outlive the festivities. Here is a brief sample of successful customer incentive initiatives targeting the public:
NEXT TIME WE'LL GET IT RIGHT
Unlike other employee parties, you only get one chance to celebrate a 25th employee anniversary or a golden jubilee. Here are a few cautionary tales to keep in mind during your planning sessions:
Forget Me Not
A large media company pulled out all the stops for its week-long employee anniversary festivities. There was only one thing missing: the employees.
The company was so wrapped up with its high-profile events featuring celebrities and VIPs, it more or less forgot the rank-and-file. The employee anniversary was primarily about generating publicity, not thanking its people. Employees received inexpensive, token gifts that looked even worse in comparison to the goody bags the party goers enjoyed.
Local newspapers picked up on the loud grumbling, and the company didn't exactly come out as an employer of choice. As a result, it spent the days after its employee anniversary spinning damage control.
When Good Ideas Go Bad
To commemorate its 20th employee anniversary recognition, a company came up with the concept of setting up life-sized photos of employees dressed in period costumes in its headquarters. The decision to use actual workers instead of models or actors was roundly applauded. Management stated employees helped build the company over the decades, they should be part of the historical tribute.
The applause turned to boos when the lucky employees were announced: primarily public relations and marketing folks, salespeople and managers. Very few hourly workers made the cut and certainly no one from the so-called blue-collar part of the company. The driver with 15 years of seniority and a spotless safety record had been overlooked. The two night watchmen who had foiled a robbery earlier in the year weren't on the list either. Instead of serving as a reward or bonding experience, the photo exhibit became just the opposite.
Thanks for Nothing
Instead of a gift, employees received a certificate of thanks on the company's 30th employee anniversary celebration. They were then supposed to present this same certificate to a colleague to thank him for being such a great co-worker. The certificates could be redeemed for a $10 company contribution to one of three local charities.
Problems began almost immediately. First, employees outside of the headquarters region had never heard of the local charities and weren't motivated to use the certificates. Second, employees did the math and realized that even if all the certificates were exchanged, the program wouldn't cost more than $2,000, a woefully small sum considering the company was supposed to be in good shape.
Needless to say, employees and the public were less than impressed with the company's efforts.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. Upper management is nervous about having so many decision makers in one place together. What are my options?
A. This is a perfectly valid concern and there's really no way around it. Have the company's leaders choose who among them will attend. With so many VIPs in attendance, security costs will be a notable line in your budget.
Consider compiling an interesting film montage of all the company's leaders to be presented during the celebration" This will allow everyone to participate without requiring his or her presence.
Q. We want to have a companywide celebration during regular office hours, but we have three eight-hour shifts. How do we include everyone?
A. You can't during office hours. One option is to schedule the festivities for a weekend, even though some people will be annoyed with this claim on their free time. Weekend events cut down on work conflicts, and spouses and children are free to attend.
Perhaps shut down the company for a 24-hour period and schedule the event for the early evening. Graveyard shift workers are usually awake during this time so you'll increase the chance they will attend the event.
Q. Should we cover the travel expenses for retired management and employees?
A. It would be a wonderful gesture, but most budgets can't handle such sentiments. Perhaps the company could pay a fixed portion of each visitor's travel costs. At least try to arrange special airfares and hotel rates. However, don't be surprised if people refuse the invitation unless their expenses are covered.
Q. Is it appropriate to celebrate the employee anniversary of a product?
A. Absolutely. Product anniversaries are a wonderful customer incentive opportunity. After all, consumers usually become attached to products first, companies second.
Q. We want to establish an on-site archive to commemorate our employee anniversary. What should we include?
A. Think of the archive as a time capsule that isn't buried but rather is available for all to see. Ideally, it should reflect all aspects of the company's history and character. Don't be afraid to have some fun with it. The archive should be informative as well as entertaining.
The exhibit should highlight the organization's place in its industry and this sector's significance to the country overall. It can display company products, equipment, newspaper clippings, promotional items and advertisements over the years. Include biographies of the founder as well as past presidents and CEOs.
Post Employee Anniversary Event Questions and Follow-Up
As with any large undertaking, a debriefing afterwards is necessary. The project manager and his team should detail what worked and what didn’t to help those who plan the next companywide celebration. It also makes sense to talk to participants about the anniversary. One-on-one conversations should be combined with a post-program survey by email or regular mail, if anonymity is preferred. Here is a sample of questions: