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Topic: Appreciation

The secret to great service awards: examples and best practices

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Recognizing years of service is a powerful, proven way to help employees feel valued for their contributions and achievements. But determining the most appropriate awards isn’t always obvious. Our experience combined with research conducted by the O.C. Tanner Institute demonstrates that the best approach is more nuanced than many realize. Fortunately, this whitepaper will break it down, share a few tips, and hopefully make your decisions easier.

The key in all cases is to balance the preferences of employees with the impact you want the service award to have. Specifically, the award must delight the recipient while connecting them back to their accomplishments and the organization. To do that, it should rarely take the form of a single gift. But because company gift catalogs are such a common component of service awards, let’s start there.

What are the best types of gifts (and what aren’t)?


Years of research and analysis are resoundingly clear—give employees things they want, not things they need. Aim for gifts that would otherwise feel like a big splurge or that the recipient would be proud to show off. This is one scenario where luxury beats practicality.

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The best gifts help employees fondly remember their experience at your organization whenever they use them. Envision how employees will feel when they wear the Cartier® watch, fire up the Weber® grill, or ride the Specialized® bike they got from their company. Be conscious of brands and quality because if you want the award to have a lasting impact, the gift itself needs to last.

The most essential aspect of the catalog is a wide (but not infinite) variety of items for all employees to choose from. Try to match the diversity of employees at your organization and be sure to include a good mix of enough items to cover everyone.

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