When’s the last time you considered professional milestones and anniversaries at work? Celebrating a yearly anniversary for employees is fairly common practice for most companies (or it should be), but there are many other noteworthy milestones that get frequently overlooked.
Plus, not all ways of expressing gratitude are created equal. Sending that three-sentence thank you email to Lisa, the sales team veteran, for her five years of service isn’t enough. We encourage organizations to not only embrace the importance of traditional workplace milestones but also explore new opportunities for recognition. The differences can be huge.
When implemented properly, celebrating employees’ achievements increases morale and satisfaction, boosts team connection, offers a time for reflection, and can even improve overall organizational health and customer experience.
In this article, we take a look at the different types of work milestones, why it’s important to celebrate them, and best practices for implementation.
What Is a Milestone at Work?
A work milestone refers to any career achievement or point of development in an employee’s professional journey. From the details of weekly wins at work—such as finishing a difficult project—to larger milestones—like a promotion or landing a new client—there are many reasons to celebrate!
And as mentioned, these can vary depending on an individual’s occupation and personal preference. Further examples of wins at work may include starting a new job, leaving a job to explore a new career path, giving a big in-person presentation, getting published or featured online, receiving a promotion, getting a degree, and so on. Big events tend to be top of mind, but don’t forget the smaller but still significant career milestones, from learning new skills to solving a difficult problem for a customer.
Whatever you’re celebrating, it’s important for these efforts to be genuine. Gifts, bonuses, extra PTO days, company-wide shoutouts, free lunches, and other activities and expressions of gratitude all make great examples of how to celebrate work milestones. They’re like markers along the road, indicating a path forward to peers and mentors alike. As the success of any company relies on its people, having a more engaged team means a better brand experience for your people, customers, and even competitors.
What’s the Difference Between a Work Anniversary and a Career Milestone?
The difference is subtle but significant. A work anniversary (also called a service anniversary) refers to a celebration of the amount of time an employee has been working at a company; this is generally measured in years. A career milestone is a bit broader of a term, indicating an accomplishment related to professional growth, a new opportunity or achievement (such as landing a promotion), skill development, and so on.
Together, career milestones and service anniversaries make up a key part of expressing employee appreciation. They add rhythm to schedules and acknowledge victories of all shapes and sizes. Both should be celebrated whenever it’s possible and a good fit within your particular organization!
Why Is It Important to Celebrate Employee’s Professional Milestones?
Celebrating an employee’s work milestones is vital for several reasons. As with any memorable occasion, genuine and well-planned expressions of recognition go a long way to making employees feel good about their hard work while inspiring others looking to learn and grow in their own right. Celebrations strengthen communal connections, restate purpose, help pave the way for future successes, reduce turnover rates, and put daily responsibilities in a broader perspective.
Commemorating career milestones also involves finding that balance between applauding the small wins and the bigger picture achievements. For this reason, we can’t stress enough the importance of including other initiatives alongside milestone celebrations—things like continuous performance feedback, peer-to-peer recognition, value-based program, and team-based activities such as employee lunches.
It’s not just about celebrating when people overcome difficulties, (though that is part of the point), but involves a more holistic connection with the pulse of your company. After all, employees don’t exist in a vacuum until they do something noteworthy or reach a one-year anniversary.
How you celebrate says a lot about your organization, too—so get it right! Generic, one-dimensional nods of kudos, especially for significant events like a big promotion, do little to make employees feel truly valued for their achievements and can lead to higher turnover rates, decreased trust, and lackluster performance.
How Do You Celebrate Milestones at Work?
In today’s workplaces, celebrating professional milestones entails everything from gift-giving to creating memorable experiences that are fun and rewarding. This is true for both individual work wins as well as team or even company-wide accomplishments.
Think of it like this. Celebrating milestones at work doesn’t just mean giving people things as a reward, but instead involves connecting, if possible, on a deeper level to that value each employee brings daily to their workplace and to your customers.
Here are a few examples of ways you can commemorate an employee’s professional milestone, from the smaller gains to those that are truly remarkable:
- Present a special award, gift, or other types of memorabilia.
- Give extra paid vacation days.
- Have a team lunch to bring everyone together (employee lunch ideas can also include fun activities and games).
- Take the employee out of the office for a half-day trip to a local attraction, museum, or park.
- Utilize company-wide communication channels or meetings to give shoutouts, mention promotions, welcome new hires, and acknowledge organizational successes.
- Show recognition on social media. This is great if the milestone is a linkable publication, study, or presentation.
- Send personalized notes or cards. These may include gift certificates.
- Give employees branded swag.
Remember that the significance of the milestone will determine the celebration. You can pair together different items from this list and add personalized notes if fitting. While this is a time for reflection, it’s also a time for joyfulness. This list is by no means exhaustive and is meant as a starting point to spark further ideas for recognition.
Best Practices When Celebrating Professional Milestones
So you’re ready to commemorate an employee’s work anniversary milestone or other types of professional achievement. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind:
- Plan ahead of time.
- Personalize the experience.
- Include specific accomplishments.
- Be inclusive of attendees, keeping in mind things like DEI in the workplace and your company’s values.
- Remote celebrations are equally important to engagement. (Pro tip: mail gifts to the recipient prior to the online celebration!)
- Be open to feedback and think of ways to evolve and improve your celebratory efforts.
- Leverage an employee engagement platform, like CentricityOne.
- Don’t overlook the small achievements.
- Have fun and be sincere.
Final Thoughts on Work and Career Milestones
We hope these tips on how and why to celebrate work milestones will be impactful to your company’s endeavors! There’s a lot to consider for each individual scenario, which is why connecting recognition efforts with other organizational initiatives can make such a big difference.
At Centricity, we’re dedicated to helping businesses elevate their workplace experiences through employee engagement programs that foster deeper connections, enhance performance, and improve the employee experience. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our organizational platform that elevates the workforce experience with CentricityOne.