Imagine you’ve contributed 20 years of your career to an organization about which you care deeply. You are proud of this organization, proud of what it stands for, and proud of what you’ve accomplished there. Now then, let’s imagine this organization has a recognition program in place to honor employee service milestones, like 20 years of service.  Your employer presents you with a congratulatory packet in recognition of your 20 years of service.   It feels good to be acknowledged!  What’s the best way to make that moment of recognition something to be remembered for months or years to come?

“It’s about connection”

Many an apt conversation takes place on an airplane, true?  A few weeks ago, I was on a return flight from a company meeting in Nashville.  Terryberry staff from around the world assemble once a year. It’s an opportunity for training, team-building and recognition.  Recognition is large part of the agenda, because well, Terryberry is a recognition company. Not only are achievers recognized, but we talk about recognition…a good deal…for three days straight.

So, recognition was on my mind when I boarded the plane to return home and found my seat next to a handsome, bearded fellow.  Before long our conversation turned toward occupations.  He was a fire inspector for a transportation company and had been for some time.  I could tell from hearing him speak about his work that he took pride in what he did from 9-5 and sometimes into the wee hours, like this night, when he had waited out the region-wide flight delays to return home after a long day in the great planes doing forensics on burn victims.  In his case, the victims were often semi trucks.

A Gift vs. an Award – What’s the Difference?

Upon learning about my role at Terryberry (an employee recognition company) my seatmate told me about the recognition he had received from his employer.   It was all sounding comfortably familiar when he described the booklets of goods from which recipients could choose a gift for their milestone anniversary — headphones, backpacks, humidifiers and whatnots.

Then he said, “You know, a lot of us miss the pin though.”  He went on to tell how the service awards used to be a nice recognition pin with the company logo.  It meant something. It was a symbol of the achievement and of the recipient’s connection to organization.

That sunk in with me, because I had just spent 3 long days talking with my colleagues about how we could help our clients make recognition more meaningful for their team members.  As my seatmate reminded me, it’s about connection.

First, Invest in Building a Positive Company Culture

It’s simple but not easy.  The first step is building a workplace culture where staff members are valued, where the work is meaningful and the team is supportive.

Once an authentic, positive workplace culture is in place, then the recognition award can take on an elevated meaning. The headphones, backpacks, humidifiers and whatnots are certainly a nice gift that the recipient will appreciate.  But it’s the symbolic connection that makes it an award.

Connect the Company Brand to Recognition Awards

At Terryberry, we always offer customization of recognition awards we provide for our clients. This can be done lots of ways, for example by adding the organization’s emblem to the gift item, or including a pin or charm, a career milestone Digit personalized with the recipient’s name and years of service.

When recognition is done right it reinforces the connection between the organization, the recipient, and his or her contributions to the mission, vision and values they share.  In a workplace culture where employees are proud of the organization they are a part of, that symbolic connection is a vital part of the recognition experience.  Whether the award is a pin, or another unique item that symbolizes the organization, those moments can become lasting reminders of a career well spent.