When an employee reaches a work anniversary date — 1 year, 5 years, 10 years or more — it is an occasion to commemorate in a significant and meaningful way. The magnitude of the celebration will, of course, vary depending on the degree of the achievement and the size of your pocketbook, but that shouldn’t limit your imagination! Companies both large and small can find ways to make an employee feel special and honored. Here are some unique and fun ideas to celebrate a work anniversary.
Go Out for Lunch
Taking your employee out to lunch may be just the ticket for an early work anniversary, especially for employees who have to travel a distance to get home or have a family to tend to. But I don’t mean to suggest that you head out to the local deli or salad bar where your employee likely grabs lunch every day. Make sure to find a nice restaurant, perhaps a bit out of the way, and linger over a long lunch. It will be a real treat for him or her to have time out of the office in the middle of the day.
Steer the conversation away from talking shop. Make this an opportunity to get to know your employee a bit more. Whether the entire team is invited and joined by the boss or it’s just the employee and his or her manager, you are going to offer a happy change to the rhythm of the work day!
Helpful Tip: Be sure that your employee has a light afternoon — don’t schedule any important presentations or meetings.
Throw a Party
The “office party” is such a boring notion that it has become a cliché: worse, a dreaded event to endure. But perhaps that has more to do with lack of imagination than anything else. If you are going to celebrate a work anniversary with an on-site office party, make it festive and themed for your employee. Does she like to play poker? Set up a casino scene. Get some tables and cover them in green felt. Hire a croupier or two and hand out “chips” to play with. Cater with platters of finger food and offer a specialty cocktail reminiscent of another era (with a non-alcoholic version too). We once held an office party where we invited a chocolate and wine expert to lead us through a tasting of chocolates paired with various wines. Afterward, we all got messy making truffles while finishing off the wine!
Off-site office parties can be easier to implement, but don’t just trundle down to the local bar for Happy Hour. That shows no effort or creativity and is not likely to make your valued employee feel the proper recognition. Find a place for your party that’s has a focus or activity such as a comedy venue, country dance bar (preferably one that also offers lessons!), shuffleboard club or movie house you can rent out.
Helpful Tip: If your employee is shy, don’t make him sing karaoke! Not one to imbibe? Then don’t make alcohol the focus of the party. Be sensitive to the preferences of the person you are appreciating.
Organize an Excursion
More and more companies are finding fun excursions and experiences to share with their employee who is celebrating a work anniversary. You can conceive of the trip as just for the employee you want to commemorate, or for the entire team. The outing can be as extravagant as your budget allows. Consider hiring a bus to pick up the office for a day trip to the beach or a nature hike, or even air fare and hotel for a few days to an island resort or mountain lodge. If your employee is a golf enthusiast, consider sending him or her to one of the major PGA golf tournaments. Likes to fish? What about a day on the ocean in a saltwater fishing boat? Maybe a helicopter tour of the city with champagne and a friend of his or her choice?
Helpful Tip: If possible, close the office for a day, or make the excursion include a Monday or a Friday if it is a weekend affair. It will be the perfect time to celebrate and that much more of a treat for your employee(s)!
Give a Gift
A gift is always a nice thought. But be careful to select a gift that is fitting. Think about donating to your employee’s favorite charity, or offer a corporate sponsorship for a non-profit organization event that they participate in.
Consider a gift card, especially if you can make it personal. For instance, one of our employees loved to cook and would come in on Monday morning talking about the dishes he had made over the weekend. He would also often complain that he didn’t have the right cooking equipment. For one of his work anniversaries, we gave him a shopping spree at Williams Sonoma and he couldn’t have been happier!
A gift basket is another work anniversary gift idea that you can personalize. Many of our clients send our “Congratulations!” gift baskets to employees celebrating a work anniversary. The gift embodies the sentiment with hand-iced cookies that say “Cheers!”, “Congratulations!” and “Hooray!”. Perhaps you want to treat your employee who is an oenophile to a wine subscription where a new bottle to taste appears at the doorstep every month for a year; or a food gift club that features different artisanal fare every month.
Helpful Tip: A gift basket or gift card can be the perfect addition to any work anniversary lunch, party or excursion.
Award Time Off
Perhaps nothing is more important than having a day off! Why not celebrate a work anniversary by offering your employee a paid day off to do something he or she has always wanted to do, but couldn’t because of work hours? This gift is priceless. How could you do better than giving the gift of time? Remember to make it clear that this time is free and not deducted from either vacation or personal days. And no judgments! He or she may just choose to sleep in, stay home and watch old movies.
Helpful Tip: Let your employee pick the day, if possible. Give him or her time to contemplate what they would like to do in case it requires advance scheduling.
Don’t leave the celebration planning to the last minute. Think ahead as much as possible to come up with just the right idea and give yourself the time to manage all the details so that the event goes smoothly. That will underscore your respect for the significance of the occasion. The most important thing is to make it all about celebrating the individual: making it personal is the best way to show your respect and appreciation for all of their hard work.