The Black Hole in Your HR Strategy

September 10, 2014 Darcy Jacobsen

Black holeThis post is about years of service programs. Wait. Stop. Did your eyes just glaze over? Are you reaching for the mouse? Let’s make a deal. Give me a few minutes before you click close on this window and you might walk away with a new and transformative idea. Because the more you don’t want to read this post, the more you probably need it.

I didn’t call it a black hole for nothing. Service anniversary awards are frankly pretty boring for most of us. Especially for the people getting them. We don’t expect much from them and as employers, we don’t put much into them. Most of us have a cookie-cutter, set-it-and-forget-it approach to milestones.

Which doesn’t make sense, when you think about it.

Because for the most part our businesses tend to squeeze every bit of effectiveness out of every HR dollar we spend. So isn’t it a little strange that we should have this large line-item in the middle of our budgets that we don’t hold to that same rigorous standard?

What is it companies expect years of service programs to deliver? Maybe a bit more employee loyalty? Some incremental retention? It’s a low bar and few of us are able to track how service anniversaries perform to those metrics. But what if I suggested that we could be using milestone programs to drive the metrics that are at the heart of your HR strategies? What if a simple service anniversary could spark engagement, drive real satisfaction and retention, and actually renew each employee’s emotional contract with our companies?

Because it can.

Imagine this: It is your tenth anniversary at your company. When you arrive at work, you are invited to open your computer and access a page that includes dozens of messages from people you’ve worked with over the years—in every corner of your organization. Videos. Congratulations. Memories. You find a page full of people who took a few minutes to tell you what you really mean to them. People you’ve sprinted with on critical projects. People you’ve supported through the lean, building years. People you’ve celebrated with when you got the big wins. People whose weddings you’ve gone to, and who have leaned on you when things got rough. And now all of them are coming together to celebrate you. To show you how much you’ve inspired them. To help you understand how much you really matter.

Isn’t that better than a certificate? Isn’t that better than a pin?

It’s the sort of experience you look forward to. That actually changes how you think about your job—for the better. And it is truly inspiring, not just to those who receive it, but to everyone who participates. Usually, to get to that level of heartfelt emotion you have to be leaving a company. And that is absolutely the wrong time. Because it is too late.

Most of us are missing the boat on service anniversaries because we are still thinking too small. They’ve become a black hole that takes our resources, when they could be a supernova of inspiration. We need to stop thinking about checking the box, and start thinking about how we can use a milestone to inspire and motivate our employees. To give workers an emotional experience that reminds them why they stay.

Click here to learn more about Service Timelines.

Are your service awards a black hole? They could be a supernova.
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We’ll be talking about this more over the next few weeks. But for now, I’d love to hear what you think.

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