By Derek Irvine, vice president of client consulting and strategy, Globoforce

Unsurprisingly, most of us spend more waking hours at work than anywhere else, yet all the emotion from the very human experience of work is removed when a service anniversary is recognised in an impersonal and stale way. These commonly accepted traditional programmes do little to drive loyalty, engagement and retention. Under these programmes, awards tend to be tactical and boring, and years of commitment, contribution and camaraderie are reduced down to trinkets—a plaque, a carriage clock, or a certificate addressed “Dear valued employee.”

To be effective, any form of recognition relies on human connections. Encouraging affinity between colleagues has a direct influence on engagement, productivity and retention. Human beings intrinsically form bonds with those around them and, given the amount of time we spend at work, this means friendships in the workplace often develop naturally. Most organisations fail to take advantage of this. The occasional team bonding days or evenings aside, day-to-day these relationships are left untouched, but it’s those bonds that could transform work anniversaries from a barely there event, to a deeply personal and memorable experience.

For example, imagine it is your tenth anniversary at your company. When you arrive at work and open your computer, you’re invited to access a page that includes dozens of messages from people you’ve worked with over the years—in every corner of your organisation. There is a dedicated page, full of people who took a few moments to record a video congratulating you or posting a message sharing their memories of your time working together. From those who you’ve supported on a project, to those whose weddings you’ve attend – everyone comes together in one place to celebrate not just the contribution you make to the company, but also their work experiences. Usually, to get to that level of heartfelt emotion you have to be leaving a company, but by then it is too late.

This is the sort of experience that can actively change how a person thinks about their job and motivate them to strive for more. It is truly inspiring, and not just for those who receive the recognition, but also for everyone who participates – it brings people together and makes a company feel like a community. This has a profoundly positive effect on an organisation; not only does it create a happier working environment, but employees can also be confident that their contributions will be recognised. By increasing the happiness of employees, staff turnover is decreased and productivity is increased – which can only be positive for an organisation’s balance sheet.

By combining recognition and technology with service anniversaries, there is a real opportunity for companies to change what milestones can be and what they can accomplish. When the programmes are expanded beyond just managerial acknowledgment, they re-energise employee commitment and loyalty to the company through the power of thanks. The opportunity this creates for organisations – from individual performance to business growth – is one with vast potential to positively change the way a company operates. It’s time to make service anniversaries really mean something—to employees and to their companies.