Originally published on January 31, 2017. Updated on July 18, 2023.
Throughout our lives, milestones are a part of the human experience. Beginning with our first birthday to a long-awaited 50th wedding anniversary and all the significant dates in between, historical markers instill a sense of pride, showcase great accomplishments, and provide a reason to celebrate.
Companies are no different. The pride of that first year in business, a new location, hitting a significant sales goal, and then before you know it, a milestone anniversary—these are all a BIG deal! And for good reason. It is reported that less than half of all new business ventures survive their first five years. Celebrating the early years as well as the milestone anniversaries is the perfect opportunity to reflect on amazing achievements and reaffirm a commitment to the future.
But don’t stop there! Organizations should celebrate or at least acknowledge their employees’ milestones as well, including birthdays, work anniversaries, weddings, and more. This helps create a positive, engaged culture where team members feel valued and appreciated, which in turn inspires greater employee satisfaction and retention.
Celebrating Corporate Milestones
With proper strategy and planning, corporate anniversaries can be a catalyst for an organization to set the stage for the future while also celebrating the past and honoring the present. These are perfect opportunities to increase brand awareness; refine your mission and culture; celebrate employees, customers, and partners; launch new business initiatives; contribute to charitable causes; and, of course, have some fun.
Here are seven best practices to consider to kickstart your milestone celebrations and campaigns:
1. Create a campaign for the entire milestone year.
A year-round campaign will allow you to capitalize on a full year of celebrating your company’s success, creating a greater and longer-lasting impact. It will also allow time for employees and other partners to become fully engaged in the campaign.
2. Set milestone campaign and celebration goals.
Celebrate with purpose. Take time to draft how you plan to leverage the milestone and how that relates back to your organizational goals. For example, celebrate reaching 1,000 employees by donating $1,000 to a charity chosen by your team.
3. Brand it.
Create a commemorative logo for the anniversary. When employees, clients, and partners see the new, fresh twist on your branding, they will know it is a big deal from the start. It also makes for an easily recognizable way to identify when an initiative is related to the campaign.
4. Host an event.
Whether it is at an existing annual meeting or a stand-alone event, make sure to celebrate together! The bigger the event, the more invested people will be. When your employees see how big you go for your five-year anniversary, they’ll be excited to stick around for the ten-year celebration.
5. Honor the past.
You are celebrating for a reason. There have been challenges as well as opportunities that have helped you along the journey. After particularly challenging times, people want their hard work and commitment to be recognized, not swept under the rug, otherwise they may not be motivated to continue that level of dedication.
6. Stay in the moment.
It is too easy to look at the past, skip through the present, and move onto the future. Take a moment to relish the here and now, for this is where inspiration grows. Ask employees and customers what their favorite thing about your company is, for example, and be sure to incorporate that into your celebrations.
7. Plan for your future and the next milestone!
How can you elevate your current successes? What big goals have you set and how will you leverage your current accomplishments, talent, products, and service offerings to get there?
Celebrating Employee Milestones
Employee milestone celebrations don’t have to be as grand as corporate celebrations, but they shouldn’t be ignored, either. Milestone recognition is an effective way to increase employee engagement and loyalty.
From simple acknowledgements to bigger initiatives, here are seven suggestions for how to start celebrating your employees:
1. Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day.
Held annually on the first Friday in March, Employee Appreciation Day is the perfect day to celebrate your team and acknowledge everything they do and the value they bring. Read our blog post for ideas on how to show your gratitude.
2. Acknowledge annual milestones like birthdays and work anniversaries.
These milestones happen every year for every team member, so it’s easier to have have a set plan of acknowledgement in place. This can be as simple as an email from a manager, but the more personal, the better. Consider taking them out for a birthday lunch or mailing a physical card to their home. Both options offer an unexpected surprise and show that you were thinking of them ahead of time.
3. Say thank you!
Not all milestones have to be personal. If someone brought in a big new client or exceeded their performance goals early, for example, thank and congratulate them not just in words but also with easy but appreciated rewards like gift cards or branded merchandise.
4. Consider group milestones, not just individual ones.
Many projects and accomplishments are a team effort. If a team or department exceeded revenue goals or launched a new product or service, for example, acknowledge their efforts with company-wide communications and treat the whole team to a celebratory lunch or dinner.
5. Give the gift of time.
No matter how much someone likes their job, they always appreciate an unexpected paid day off. For big life events like weddings, they will appreciate additional PTO time either leading up to the big day or for the honeymoon. Giving employees their birthday off each year is also a nice touch so they can celebrate their way.
6. When it comes to gifting, go the extra mile.
Don’t just hand gifts out in the office. Instead, surprise employees with an unexpected package delivered right to their doorstep. Also, managers should take the time to curate a personal gift based on the employees’ hobbies or interests. The extra time and effort required for a personalized, mailed package shows the recipient just how valued they are.
7. Implement or upgrade an employee reward program.
Many organizations already have a point-based incentive program in place to meet sales or health goals, for example. Why not add employee milestones? If it’s a point-based system, give additional points on their birthday and work anniversary, or perhaps have unique rewards based on the milestone.
At M&IW, we love creating impactful moments for our customers and their teams! Contact us to learn how we can help you create and implement a milestone campaign or event, an employee reward program, and more.