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This week we ponder whether, in changing times, the ‘workiversary’ still holds relevance.
Everyone knows that these days, staying for several years in the one job is much less common. Gone is the era where people dreamed of joining a company and staying there, secure in their employ, for decades.
But for those people who do choose to remain in a workplace for more than a couple of years, a work anniversary, just like a milestone birthday, provides ample pause for reflection. Naturally, questions like ‘Am I really happy here?’ or ‘Could I be doing better somewhere else?’ arise.
For employers, this critical moment provides a great opportunity to show thanks and gratitude to that person. But it’s an opportunity not everyone takes.
Five or 10 years’ service, or even longer, is surely a wonderful milestone and worthy of recognition. However younger workers rarely last in a workplace for that length of time. For example, a Gallup poll found 21% of millennials surveyed had changed jobs within the past year. That’s more than three times the rate of other generations.
Being older leads to being more settled at work. A recent survey by the University of Phoenix, Arizona found nearly 80 percent of workers in their 20s said they wanted to change careers, followed by 64 percent of 30-somethings and 54 percent in their 40s.
Why? Money has a lot to do with it, obviously. Hustling to get a better deal has always been a motivator. There’s also a sense of people wanting to try different industries, to try and find the ‘right career fit’, and to create better work-life balance; this has only increased since the pandemic. Younger people also don’t have the financial commitments of their middle-aged peers.That’s all fine for the individual, but for employers it can be dispiriting to have invested time, money and resources in training someone up, only to have them leave the moment something supposedly better comes along.
Employers must now work harder to make these younger people feel valued and appreciated, in order for them to stay.
Earlier this year the ABS conducted a Job Mobility survey. It found 1.3 million Australian workers changed their employer or the business they operated, in the year to February 2023. In addition:
•The number of people changing businesses rose by 41,100 people compared to the previous year. That’s the highest annual job mobility since 2012.
•9.4% of women changed jobs in the year compared to 9.7% of men.
•Sales workers, machinery operators & drivers and labourers were the most likely to change jobs. Managers and professionals were the least likely.
Certain occupations are by their very nature short-lived. A waitress will generally not stay in a job as long as an architect or lawyer might. In this way, tenure is clearly related to occupation. But it’s also very much related to feeling valued.
Alice T. was a director at one of Australia’s largest digital design firms for several years. There, work anniversaries were actually written into employment agreements. They were seen to highlight loyalty and worked to retain key staff. Alice and her business partner ensured these valued employees were always celebrated for their five or 10 year anniversaries at work.
Not only were they taken out for a team lunch, they were also given a gift – usually worth around $500 but sometimes more, at the directors’ discretion. It was worth every penny. “Absolutely, people appreciated it,” she says. “Our team culture was so strong. We knew each person and what they liked. We often asked their team to help us choose really personal and appropriate gifts.” A designer, for example, might have received a beautiful designer piece of jewellery, or been sent on a conference of their own choosing. In a notoriously fickle industry, that agency was able to pride itself on its staff retention.
But a gift doesn’t necessarily have to be extravagant. It’s always the thought that counts. What we’re pretty sure people don’t want, is a ‘Congratulations!’ coffee mug or other tokenistic item that will end up in landfill.
In a 2020 article titled ‘The little things that make people feel appreciated’ the Harvard Business Review found when people experience gratitude from their manager, they’re more productive. “At the end of the day, building a culture of appreciation comes down mostly to a lot of small common-sense practices: Not taking your people for granted. Remembering to say thank-you in a personal and sincere way.
“Start by expressing more gratitude to those around you and see what happens,” they noted. “You might be surprised at what a big difference the little things can make.”
From little to large, RedBalloon has a range of wonderful experiences you can gift on a significant anniversary – everything from cooking classes, to seaplane rides, to cabin stays. Getting back to that idea of choosing something personal, if you think of someone’s individual interests and what they might like, you really can’t go wrong. Alternatively, you can let someone choose their own experience. It’s all about letting people know you’re grateful for their contribution.
Celebrating work anniversaries may be considered ‘old hat’ by some – but one thing that never gets old, in any company, is having a happy team where morale is high, churn is low, and people are thriving in their roles.
Employee recognition is absolutely critical to creating a positive work culture. The longer someone’s been at a workplace, the more they should be celebrated. But, as we’ve discussed, younger people tend to move on more quickly… So perhaps a smaller gift, every one or two years, might be appropriate here. Hopefully, it will also make them more inclined to stay!
Are five, 10 or 20-year workplace anniversaries redundant? We don’t think so, and evidently neither does LinkedIn. Why else would they ask us to congratulate someone on a certain number of years at a workplace?
Think of recognising people, and treating them to something special for their milestone work anniversary, as a bit like having good manners – it never goes out of style.
This generation, aged roughly between 25-40 years old, makes up approximately one-third of our workforce. They’re renowned for being hard to retain – they tend to ‘hit and run’. But perhaps they’ve been given a bad rap. When BetterUp took a deep dive into what they value in a workplace, their answers weren’t all that unreasonable.
1. Work-life balance
2. A sense of purpose
3. Ability to make a positive impact
4. Modern use of technology
5. Opportunities for advancement
6. Inclusive culture
7. Ethical workplace and leadership
Reach out to us to explore the impact that commemorating work anniversaries has on both individuals and organisations.
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