You can’t buy loyalty. It’s an old lesson, but one which many companies have had to learn the hard way in recent times. In the US, the average employee spends an average of just 4.4 years in a job with younger employees coming in at half that. And in the UK, the average person works for around 6 different companies throughout their career.
There are a wide variety of factors for that lack of stability, but whatever an employee’s reasons for leaving a company, their departure can be seriously costly.
But in a world where people are more interested in novel experiences than climbing the corporate ladder, how do you encourage people to stick with your company?
One of the oldest ways of doing so is to reward loyalty. Old as this strategy might be, the requirements for implementing it successfully have shifted dramatically. A gold watch for 25 years of loyal service just isn’t going to cut it any more.
Companies need to be innovative and open in terms of what employees can expect in return for sticking with them.
Here are some of the most innovative ways companies are doing just that today.
A ticket to anywhere
As much as a company can get incredible value out of a good, loyal employee, they’ll inevitably start to tire after a few years. One of the best ways to ensure that they stay fresh is to give them a change of scenery and some time off.
One company which does this is Quirk, a digital agency with offices in three South African cities, Nairobi, and London.
Every Quirk employee who’s been with the company for five years gets the chance to use an international flight ticket and some serious time off. Hit 10 years, and the travel opportunities increase, along with the length of the sabbatical. Epic Systems does something similar, but also helps fund the trip for each employee and one guest.
Thing is, not every company can afford to fork out for international flights and not every work anniversary merits one either. In both instances, you can safely get away with something smaller, especially if it’s quirky and memorable.
Take US-based company Two Rivers Marketing for instance. After an employee’s been with it for a year, it gives them a personalised caricature. It’s hardly likely to break the bank, but it goes a long way to reminding employees that they’re valued as individuals.
A trip that reflects the company’s roots
Any employee reward, whether it’s for loyalty or excellence, should speak to the company’s values and culture.
That’s why when employees of the US-based New Belgium Brewery hit year five, they’re rewarded with a trip to Belgium. It’s there that company co-founder Jeff Lebesch was inspired to start the company after a bike tour through the country in 1989.
The reward also reflects the way the company engages with its employees outside of special celebrations. Once a month the brewery’s Wellness Committee meets to discuss activities, such as bike tours, for employees to participate in.
Small wonder then that it’s consistently listed among Outside magazine’s top places to work.
Increased vacation time
So far we’ve focused on one-off employee loyalty rewards, but one of the best ways to show that you value long-term employees is to increase their ongoing perks. Boston-based Metis Communications, for instance, focuses on leave.
Once someone’s been at the company for years, the amount of leave they get is increased to four weeks. And once they’ve been there five years, they also get Summer vacation Fridays.
A pile of cash
It may seem unimaginative, but sometimes a big wad of cash is the most effective way you can reward an employee’s loyalty. One company that takes this approach is web hosting company UKFast. It gives employees £1 000 after five years of service and £10 000 on the tenth year of service.
If you work at Blizzard, the gaming company behind titles such as Starcraft and World of Warcraft, chances are you’re a bit of geek.
It should hardly be surprising then that the company has embraced this geekiness when it comes to rewarding its longest-working employees.
How do those rewards work? Well, it’s probably best to let the company explain them itself:
The Service Award ceremonies are an important Blizzard tradition that began in 1996. These ceremonies recognize the dedication and commitment demonstrated by those who help Blizzard create the most epic entertainment experiences…ever. Several times a year, Blizzard employees around the world gather to celebrate the two-, five-, ten-, fifteen-, twenty-, and twenty-five-year milestones of their friends and colleagues with a ceremony where each recipient is honored with their service award. Two years of service are rewarded with a special Blizzard Stein; five years of service are rewarded with a sword; ten-year veterans receive a shield; fifteen years of service is recognized with a special ring, available in both male and female versions (both look fantastic). Twenty years of service unlocks an amazing helm, which is presented at our annual holiday party. The twenty-five year reward has yet to be revealed.
The type of sword given to five-year recipients is different each year. We now present a gallery of the service awards that we’ve handed out over the years in recognition of the hard work, great resolve, and unwavering dedication that has helped make Blizzard the company it is today.
Now, we’re not saying you should go out and buy your employees swords, but it’s pretty clear that a little appreciation goes a long way.