Table of Contents

Years of service award is a fantastic way to show appreciation for their commitment to your organization. Recognizing and honoring employees for their dedication and commitment to your organization is not only a great way to boost morale but also an essential part of fostering a positive workplace culture.

In this blog, we'll explore creative and meaningful ways to commemorate the milestones of your valued team members, whether they've been with you for one year or several decades.

From personalized gifts to memorable ceremonies, we've got a wealth of ideas to help you make each milestone truly special.

Let's dive in and discover 18 years of service award ideas as a source of pride and motivation for your employees!

But before that let’s understand the basics first.

What are years of service awards?

Years of service awards, often referred to as service anniversary awards, are recognition programs offered by employers to celebrate and honor employees for their dedication, loyalty, and tenure within the organization.

Years of service awards are typically given to employees who have completed specific milestones in terms of the number of years they have worked for the company.

The primary purpose of years of service awards is to acknowledge and reward employees for their long-term commitment and contributions to the organization.

Transform years of dedication into lifelong loyalty by implementing Xoxoday’s long service awards solution, celebrating employee milestones, and building a stronger, more engaged workforce.

How to make years of service awards matter?

To maintain the relevance of your years of service awards, it's essential to adapt them continuously to changing employee needs and expectations. Instead of selecting a few ideas and leaving them unchanged, consider individualizing awards and recognizing specific achievements alongside tenure.

Here are some best practices to guide your awards program evolution:

1. Engage everyone with a reward and recognition platform

  • Organizations where rewards and recognition occurs have 14% better employee engagement, productivity and customer service than those without. (Source: Deloitte)
  • Cultures fostering recognition are twice as likely to experience heightened employee engagement.
  • Enabling real-time recognition through R&R platforms involves all team members—coworkers, managers, and executives—and creates a self-sustaining cycle of appreciation throughout the organization.

2. Demonstrate leadership's commitment

  • Consider the impact of a recognition letter from the CEO—44% of employees value recognition from higher-level leadership the most.
  • Leaders should actively champion a culture of recognition and participate in award ceremonies, letters, and all-hands meetings.
  • Provide leadership with training and resources to facilitate effective recognition experiences, and use tools to prompt leaders about upcoming anniversaries.

3. Customize awards for the individual and occasion

  • Prioritize personalization when designing awards by tailoring them to the recipient and the specific milestone being celebrated.
  • Take into account the employee's years of service, role, and achievements.
  • To create a highly personalized award, involve friends, former bosses, clients, or vendors who can contribute notes or photos, which can be compiled into a video or email as part of the years of service award. Including peers, family, and collaborators turns the anniversary into a shared celebration emphasizing the employee's impact on the company.

4. Incorporate incentives as part of the awards

  • Think beyond traditional physical or monetary rewards when developing or updating your years of service program.
  • Consider additional benefits like enhanced retirement contributions or sabbaticals after specific years of service, which are common in many organizations.
  • Explore other incentives such as profit sharing, sponsored education, extra time off, or the freedom to choose projects as ways to encourage employee retention.

18 Years of service award ideas for celebrating milestones

Years of service awards are a great way for companies to recognize and celebrate the dedication and commitment of their employees. Here are 18 years of service award ideas, along with examples from well-known brands:

1. Customized keepsake gifts

This concept revolves around offering personalized and memorable keepsake gifts to employees who have reached specific milestones in their years of service with the company. These gifts are not only tokens of appreciation but also serve as lasting reminders of the employee's dedication and contributions.

2. Paid time off (PTO) enhancement

Enhance the standard employee benefits by offering additional paid time off (PTO) as a years of service award. It recognizes the value of work-life balance and gives employees the opportunity to enjoy more leisure time.

For example, Adobe, based in San Jose, offers employees a sabbatical for every five years worked, starting with a four-week break after five years. This duration increases with tenure, reaching up to six weeks post the 15-year mark.

From April 1, 2013, to April 1, 2014, 411 employees utilized this benefit. Sabbaticals can also extend other leaves like maternity. Some employees, as highlighted on the Adobe Life blog, have used their sabbaticals for volunteering, such as an individual who assisted Habitat for Humanity in Romania. (Source:

Another great example is Google, employees at Google report starting with three weeks of paid leave, which can extend to five weeks after a five-year tenure with the company. Additionally, they mention the possibility of taking an unpaid sabbatical of up to three months after completing ten years with the company. (Source: CNBC)

3. Stock options

Stock options are a form of compensation that allows employees to purchase company stock at a predetermined price, often lower than the current market value. They provide employees with a sense of ownership in the company and the potential for financial gain if the stock's value increases over time

For example, One of the tech industry's pioneers in employee stock options, Microsoft has long utilized this incentive as part of its compensation strategy. In its early days, granting stock options to employees was a way to attract and retain talent, especially when competing with other rising tech firms.

Over time, as Microsoft's stock value soared, these options made many of its long service employees extremely wealthy, creating what are colloquially known as "Microsoft millionaires."

While the company has made adjustments over the years, moving more towards restricted stock units (RSUs) instead of traditional stock options, the essence remains: tying a portion of employee compensation to the company's stock performance ensures that employees have a vested interest in the company's long-term success.

These stock options not only acknowledge the employee's loyalty but also provide a valuable financial incentive and a sense of ownership in the company's success.

4. Recognition letter from leadership

A recognition letter from leadership is a personalized letter written by the company's top executives or senior management to acknowledge and appreciate an employee's years of service. These letters typically express gratitude, highlight the employee's contributions, and often include well wishes for their future with the organization.

5. Gift cards and cash

One of the most popular and effective methods to honor employees for their years commitment is by awarding gift cards and cash. Gift cards and cash bonuses are tangible rewards that provide employees with the flexibility to choose how they want to celebrate or utilize their years of service recognition. Gift cards can be for various retailers, restaurants, or online platforms, while cash bonuses are a direct financial incentive.

6. Professional development opportunities

Focuse on investing in the professional growth and development of long-term employees. It acknowledges that as employees stay with the company, their skills and knowledge become increasingly valuable.

For example, Palo Alto Networks prioritizes employee growth, enabling them to pursue interests and hone skills. Their FLEXBenefits offers up to $1,000 annually for enriching experiences, including tuition and conferences.

The FLEXLearn platform provides access to over 1,000 learning modules, including content from institutions like Harvard, and promotes collaboration and knowledge-sharing among employees through its Learning Circles. (Source: The Muse)

7. Peer recognition program

Establish a peer recognition program where employees can nominate their colleagues for years of service awards. This approach not only adds an element of inclusivity but also fosters a positive and supportive work environment.

For example, Every quarter at Zappos, each employee receives $50 to bestow upon a fellow colleague in recognition of exceptional performance. This system is uniquely designed for peer-to-peer appreciation, meaning managers, team leads, and supervisors are exempt from receiving.

Additionally, employees have the option to award 'Zollars' (Zappos' currency), which can be accumulated and exchanged for branded merchandise, movie tickets, or donated to charity at the on-site 'Zollar' store. Alongside these initiatives, Zappos also acknowledges tenure through their years of service awards, ensuring long-term commitment is celebrated. (Source: Forbes)

8. Charitable donations in employee's name

Instead of traditional gifts, offer to make a charitable donation in the name of the employee who has reached a significant years of service milestone. This approach aligns recognition with corporate social responsibility.

For example, Salesforce, a global leader in CRM solutions, has a strong commitment to giving back to the community. As part of its philanthropic initiatives, Salesforce empowers its employees to contribute to causes they care about through its charitable giving program.

Each year, every Salesforce employee is provided with a grant of $5,000 to donate to a nonprofit organization of their choice. This initiative allows employees to support their favorite charities financially, reinforcing Salesforce's dedication to social responsibility and its ethos of fostering a culture of generosity within the company.

9. Legacy award

This award would celebrate the long-standing contributions of an employee by creating something enduring within the company. It could involve naming a specific space, initiative, or scholarship after them.

For example, "The [Employee's Name] Innovation Suite" or "The [Employee's Surname] Annual Scholarship for Emerging Talent." A plaque or similar acknowledgment could be placed in the designated area, detailing their years of service and key contributions. This permanent honor serves as a continuous tribute to the employee's impactful contributions and cements their legacy within the organizational structure and culture. It shows the employee's influence will be remembered and appreciated for years to come.

For example, the Disney Legacy Award is one of the most prestigious honors that The Walt Disney Company bestows upon its employees. It's not just about recognizing tenure; it celebrates those who have significantly embodied Disney's key values of dream, create, and inspire. Recipients of this award demonstrate a consistent commitment to excellence, carrying forward Walt Disney's legacy and making notable contributions to the company's narrative.

Winners of the Disney Legacy Award are nominated by their peers, emphasizing its importance in recognizing the deep impact of an individual's work on their colleagues. Those bestowed with the award receive a unique blue name tag, distinguishing them from other employees and signifying their exceptional contributions to the company. This blue name tag is a symbol of pride and respect within the Disney community.

Beyond the symbolic name tag, Legacy Award honorees are celebrated in special ceremonies and become part of a unique group within the vast Disney employee network. Through this recognition, Disney underscores the importance of its values and the role its employees play in perpetuating its storied legacy.

10. Flexible work arrangements

Reward long-term employees with the option to choose from flexible work arrangements that better suit their needs, such as remote work, flexible hours, or compressed workweeks.

For example, American Express has consistently been at the forefront of prioritizing employee well-being and work-life balance. As a token of appreciation for years of service, the company offers enhanced flexible work arrangements for its tenured employees.

Recognizing their dedication and commitment, American Express provides options such as tailored working hours, the ability to work remotely, and compressed workweeks, where employees can opt for longer hours on specific days to enjoy extended weekends.

Additionally, for those who've significantly contributed over a lengthy duration, the company has been known to offer sabbaticals, allowing these employees to take extended breaks for personal pursuits, travel, or further education. This approach by American Express emphasizes the value they place on their long-standing employees, blending recognition with modern-day work flexibility.

11. VIP experiences and company perks

Reward long-serving employees with an all-access VIP pass to company events, product launches, or premieres. For instance, if a company is in the entertainment sector, like a film studio or a music label, they could offer a red-carpet experience, allowing the employee to meet celebrities, enjoy behind-the-scenes tours, and receive front-row seats.

12. Mentorship opportunities

Encourage long-term employees to become mentors within the organization, allowing them to share their knowledge and experience with newer colleagues.

13. Experiential learning sabbaticals

Offering tenured employees an opportunity for a sabbatical where they can learn something new or pursue a passion. This sabbatical isn't just a break but is focused on personal growth and development, be it attending a course, traveling for cultural immersion, or working on a personal project.

For example, Patagonia, the outdoor apparel company, has a unique internship program where employees are encouraged to work with an environmental group of their choice for up to two months.

While this isn't strictly a tenure-based reward, adapting it as a long-service award would allow longstanding employees to engage deeply with environmental causes, resonating with the company's core values and mission.

These ideas offer a range of ways to recognize and reward employees for their years of service, including flexible work arrangements, VIP experiences, mentorship opportunities, and enhanced health and wellness benefits.

Adapt these concepts to suit your company's culture and values, ensuring that your employees feel valued and appreciated for their dedication to the organization.

5 Virtual years of service awards ideas

Virtual years of service awards are a great way to recognize and celebrate the dedication and loyalty of your employees, even when working remotely. Here are five creative ideas for virtual years of service awards:

1. Digital milestone badges

Create a series of digital badges or pins that employees can proudly display on their profiles, email signatures, or in virtual meetings. These badges can be customized with the employee's name, years of service, and company logo. As employees reach different milestones (e.g., 5, 10, 15 years), they can collect and showcase these badges.

2. Virtual celebration event

Host a virtual celebration event for employees reaching significant milestones. Include fun elements like virtual games, trivia, or a talent show featuring employees' hidden talents. During the event, present personalized video messages from senior leadership and colleagues to honor the awardees.

3. Online recognition wall

Create a dedicated webpage or a section on your company's intranet where you can publicly recognize and celebrate employees reaching their years of service milestones. Include their photos, a brief bio, and a congratulatory message from colleagues.

4. E-books or book club membership

Gift employees e-books related to personal or professional development or offer them a membership to a virtual book club where they can engage in meaningful discussions and connect with colleagues who share similar interests.

5. Video tribute

Collaborate with colleagues and team members to create a heartfelt video tribute for the employee reaching a milestone. Each colleague can record a short video message expressing their appreciation and sharing memorable moments. Combine these videos into a compilation and present it during a virtual celebration.

Recognise and retain your loyal employees with Xoxoday’s long term service awards

Loyal employees are hands down your most valuable asset. Their business knowledge, work experience and problem solving skills are hard to replace. Timely recognition and tenure awarding, can go a long way to show they are valued and retain them. But we know it can be time consuming and an added effort.

Make rewarding effective by offering your employees the thrill of choosing their own rewards. Deliver instant gratification experience that delights.

With Xoxoday Plum, you can now automate and simplify your long time service award program with its easy-to-use and 100% customizable workflow. Enjoy a comprehensive catalog with over 100+ offers added every month to the existing 21,000+ rewards across 80+ countries.

Celebrate employee milestones now with Xoxoday.


Recognizing and celebrating employees' long-term commitment to your organization is a powerful way to foster loyalty, boost morale, and create a positive workplace culture. The 18 service award ideas we've explored provide a range of options to help you honor your employees' milestones in a meaningful way.

FAQs on years of service award ideas

1. What to give for 3 years of service award?

Ideas for 3 years of service award:

  • Customized certificate of appreciation
  • Personalized desk plaque
  • Engraved pen set
  • Commemorative company jacket or apparel
  • Gift card to a preferred retailer or restaurant

2. What to give for 5 years of service award?

Ideas for 5 years of service award:

  • Crystal or glass award
  • Customized wall plaque
  • Quality wristwatch or jewelry
  • Weekend getaway package
  • Contribution to retirement savings

3. What to give for 10 years of service awards?

Ideas for 10 years of service award:

  • Executive desk clock
  • Engraved crystal vase
  • Travel voucher for a memorable vacation
  • Luxury gift set (e.g., fine wine, gourmet food)
  • Personalized office chair or workspace upgrade

4. What to give for 25 years of service awards?

Ideas for 25 years of service award:

  • Prestigious gold watch or jewelry
  • Engraved crystal trophy
  • All-expenses-paid trip to a dream destination
  • Generous cash bonus or retirement contribution
  • Special recognition event with family and colleagues

5. What to give for 30+ years of service awards?

Ideas for 30+ years of service award:

  • Exclusive customized jewelry piece
  • Engraved gold or platinum plaque
  • Luxury cruise or travel adventure
  • Significant cash bonus or comprehensive retirement package
  • Gala celebration event with company VIPs and honoree's loved ones

6. How are years of service awards typically given?

Years of service awards are typically given in the form of certificates, plaques, trophies, or tangible gifts such as watches, jewelry, or personalized items. Some organizations also provide monetary bonuses or additional paid time off.

7. When do employees usually start receiving years of service awards?

The timing varies by organization, but employees often start receiving these awards after completing 3, 5, 10, 15, or 20 years of service. Some companies may also have additional milestones, such as 25 or 30 years.

8. Are there tax implications for years of service awards?

In many countries, years of service awards are considered taxable income for the recipient. Employers may need to report these awards as taxable income, and employees should consult with a tax professional to understand their specific tax obligations.

Unlock the Biggest Secret of Engagement to Retain your Top Performers.
Learn how

Guest Contributor

We often come across some fantastic writers who prefer to publish their writings on our blogs but prefer to stay anonymous. We dedicate this section to all superheroes who go the extra mile for us.