Moving milestones online

Hesitations about putting service awards online outweighed by numerous advantages
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/12/2011

While many employers know a gold watch is not necessarily a 20-year employee’s first choice for a service award, there is still some reluctance to moving a traditional initiative such as milestone recognition to an Internet-based system — where choice is an easy option. Once these fears are conquered, however, the benefits of an online service award program are numerous.

Among some employers, particularly those in manufacturing, there are concerns about employees not having access to a computer at work, says Jeremy Faria, president of Rembrandt Awards Manufacturing in Richmond Hill, Ont. But people can log on to a service awards website from the comfort of their home or use a supervisor’s computer or a designated computer located in a common area such as a cafeteria — as is the case when it comes to online access to other programs, such as employer pension plans or health benefits, he says.

“There’s never a problem. Any one of those programs we set up, the employees almost always order online. They don’t send in the manual order because we still give them (that) ability,” said Faria. “All our orders virtually come via the computer.”

Employers may also worry some workers are not familiar or comfortable with the interactive online world. But R&D Corporate Services, for example, designed a service award website for employers that is as simple as possible for employees who are not necessarily computer-literate, says Rick Clarke, president of the Mississauga, Ont.-based company.

“We wanted it so they could easily follow the steps through the process, they can move forward or back at anytime they want, there’s confirmations for every step they go through, so it’s very user-friendly that way,” he says.

Another concern is around control, as HR may be reluctant to give up its influence over the service awards program. But organizations can usually choose one of several administration functions available, along with selecting the program’s qualifications, level of rewards, amount of awards offered or dollar values, says Emily Schulte, a marketing specialist at Terryberry in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“They’re definitely in the driver’s seat,” she says. “Allowing employees to select their rewards online expedites the process and it makes the nomination and the selection less work for the HR representative at the organization.”

Budget constraints are always a concern for HR, but that’s a wash when an employer moves a service award program online, says Faria. There’s also much less waste in terms of paper consumption because online catalogues can be easily and quickly updated with newer items.

“It’s actually probably more cost-effective for them to go online,” says Clarke, whose company handles all of the administration for employers. R&D’s approach is to provide a link to a gift-redemption site where employees have a user name and password to access the awards. The employer can then find out who has redeemed and for what.

“They can also do usage reports and trending on gifts, things like that,” he says.

That leads to one of the biggest advantages to moving service awards online: choice. Paper-based catalogues can become out of date in a very short period of time, says Clarke.

“With a website, we can instantly make more changes, add more products, have a wider selection,” he says.

Terryberry, for example, offers different programs with offerings at different levels that can be customized to suit an ­organization’s budgets and other programs, says Schulte.

“The online program is more easily customizable to fit their mission, vision and vision values,” she says.

Organizations can keep the service award selections fresh and online sites can be customized to certain demographics or industries, says Clarke.

“So instead of saying, ‘This is your program, everybody gets the same flavour,’ we like to mix it up based on the actual corporation itself,” he says.

That means consulting with an employer to better understand its culture and providing products that fit with the environment.

Unlike the manual approach, an automated service award program can automatically send out reminder emails to managers about upcoming milestones or send congratulatory messages directly to award recipients. Managers can also be provided with suggestions on how to properly do service award presentations, says Clarke.

The ease of administration also means employers can more easily drop down the length of time required for someone to receive a service award, from onboarding to one year or three years instead of the traditional five or 10 years.

“Typically, organizations have started their recognition at the five-year level and by the time their employee reaches two or three years, they’re shifting into another role and moving elsewhere,” says Schulte. “That longevity isn’t there like it used to be, especially with gen Y and the millenials.”

Social media is also having an impact on the realm of service awards. Terryberry, for example, provides clients with a virtual bulletin board where employees can opt in to participate. Everyone’s anniversaries are listed in a banner along the side, so colleagues can send congratulatory posts on a person’s wall.

“It becomes a contagious communication,” says Schulte.

Add Comment

  • *
  • *
  • *
  • *