5 Keys to Improve Employee Engagement Through Celebrating Milestones

Only 58 percent of people intend to stay working at their current company, a new Modern Survey study found. Even more disappointing, only a little more than half of employees said they feel inspired by their company. Even less than that said they have a sense of future in where they work.

At many workplaces, employee engagement is in need of repair. Corporate structures impress the need for productivity and spend money to hire better people, thinking it will reduce turnover. However, employee loyalty must be cultivated over time through a strong culture of appreciation and instilling a sense of belonging.

Celebrating milestones is a great tool to help bring a team closer together and highlight a sense of purpose among employees.

Here are a few innovative keys to celebrating company milestones that will help improve employee engagement:


1. Redesign the typical office birthday celebration.

You know the typical, predictable office celebration. “Jim, can you stop by my office after lunch?” you ask. Jim nods. After lunch, he makes his way down the hall. Murmuring and shushing echos down the hall, and as he turns the corner…“Surprise!” the team yells. A cake. What a surprise. Just like Janet’s birthday, and Mike’s, and Greg’s, get the idea.

Birthdays are an important aspect of celebrating milestones, but what happens when predictability causes the office birthday celebration to lose its luster?

In his TED Talk called The Puzzle of Motivation, Daniel Pink explores the historic experiments which have proven that expected rewards are actually less effective. Expected rewards narrow our scope of possibilities and perspective, causing them to be much less significant than if no reward at all was expected.

The solution? Change up your typical office birthday celebration. Make it spontaneous. Instead of having a cake every time, select a treat that best suits the person you are celebrating.

If you know Jim’s a meat lover, host a cook-out party during the last two hours of the work day, or after work one evening at someone’s home or a nearby park. If you know Janet loves her morning coffee, host a birthday breakfast with doughnuts and coffee. Maybe one of your employees is a fitness buff, so instead of unhealthy celebration food, he would enjoy a group exercise class.

Personalizing birthdays is a great way to make employees feel recognized individually, which improves morale.


2. Select a daily hero award recipient.

Not every day is filled with teeth-grinding deadlines, but you can still identify small accomplishments to celebrate. Perhaps Mike helped fix the printer so you didn’t have to make another expensive service call. Greg helped a new employee troubleshoot a program so you had more time to finish your project.

If you notice your employee morale is suffering, try a daily award program. Each time employees notice other employees do something helpful, they can nominate them for “hero of the day.” At the end of each day, pick a winner -- either randomly or by merit -- and give them a small reward or enter them into a monthly prize drawing.


3. Meet goals? Have a party.

First, develop a goal system. You may want to choose a digital app or program to help keep track of company goals. It’s best if your goals are all in one place everyone has access to, so the team can look at the bigger picture.

Next, decide how much you want to accomplish before you celebrate. Maybe you celebrate after all the parts of a major project are completed. Maybe you celebrate at the end of each month. Whatever you choose as your company’s milestone, make sure you celebrate in a different way each time to keep things fresh and exciting.

Your celebrations could even be progressive. For example, when the team meets weekly goals, order pizza or bring in ice cream. When the team meets large quarterly goals, take everyone out on an office retreat. Go bowling, ziplining, or play lazer tag to resurrect a youthful glow in your employees.


4. Begin Monday mornings with a game.

Monday morning has arrived, and it’s time to hit the reset button to begin the week all over again. Employees roll in and energy levels are low. Monday may not be considered a “milestone” in the traditional sense, but in a way, it can be. It’s the start of a new week and how you choose to begin it could affect productivity and morale the whole week through.

Engage your team every week by beginning each Monday morning with an icebreaker game. Interactive party games like Guess Who, Two Truths and A Lie, and Pictionary will work like a mind warm up for your team. It doesn’t have to be a long meeting, but take at least 30 minutes to help rev up idea generation for the day.


5. Use an interactive calendar.

Though some celebrations should be spontaneous, you’ll need to do some planning to keep everyone on track. Use an interactive calendar to keep track of project due dates, deadlines, and important employee dates. It’s easier to ensure things will go smoothly when you can see where projects and anniversaries overlap.

The interactive aspect of a calendar is most important. You could post a calendar for everyone to view, but instead, why not allow employees access to edit the calendar, too? Employees can add events and participate in planning them to take some of the work off your shoulders. Also, empowering employees to help manage the calendar will help them feel more involved, increasing employee engagement.

Teams who celebrate together regularly form stronger bonds, which strengthens a workplace culture overall. Celebrating milestones doesn’t require an expensive, grandiose event every time. Look at the small victories your team achieves every day and find small ways to let them know you appreciate them.

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