How 8 Chicago companies celebrate employee milestones

Andreas Rekdal

Although the world has changed a lot since the days when building a 30-year career at one company was the norm, most businesses still see the benefit of rewarding employees for their loyalty. That reward can take many different forms, ranging from verbal recognition to sweet company swag and extra time off, depending on the place you work.

To get a better picture, we asked around town to find out how some of Chicago's tech companies celebrate employee milestones. 


During Hireology’s quarterly lab coat ceremony, employees who have recently crossed the 90-day threshold to becoming a "Hireologist" are presented with an embroidered lab coat in recognition of their newfound status. The top-secret ceremony goes all the way back to when the company only had four employees and involves a recitation of the Hireologist pledge, champagne and introduction into the Hall of Hireologists.

The quarterly Margot Baill Award also goes back to the company’s early days. Named for the company’s first employee, the traveling trophy is awarded to employees who display her finest traits: optimism, passion and results. The large trophy was purchased by CEO Adam Robinson and rests on the desk of its most recent recipient.

Why they do it: "When management takes the time to celebrate important individual milestones, it shows that the company cares about its team, and reinforces that we celebrate individuals for their important contributions to the business,” said Robinson. “If you want to hire and retain the best people, you have to build your base of social capital each and every day. Done in an authentic fashion, it's an effort that pays huge dividends over the long run."

 

After their initial 90 days, UrbanBound throws employees a jacket ceremony and celebration, which involves a friendly Pictionary match, drinks and dinner. A tradition from day one, the company plans on maintaining it even as its staff continues to grow.

The company also hosts a quarterly Champion’s Dinner.

Why they do it: “Those who achieve Champion status really hit their goal out of the park,” said VP of Marketing Erin Wasson. “They are awarded a fun and entertaining dinner with fellow champions and members of the Executive Team. This is done on a quarterly basis, which gives everyone a chance to improve if they don’t make their Champions Goal dinner."

 

Titles and positions don’t tell an employee’s whole story. So in order to help new employees recognize whom they should look to for leadership, BookedOut awards accomplished employees with iron-on patches to put on their company sweatshirts.

Kind of like military patches, BookedOut’s Iron Awards are given out monthly at a company-wide meeting and represent achievements like Employee of the Month, work anniversaries and more.

Why they do it: “We love our people and we feel there is a big need to invest in the accomplishments our people achieve,” said SVP of Product Charlie Connor. “Though we didn’t want to do something predictable like flowers or ribbons or something generic. Instead, we wanted to celebrate with some a bit unexpected and unconventional.”

 

In order to maintain transparency about how employee performance is evaluated, each team at Pangea keeps track of specific key performance indicators. For marketing and customer service teams, the KPIs relate to user acquisition and retention, while product and engineering teams track things like efficiencies, time to market and increases in conversion rates.

In addition to helping the company grow faster, tracking KPIs gives the Pangea team an opportunity to celebrate small wins and offer promotions and raises based on performance.

Why they do it: "We love employees that are passionate about building a successful business and making an impact in our customers' lives. We've tried to build a high-performing team where everyone can contribute to a critical success factor in the customer journey, but naturally some individuals tend to be more proactive and passionate than others,” said SVP of Growth and Operations Lamia Pardo. “Great resumes only get people in the door. The way to advance at Pangea is through meaningful performance improvements that come as a result of effort, focus and fire."

 

Whether it’s your first or your fifteenth anniversary with the company, Codifyd likes to mark the occasion. First-year employees get a gift card of their choice, with gifts ramping up as the years go by. At five years, employees get a unique experience like a helicopter tour of Chicago or a gourmet dinner cruise for two. To mark their 10th year, employees get a $1,500 gift of their choosing.

At 15 years, employees get a company-wide cake party, recognition from the CEO and a $2,500 gift. Most recently, an employee picked a company-sponsored vacation with his significant other.

Why they do it: “We want our employees to feel invested, motivated and happy to come to work each day,” said HR Director Joanna Niezgoda. “At Codifyd we love to celebrate employee milestones and we do so by acknowledging each milestone in a unique way to reward our employees for their dedication to Codifyd.”

 

Like a lot of companies, RedShelf celebrates individual birthdays, work anniversaries, promotions and significant accomplishments with food, drinks, public recognition and dinners out with the boss. But the company also puts on impromptu, in-office champagne toasts to celebrate significant company-wide achievements that the whole team contributed to, like on-boarding the company’s 100th customer, closing a round of funding or achieving the company’s first million-dollar month in revenue.

During the toasts, every employee is welcome to share their thoughts. Some are emotional and others are humorous, but the goal is for every toast to be motivational and an opportunity for the team to bond.

Why they do it: "We are an edtech software company to our core, but there is nothing more important to RedShelf than our people,” said Chief Operating Officer Tom Scotty. “As such, we take personal and team milestones as an important opportunity to strengthen our culture by recognizing and celebrating the positive contributions of our people."

 

After four years of service, Enova’s team members earn a month-long fully paid sabbatical during which they can relax and recharge their batteries, travel or take on a fun project they haven’t quite gotten around to. The company also hosts a monthly celebration with desserts like cake, pie and caramel apples in recognition of employees with a birthday that month.

Why they do it: "At Enova, it's important to us that we take the time to celebrate employee milestones like years of service,” said Senior Manager of Talent Development Sarah Person. “We believe the time, energy and brainpower that goes into driving results every day should be rewarded, which is why we offer our sabbatical program after four years with Enova. Team members can spend their month-long sabbatical however they'd like, and they seem to always return refreshed and full of new ideas."

 

Beyond daily recognition from peers and managers alike for business closes, product releases and new client launches, employee milestones like birthdays, anniversaries and goal achievements are posted in HighGround’s social feed.

Over time, employees also accumulate points that can be spent in the ‘HighGround store’ on rewards ranging from Cubs game tickets and gym membership credits to picking a snack for the kitchen or donations to the employee’s favorite charity.

Why they do it: “Every day our team moves the needle toward our long-term goals,” said Founder and CEO Vip Sandhir. “At HighGround we celebrate all of the milestones, big and small, that advance our growth and serve as stepping stones to our success.”

 

Images via featured companies.

What's your company's story? Shoot us an email or follow us on Twitter @BuiltInChicago.

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