Field service techs have a tough job. It’s hard to work in air-conditioned comfort when you’re sweating on the job because you’re fixing someone’s broken air conditioner. Unless it’s winter, in which case you’re freezing because you’re there to fix the furnace.

Not only are field service jobs often complicated, they can be physically taxing and come with unhappy clients anxious to get their equipment in working order. Recruiting and training can also be difficult in this field, where people with the right knowledge, skills and abilities are few and far between.

All of this means that you want to do whatever you can to retain your hard-working techs, and reward them for their efforts. But is an award for years of service something worth considering?

Unlike a performance award or bonus, this recognition requires showing up to work for five or 10 years and performing at a minimum level. It might sound a bit like the participation trophies kids get in Little League games — but it’s not.

Working consistently for years, acquiring skills and gaining confidence and the respect of clients is a huge accomplishment. And if techs haven’t achieved those things over the long haul, it’s not entirely their fault. When techs aren’t performing at a high level, it’s a manager’s responsibility to either teach and train them, or show them the exit.

Giving years of service awards recognizes the hard work that goes into being a tech. If the award comes with a monetary reward, as well as public recognition, it can also help with worker retention. If an employee knows they are up for an award, it might give them the push they need to stay with the company instead of seeking greener pastures.

Of course, having a years of service award doesn’t replace the need for good management, good pay and good training. Handing someone a certificate and some cash doesn’t make up for years of mistreatment.

If you decide to give out awards, think about what would be meaningful to your employees. Money is always welcome, a gift certificate not nearly as much. Something that the employee can use — a Fitbit, Bose headphones — is generally better than something they can’t. If you want to give a gift with the award, offer them a choice; otherwise, you’re throwing away money.

Make sure you include public recognition as part of the award. It’s a great way for your long-term employees to receive the recognition they deserve and for your newer techs to see the benefits that may be in store for them down the road.

As a manager, your goal is to make your company a better place to work — and awards like this can help.

ABOUT Suzanne Lucas

Avatar photoSuzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. She now writes about Human Resources and Business for a number of different publications.