It’s easy to spot a long-term Knappett Projects Inc. employee by glancing at their wrists. Anyone who has worked for the Victoria-based construction company for 20 years receives a watch recognizing service.
The Swiss-made watches even sport the Knappett name — they are purchased from a distant relation who runs Knappett Jewellers in Newmarket, Ont.
Since 2005, 16 watches have been handed out at the annual Christmas party by company founder and owner John Knappett, who says rewarding good employees makes sense.
The company works on large projects — it’s building the $104-million helicopter squadron facility at Victoria airport and has constructed hundreds of other structures throughout Greater Victoria, including the Victoria police station, Ecole Victor Brodeur in Esquimalt, bridges and housing.
“We’re an industry where a lot of money changes hands very quickly,” Knappett said.
“The issues we deal with are very important. You have to have competent people who are dedicated to the company to be successful and I just wanted to return a little of that.”
The three-decade-old company’s workforce of roughly 120 people are more than employees, he said. “They are friends. We are not a huge corporation.”
While watches are a traditional gift to acknowledge long service, in Knappett’s family, they’re particularly valued. The family lore is that Queen Victoria presented a watch to Knappett’s great-great-grandfather, a Danish sea captain, for coming to the aid of an English ship. That watch has been handed down through generations.
Other employers also acknowledge long service. The province of B.C. is among those who give employees a choice of gifts. B.C. public servants are honoured at a special ceremony when they reach 25, 30, 35, 40 and 45 years of service.
For example, at 25 years, employees receive a framed certificate signed by the premier, and the choice of a key chain, pen or lapel pin. At the 35-year mark, staff can choose from a watch, a blown-glass vase or silver bracelet, valued at $300 to $365.
Those with 40 years can pick either a mantle clock, diamond stud earrings, or a bronze sculpture, valued at $300 to $430 each.
At the City of Victoria, staff are recognized at a special event by the mayor and city manager for 10, 15, 25, 30 and 35 years of service. Plaques are handed out for those reaching 25, 30 and 35 years.
A certificate and a watch go to retiring employees. Currently, 87 of the city’s 777 employees have 25 years or more of service, said a Victoria official.
In the high-tech world, Starfish Medical pays attention to keeping current employees happy and attracting new ones, said John Walmsley, vice-president of product development for the company, which develops and manufactures medical devices. At three months, a worker receives a jacket.
As goals are met, special events are held such as curling and hockey, he said. Monthly birthday cakes and barbecues are also on the agenda.
© Copyright 2013