An Employee Offers Frank Employee Recognition Gift Ideas

What Work Gifts Are Really About... by Chris Telden
What Work Gifts Are Really About... by Chris Telden | Source

Employee recognition gifts are a thing. They're supposedly a way of saying "thank you" to your workers. Call me cynical, but from the receiving end, I've always looked at them as a kind of sheepish apology for not being able to pay me more. Either way, they feel good to get and actually do encourage a positive attitude in the job. Here are some ideas of ways you can show appreciation to your staff for their contributions.

Employee Recognition Gifts Are Not the Easiest to Come Up With

You'll be working under certain constraints. These include:

  • Budgetary constraints. Whether you're on a corporate or small business level, you've probably got a strict budget.
  • Corporate policies. Unfortunately, you may not have full freedom to give anything you want, to anyone at any time. Certain gifts or occasions may be deemed inappropriate by your organization.
  • What you want to give vs. what they want to get. Some gifts are truly given as, and seen as, token gifts. These include logo pens, stress busters, and anything self-promotional for the company. Your workers would rather get a useful gift certificate, frankly. They'll remember it. I've remembered all the gift certificates I've gotten from employers, but by no means all the logo-brandishing yo-yos or calendars.
  • Personal tastes. Most work environments are somewhat impersonal. Do you know what all your employees like and don't like? What will offend and won't?

Are You a Boss?

What do you hope to gain by giving your employee gifts?

  • Loyalty to the company, the whole company, and nothing but the company.
  • I don't know. Never really thought about it. It's just something my mom taught me.
  • I don't care. My boss is making me do this.
  • We hope to create, or dare I say, maintain, a positive work environment.
  • Credit for being a good person. I'm kinda nice sometimes, you know?
  • Let's be frank here. I can't afford to give 'em a raise. So what else is left?
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Are You an Employee?

What kind of gift do you really want to get from your boss?

  • From MY boss? You're kidding, right?
  • I'd like money, cash, or a gift certificate. Preferably the first.
  • Ooh, a cute, funny mug with a work-related theme, please.
  • Anything about cats.
  • Is wine allowed?
  • I have no idea. Maybe a gift basket?
  • I've always kind of wanted a yoga mat.
  • I don't care. Can I go home now?
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Employee Recognition Gift Baskets

The classic luxury thank-you for employee appreciation week, staff appreciation day, or other special occasion is the employee appreciation gift basket. It works because:

  • Food is universally beloved.
  • It brings a festive feel to the work day.
  • It can be shared - a single gift basket can serve an entire office.

Disadvantages include:

  • It's temporary and likely to be forgotten.
  • Dietary restrictions. Although a variety of foods in a gift basket is great, there's not much better a way to say, "I couldn't care less that you're diabetic/food allergic/vegetarian/etc. than including ONLY caramel popcorn, or tree nuts, or summer sausages, respectively. A gift basket that emphasizes variety can avoid this pitfall.

Employee Gift Cards

We're in a recession. I frankly think it's more severe than that - an economic depression. In times like these, gift cards can be very welcome. To everyone.

In over 20 years of working in an office or at a service desk, I've received my share of employee appreciation gift cards, and they rarely get rolled eyes. But one precaution - if they are from a restaurant, your employee will be very sad if it's not a restaurant at which they can eat, for whatever reason. That's one reason I favor mail-order gift certificates.

I always remember the bosses who gave gift cards to me, if not the actual occasion.

Employee Appreciation Gift Card

Amazon.com $10 Gift Card - 50-pack (Classic)
Amazon.com $10 Gift Card - 50-pack (Classic)

To avoid giving a card that's essentially worthless, be sure to choose a gift card from a vendor that serves your area, or an online vendor like Amazon.com. You can buy the card in appropriate denominations - smaller denominations for giving to an entire staff, office or team, or larger denominations for individual employee gifts.

 

Advantages of Giving GOOD Appreciation Gifts

I've worked in many offices in a clerical, customer service, or supervisory capacity, and what I've learned is that:

  • Employees are motivated to work harder, better and longer when they feel truly appreciated.
  • Appreciated employees improve the climate of the workplace, making the office or job site a better place not just for staff, but for customers and clients.
  • The cost/benefit ratio is high. Gifts are not as expensive as bonuses or raises. In exchange, you encourage longevity. Lower turnaround is a big financial plus for a company.

Computer Pen Holder Metal Figurine
Computer Pen Holder Metal Figurine

Perfect for office workers. It actually looks classy and performs a function as it takes up space.

 

Other Non-Gifting Ways to Recognize Your Employees

Making employees feel they are appreciated presents a win-win situation for management and staff alike. Rewarding employees with incentives such as raises, bonuses, and a full complement of benefits to show them you believe their work deserves tangible rewards is always the number one "thank you gift." However...

Here are some less tangible, but no less essential, ways to say "thank you" to the people who labor for your organization:

  • Communicate with them. You won't be able to make them happy all of the time, but if they feel they're in the communication loop, they'll understand the downsides better.
  • Grant your employees ownership of their work, allowing them to feel proud of and vested in their work...and accountable for it.
  • Make sure your employees enjoy career or income mobility and have avenues for advancement within your company, corporation or organization. This gives them incentives to work hard and be loyal to the organization.
  • Solicit and take seriously their honest feedback. As with good customer feedback, employee feedback can improve the climate and effectiveness of your organization.
  • Say "thank you" regularly. A small thing, but most employees appreciate a quick "thanks" - and remember to make it heartfelt rather than dismissive. (See the movie Office Space for details.)
  • Don't forget the positives when doing employee evaluations. Focusing on the negatives is missing the chance to make a worker feel good about the things he or she is doing right.

Choose a Gift the Staff Member Will Remember

Whether it's a gift certificate, a memento of the workplace, or a luxury gift to be enjoyed for many years, a good employee appreciation present can improve the work environment and emphasize that each staff member is an essential part of the team.  

Photo used under Creative Commons Attribution License
Photo used under Creative Commons Attribution License | Source

See the author's disclosure statement regarding compensation for this article.

© 2010 Chris Telden

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