It's important to show employees that they are valued. When we think of employee appreciation gift ideas, we often focus on monetary rewards. Although financial compensation is vital to motivating and keeping your top employees, it can have a short-lived effect on employee motivation, as people can become used to receiving bonuses or pay raises.
On the other hand, appreciating and celebrating staff achievements may have a longer-lasting impact on improving engagement and performance, and boosting employee morale. Read on for practical employee appreciation gift ideas.
When Should You Give an Employee Appreciation Gift?
Go beyond simply looking for employee appreciation day gift ideas. Employee appreciation is a mindset that needs to be present all year round.
Many occasions are not to be missed, if you want to inspire employees and drum up enthusiasm. It pays to focus on ongoing significant milestones in employees' work and life journeys. Below are some employee gift ideas to get you started.
1. Celebrate birthdays with a special touch.
At the top of the list of staff appreciation ideas would be to remember an employee's birthday. Some people may forget a family member or friend's birthday, but no one forgets their own birthday, even if they choose not to celebrate it. Therefore, as a leader, it's important to remember your employees' birthdays.
If your company or team celebrates all employees' birthdays simultaneously each month, make a point to recognize each separate employee within the monthly group of birthdays. Mentioning every single employee can make people feel seen.
Other simple but thoughtful staff appreciation ideas are to remember your team’s food preferences and to make note of dietary restrictions. Displaying that you're paying attention to people's needs can work wonders in making them feel recognized and appreciated.
Other thoughtful employee gift ideas are to send them a gift basket or a package containing their favorite treat as a way to show your appreciation.
2. Let colleagues nominate their teammates.
Effective employee gift ideas take into account that we all have a fundamental need to be noticed and appreciated. But recognition doesn't need to only come from the top down. Managers or leaders can't be everywhere at all times, and don't often have an opportunity to notice good work as it happens.
Set up a culture of mutual recognition. For example, encourage team members to recognize employees who go out of their way when working on team projects. Giving employees opportunities to pat one another on the back can go a long way in building a positive environment. That's why peer appreciation is one of the most powerful employee appreciation gift ideas.
Allowing fellow employees to acknowledge one another with a voting system, resulting in an informal award, certificate or a gift card, can both foster a sense of camaraderie and give employees a more organized and democratic way of singing one another's praises.
3. Plan ahead for project ends.
Other staff appreciation ideas that may pay dividends are finding ways to celebrate the completion of good work. It signals to employees that you value their contributions. However, don't wait until the end of a project to celebrate. Set up small completion milestones along the way to keep people motivated, especially for long-term projects.
At the start of every project, plan to reward the team at key dates throughout the calendar. To celebrate the achievement of project milestones, you can have lunch or treats delivered to your colleagues, or host a virtual lunch meeting together, ensuring that everyone takes a break from work to enjoy the celebration. Be sure to say a few kind words to show your gratitude for the team's hard work.
You can also be creative regarding employee appreciation gifts for these interim milestones in a long project. For example, you could come up with a theme for these celebrations: you might tell high-performing employees that they're "out of this world," and provide them space-themed knick-knacks or candies as gifts.
4. Observe career milestones and personal achievements.
There are numerous staff appreciation ideas that recognize your employees' lives in addition to their work achievements. For example, establish a set plan for recognizing traditional career milestones, such as a promotion, a work anniversary or a big sale. You can also acknowledge achievements outside the office, such as when colleagues lead charitable efforts or earn a certification or license.
Another thing to keep in mind when exploring staff appreciation ideas is that today, employees may also appreciate recognition for personal achievements, such as crossing major items off a bucket list or exceptional performance in extracurricular activities.
Recognizing your employees' lives in addition to their work achievements can send a strong signal that your employees matter to you.
What Are Good Employee Appreciation Gifts?
Consider employee gift ideas that can leave a lingering impression. You can improve even small employee appreciation gift ideas. For example, if you give an employee a bottle of wine, include a high-end, personalized bottle tag that makes the gift more permanent.
Staff appreciation gifts don't always have to have a dollar value. Thoughtful, intangible gifts are another way to show your gratitude for people's hard work.
Some more memorable employee gift ideas include:
1. Give the gift of time.
Among the best employee appreciation gift ideas may be the gift of time. For today's time-strapped employees, time off work may have a particular allure. A paid day off or extra flextime can be a valuable reward to some employees, especially if they have worked extra hours. Extra time off can also help employees avoid virtual burnout and help those who need additional time to care for themselves or loved ones.
2. Swag it.
Another unique employee gift idea might be to add a personalized touch to your company swag, with badges or names that connect your company with the individual. Be sure to get them high-quality items, not the cheapest coffee cup you can find.
3. Deliver sincere thank-yous.
When brainstorming for staff appreciation ideas, it's easy to forget that disengaged employees often aren't looking for food, or even a bonus, but would simply rather have their work appreciated. A kind, personalized note of sincere gratitude is a classic way of displaying recognition and showing your employees that their hard work doesn't go unnoticed.
4. Give them a chance to lead.
As you ponder creative employee gift ideas, think about shaking up the corporate hierarchy by finding leadership opportunities for employees to play to their strengths, no matter their level of seniority.
Examples of such out-of-box staff appreciation ideas include appointing employees the role of "boss for a day," naming them project lead or giving promotions. All of these can signal to your team that productive employees are valued.
How to Recognize the Greatness of an Employee
Always be on the lookout for opportunities to recognize your employees' talents and achievements publicly. Remember that what counts is not just what to give as employee appreciation gifts, but also how to show them your appreciation.
1. Make it a democracy.
Have your team vote on top contributors. You may find this to be one of your most valuable employee gift ideas, because as an employee, being recognized by people around you, not just above you, can satisfy a deep-seated need for connection. Peer recognition validates efforts and strengthens bonds with other team members.
2. Share with the world.
Staff appreciation ideas can be as simple as celebrating individual achievements on your team’s digital channels. Or you can use larger team meetings as a forum for sharing employee successes more widely and demonstrating how your team values its employees. Shining a public light on individual team members is one of the most generous employee appreciation gifts. It's sure to touch people's hearts.
3. Make it personal and heartfelt.
Among the most fruitful employee appreciation gift ideas can be to demonstrate that you listen to your employees' interests and goals, by giving awards that align with their goals. If someone is trying to climb the corporate ladder, find the funds to send them to a significant conference or course. If someone has a particular place they like to volunteer, arrange for the entire team to contribute toward their favorite charity.
Employee appreciation gifts are not one-size-fits-all. There is value in treating employees as the unique humans that they are. Using a tailored and personal approach to magnify employees' successes can help them thrive and inspire them to give you the best they have to offer.
A version of this article was originally published on December 20th, 2019.
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