Employee appreciation gifts are an excellent way to recognize and inspire your employees and encourage them to give you their best efforts. Although financial compensation is vital, it can have a short-lived effect on employee motivation as people 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.
When to Celebrate Employees
There are many occasions to celebrate employees. Look for significant milestones in employees' work and life journeys. These are occasions that are not to be missed if you want to inspire employees and drum up enthusiasm. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
1. Celebrate birthdays with a special touch.
Some people may forget a family member or friend's birthday, but no one forgets their own birthday, even if they chose 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 at the same time each month, make it a point to recognize each separate employee within the monthly group of birthdays. Mentioning every single employee makes people feel seen.
Another simple but thoughtful touch is to remember your team’s food preferences or dietary restrictions. I worked with a colleague who hated cake frosting. His resourceful assistant remembered and ordered an upside-down cake instead.
You can also have their favorite treat or a gift basket delivered to them as a way to show your appreciation and celebrate together virtually.
2. Let colleagues nominate their teammates.
Most people crave appreciation, just like a child craves candy. We 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 and don't often have an opportunity to notice good work as it happens.
That's where peer appreciation is powerful. Set up a culture of mutual recognition. For example, encourage team members to call out employees who go out of their way when working on team projects. Giving employees opportunities to pat each other on the back can go a long way in building a positive environment.
The HR department of a forestry company where I once worked issued "Way to Grow" certificates. These certificates were available to any employee who wanted to shout out a peer for going the extra mile during the course of work. The certificates could be presented to receive gift cards or other gifts that everyone appreciated.
3. Plan ahead for project ends.
Celebrating the completion of good work 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 ahead when you will reward the team at key dates through the calendar. To celebrate achieving project milestones, have lunch or treats delivered to your colleagues and host a virtual lunch meeting together, ensuring that everyone takes a break from work to enjoy the celebration. Say a few kind words to show your gratitude for the team's hard work.
You can also be creative when it comes to employee appreciation gifts for these interim milestones in a long project. A leader I worked with once sent a basket of Mars Bars to the entire team with a note saying, "You're out of this world!" Everyone appreciated the compliment and remembered it for a long time.
4. Observe career milestones and personal achievements.
Consider establishing a set plan for recognizing traditional career milestones such as a promotion, a work anniversary or a big sale. These can even be extended to achievements outside of the office, such as when colleagues lead charitable efforts or earn a certification or license.
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.
Today, employees may also appreciate being recognized for personal achievements such as crossing major items off a bucket list or an exceptional performance in extracurricular activities.
Recognizing your employee's lives in addition to their work achievements sends a strong signal that your employees matter.
What to Give Your Team
Think about employee appreciation gifts that can leave a lingering impression. Even if you give just a wine bottle, for example, include a high-end, personalized bottle tag that makes the gift more permanent. Thoughtful intangible gifts are another way to show your gratitude for people's hard work. Here are some ideas to inspire you to come up with memorable employee appreciation gifts.
1. Give the gift of time.
Time is valued currency. For today's time-strapped employees, time off work may have a particular allure. A paid day off or extra flextime is likely the most prized way to reward employees, especially when they have worked extra hours. Extra time off can also help avoid that dreaded virtual burnout and help those employees who need additional time to care for themselves or loved ones.
2. Swag it.
Consider unique employee appreciation gifts. For example, 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.
Many times, disengaged employees aren't looking for food or even a bonus, but would rather have their work called out and appreciated. A kind, personalized note of sincere gratitude is just what our grandmother would have us do.
4. Give them a chance to lead.
Boss for a day, being named project lead, or a promotion can signal to your team that productive employees are valued and can earn some of the company's power to lead.
Shake up the corporate hierarchy by finding leadership opportunities here and there for employees to play to their strengths, no matter their level of seniority.
How to Recognize Greatness
It's not just what to give as employee appreciation gifts, but also how to show your appreciation that counts.
1. Make it a democracy.
Have your team vote on key contributors. Being recognized by people around you, and not just above you, satisfies everyone's deep-seated need for connection. Peer recognition validates our efforts and strengthens our bonds with other team members.
2. Share with the world.
Celebrating individual achievements on your team’s digital channels or in larger team meetings can both share the successes more widely and demonstrate 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.
You can demonstrate to employees that you listen to their interests and goals by giving awards that align with them. 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 special place for volunteering, arrange for the entire team to contribute towards their favorite charity.
Employee appreciation gifts are not one-size-fits-all. There's 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.