Gifting to employees? Consider offering them your gratitude

As employers continue to search for ways to hang onto their talent amid the “Great Resignation,” new research suggests that seasonal gifts could be one tool to help enhance retention–although few organizations are maximizing the full potential of gift programs.

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A survey of more than 1,500 U.S. employees from Snappy, an employee gifting platform, found that gifts are an effective way organizations can make employees feel recognized and appreciated. In the study, about 54% of those surveyed said they would be more likely to stay at their job if they received meaningful holiday gifts from their employer, and more than three-quarters said a meaningful gift makes them feel appreciated at work. Yet, nearly one-third of those surveyed said they have never actually received one—illustrating that many employers are missing out on this major competitive advantage.

What’s more, nearly 82% of employees report that they will buy a holiday gift for their boss this year, even though more than half aren’t expecting a meaningful gift from the boss.

Michele Bailey, author of The Currency of Gratitude: Turning Small Gestures into Powerful Business Results, says employers should consider making this holiday season one of the “Great Appreciation”– and to continue that trend throughout the year.

“As leaders reflect, those who haven’t made gratitude a core value of their organization should strongly consider it going forward into next year,” Bailey says. “The current context of workers leaving in droves basically demands it. And the holidays are the perfect time for leaders to set a new tone and show they are sincere about showing appreciation on a consistent basis.”

When employers make gratitude a habit and recognize the value of employees’ contributions, it encourages the latter to strive for greater results, she adds. With that, business will inevitably grow as team members champion the brand.

So, what gifts should companies offer to employees this holiday season? For one thing, forget the holiday party. According to Snappy, nearly 62% of respondents said they’d prefer a gift over an in-person holiday get-together. And, don’t worry too much about the price tag, as employees are more interested in gifts with meaning: Nearly 80% of those surveyed by Snappy said the thought behind the gift matters more than the cost.

According to Archer Chiang, CEO at Giftpack, an AI-powered service that helps employers send personalized gifts, employees are also clamoring for are ways to improve their mental health or have more fun experiences–no surprise, given the still-ongoing repercussions of COVID-19.

“Anything that helps people do things like fishing, painting, looking good, working out, dressing up or hanging out with friends is popular this year,” Chiang says. “Experience is a lot more valuable for people nowadays than just owning stuff.”

Bailey offers five ways employers can express gratitude during the holidays (and go on to make the practice a regular event):

  • prioritize mental health
  • give praise publicly
  • make gifts meaningful
  • offer paid holiday leave
  • survey teams on what they need for next year.

“This is a way of paying your gratitude forward,” Bailey says, adding that the holiday season and end of the year are great times to tune into teams and strategize how to help them do their jobs better next year.

“Being heard and having their thoughts turned into action by management help employees feel appreciated,” she says. “If your work culture is not operating with gratitude, not only will the holidays feel a bit empty, but your potential as a company will remain unfulfilled.”

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Tom Starner
Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at [email protected].