Improving Employee Engagement and Recognition with Better Corporate Gifting

By Jenn Muller, CMO, Loop Commerce, a Synchrony solution

The scope of workplace disruption over this past year is unprecedented, forcing managers, and employees to adjust their work and home lives significantly. Employers must rethink how they move forward given seemingly endless changes.

Working from home and playing the parent role at the same time has made it challenging for many to establish a true work/life balance. While employers have been accommodating and respectful of employees’ varying circumstances, the employees could be experiencing burnout or feeling overwhelmed in juggling both their professional and personal lives.

Employers know they need to place greater importance on employee engagement moving forward. Employee engagement has been challenging, even before the pandemic. According to research from Dale Carnegie, 45 percent of the workforce was not engaged, and 26 percent was actively disengaged.¹ It is probably safe to assume these numbers look drastically different now.

Jenn Muller, CMO, Loop Commerce
Jenn Muller, CMO, Loop Commerce

Gifting has always been a strategic tool in the engagement toolset, but applying that tool in an unthoughtful way may elicit the wrong response. In our current environment, it is imperative to make corporate gifting meaningful again. However, the availability and scale of gift options has been limited and personalization and technology capabilities HR departments and managers have access to may leave much to be desired.

Employee Engagement Needs More Helpful and Personalized Solutions

“Thanks for that gift I will never use,” said nearly any of us throughout our careers and workplace experiences.

Despite HR departments’ and managers’ good intentions behind corporate gifting efforts, there are many reasons corporate gifting has gained a stodgy reputation over the years. The popcorn bin during the holidays, logo’d hats and branded picture frames have been the typical gift staples in the workplace. But are they really appreciated? Gifts like these are meant to motivate and show appreciation but often they don’t elicit the desired positive and emotional response from the receiver because of the current roadblocks associated with gifting.

Eliciting these behaviors needs to be the goal of gifts offered in the workplace.

However, it’s not all about the money or ‘points,’ either. Gifts can come in many forms to elicit a positive response and can improve employee engagement, and money or cash equivalent gifts may not be the right answer when it comes to motivation. Dr. Dan Ariely, Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, looked at the importance of fostering a sense of creation and mastery of the job among the employee base. Gifting plays a role in that.

A first step HR departments and managers can take in redefining their gifting efforts is to apply an employee-focused approach. Taking the time to understand an employee’s desires, motivations and interests goes a long way in building a stronger rapport between employer/manager and employee.

There is no time like the present to apply this new approach as we all reset and move forward. Continuing to accept the current corporate gifting processes and experiences may no longer be an option when HR teams and managers know gifting can play a much more important role in the workplace and support larger initiatives.

  • For example, employee onboarding programs can receive extreme makeovers to ensure that employees feel their new employer ‘gets them’ from day one.
    • If a gift is part of that experience, it needs to speak to the employee’s core interests.
  • Similarly, employee wellness programs are looking to evolve to stay relevant and effective. Gifting is a tool that has the potential to assist in that transformation.
    • For example, providing employees with a health-oriented gift like a luxury yoga mat or at-home entertainment options.

Technology Needs to Work Harder

Tweaking strategies and approaches can be imperative for improving corporate gifting efforts, and technology needs to play a more integral role. If HR departments and managers truly want to offer better gifts, the technology needs to overcome these persistent challenges that may force and limit them to providing those same stodgy gifts.

Today, corporate gift technology solutions are available in all shapes and sizes. Historically, they have catered to either broad audiences or specific use cases and experiences – but not both. This can create limitations for the HR department and managers.

  • Solutions that cater to broad audiences may have limitations in the number of gift options for employees.
  • Similarly, if an HR department is looking to execute a variety of employee gifting initiatives and experiences, they accept the hard reality that they may need to manage multiple solutions to do it. And that can become unwieldy.

Surprisingly, many gifting technology solutions fall short in today’s business environment as more attention needs to be paid to the end-to-end gifting experience.

It is highly likely that if and when the HR department or manager wants to provide a gift in any of the aforementioned scenarios, they’ll want to make the gifting experience as personalized as possible.

Imagine a more personalized onboarding experience. Even before the employee’s first day  they receive a gift, and it’s not a mug; It is a digitally delivered gift that is picked out specifically for him or her, such as  a pair of running shoes because the employer was able to provide a gift that acknowledged their favorite activity based on conversations during the interview process. Or the HR department is set to activate a new wellness initiative and the company can digitally send selections of health oriented gifts along with a video message personalized for each individual rather than the company as a whole – creating a more inspiring gifting experience for the recipient.

The result of these scenarios can be the desired, positive emotional responses that employees will appreciate, remember as a great memory and feel more motivated to do their best work. Now imagine the ability to make these gifting scenarios a reality without needing to use multiple solutions to do it. That’s not the future. It’s possible today.

What’s at Stake

Corporate gifting can be so much more than it is today. By focusing on delivering a personalized experience, it has the potential to be a cultural differentiator at a time that employers are working to build and enhance their brand. There is no time like the present to make corporate gifting a meaningful tool again.