gift your employees? absolutely! [Maelstrom blog]

The Gifts that Keep on Giving: Gifting to Employees

She already earns a big salary and we give great benefits. Why do we need to give her extra presents?!

Many business owners feel that gifting their employees is unnecessary. Their feelings seem to make sense. After all, don’t employees base their decision about whether to work for your company based on the compensation package you offer?

To some degree, it’s true. Salary and benefits are the “table stakes” that entice employees to join your company. But that’s purely transactional. You offer them a salary, and they agree to join your company.

The amount that you’re paying them may keep them as part of your company. But what it won’t do is convince them to throw themselves into their work, to give it their full effort. Employees don’t usually calibrate their work based on their salaries; they won’t work harder if you pay them more or slack off if you pay them less. Instead, they will perform their tasks based on their own work ethic and your company’s culture.

But you can change that—by focusing on the relational value you offer your employees, which goes far beyond the transactional value of a paycheck.

An Attitude of Gratitude

As was discussed in the previous article in this series, one essential strategy to increasing relational value is through gifts. 

Giving gifts to your employees is smart. Employees who feel undervalued often leave, and turnover is painful and expensive for a company. It’s more efficient to show appreciation to your current employees than it is to constantly replace them because of attrition. 

So how should you go about gifting your employees? This is where it gets fun. 

  • Be proactive. Don’t wait for your employees to feel dissatisfied before giving out gifts as a form of “damage control.” It’s cheaper and easier to spend time and money now than to play catch-up once they’re already feeling unappreciated.
  • Create a motivation plan. This should include small appreciative acts on a regular basis, along with special recognition for employees who have gone above and beyond their job descriptions.
  • Mix it up. You don’t want to give the same tired thing every time. Gifts aren’t required, and that’s what makes them meaningful. But you also have to add an element of surprise by changing things up with fresh, exciting gifts. Tip: if employees already expect the gift — and especially if you hear “just give it to me in cash,” that’s a sign that your gifts are too predictable.
  • Put thought into your gifts. The goal of gifting is to make your employees feel appreciated. So remember that it’s not about how much you spend; it’s about whether they connect the gift to your recognition of their contributions to the company. 
A pair of socks like these might not carry a hefty price tag, but they can be the perfect gift for an employee who is known to love spicy foods. (From


The Employee Life Cycle

Now let’s take it to the next level. View your employee’s time at your company as a journey — hopefully a long and enjoyable journey — and put effort into building the employer/employee relationship at several stops along the way.

When an employee joins your company, make their first day memorable. Put a welcome note on their desk, along with a small gift like a mug, some food, or some apparel sporting your company logo. Joining a company is exciting — but it can be anxiety-provoking and overwhelming too. Going the extra mile will make your employee’s first impression a positive one.

My brother sent me this photo of his desk on his first day at a high-tech company. Welcome sign, new tech toys, water bottle, and a custom laptop bag. Not bad at all!


During their employment, your employees should experience three tiers of appreciation:

  1. Regular Appreciation—generally by the employee’s manager, and as specific as possible (e.g., weekly verbal appreciation, a monthly note or email)
  2. Special Appreciation—several times a year, somewhat more expensive gifts (e.g., donuts for the office, gift cards to a local coffee shop, or a lottery ticket with a note that reads “to us, you’re worth a million dollars!”)
  3. Above and Beyond Recognition—recognizing extra efforts or a special accomplishments with a more substantial gift (e.g., a bonus for retaining a formerly dissatisfied client, a day off for employees who have stayed late multiple days to meet a tight deadline, the rights to the boss’s parking spot for an employee who has really stepped up to the plate recently)

When an employee leaves the company, as long as the departure is on good terms, end on a positive note. Give them a meaningful send off—which could mean something as simple as a special lunch and a small gift. You might encourage their coworkers to share memories that they have of their time with the employee, compiled in a nice card.

To some this may seem strange; after all, the employee is moving on, so what’s the point? But keep in mind that some employees may return if they feel positive towards the company that they left, others may send you new employees (or even new clients!) after their departure, and those employees who are watching the fanfare may consider what will be said about them one day and live up to those expectations. Regardless, a little bit of fanfare to mark the end of an employee’s time at your company can improve morale, making your company feel more like a caring family.

Monogrammed luggage can be a great send-off gift for a retiring employee who has dedicated years to the company.


Incentive Programs

If you’re ready to go to the next step, consider starting an incentive program to motivate your employees through showing tangible appreciation for the things that they do right. Similar to credit card or frequent flyer miles, these programs allow employees to earn points for metrics like customer satisfaction, superior teamwork, or stepping up in other ways. In some cases, employees can be nominated by their direct managers or even colleagues. 

The upside of these programs? They use “gamification,” which engages employees in a fun and motivating way. The rewards can be broken into tiers, with low level prizes like an umbrella or a pair of fleece gloves, and high level prizes like name-brand jackets or airline gift cards towards a vacation.

Some great prize options for your employees include Topo Dopp kits, aromatherapy diffusersBluetooth earbuds, or name brand apparel.

The best part is that it doesn’t necessarily take boatloads of time to organize an incentive program. Companies like Blueboard and Eloops do the work for you, so the process is much easier than you’d think.

Finally, an insight regarding the cost of gifting. If you see employee gifting as a core part of your business, rather than an annoying add-on, it becomes another part of your normal operating expenses. This makes it easier to swallow than if you need to justify each gift on an ad hoc basis. 

This is part 2 in a series about corporate gifting. This post describes the benefits of gifting to your employees. Part 1 addressed client gifting, and part 3 will discuss the best usage of swag and giveaways. See all the articles in the series here.