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Brad Callahan
Vice President, Business Solutions Group

Holiday Gifts for Employees Are an Opportunity to Be Creative

When managers thinkof holiday gifts for employees, they often standardize the event by giving thesame kind of gift year in and year out. If you find yourself choosing the samegift option every year, maybe it’s timeto break the pattern and get creative. By switching your focus from the gift tothe employee, you’ll find lots of options, limited only by your willingness toknow your employees, their interests and your owncreativity.

We’ve found that the more time and effortorganizations put into reallyunderstanding recipients of a holiday gift, the more powerful that gift’simpact. Looking at gift cards, merchandise, and pre-paid cards, we know thatall pack a dose of holiday cheer, but each has a particular flavor and worksbest when targeted closely to theintended recipient:

Gift cards. Whether plastic or ecards, gift cards are a “go to” option for many companies. Often, they are tied to a particular retailer but here’swhere you can get creative and find a card that speaks to individual interests.For example, you know an employee loves to spend their leisure time fishing. That’s where a gift card for outdoors-orientedretailers like LL Bean or REI would be a hit. If you know your employees’hobbies and interests, you’ll find a giftcard that resonates.

Merchandise. Research tells us that many employees lovegifts of merchandise. You can respond to this with a meaningful merchandise gift ifyou know the employee very well, or a gift card for a selection of merchandise.Recipients like merchandise because these giftsare typically more durable and are used over time, providing a haloeffect. When done right, a merchandisegift will demonstrate to employees how well you know them and provide anongoing acknowledgement of your appreciation for their contribution.

Pre-paid debit cards. This deeper understanding of employees alsoextends to gifts that offer theflexibilityof cash, such as pre-paid cards. These cards can be issued in any amount, andthey can be used at any time during the holiday. For example, say that you’reaware of the generous nature of aparticular employee. A pre-paid debit card would enable that employee to share the holiday cheer with others—maybe bytaking their family to a restaurant to celebrate or by using the card topurchase a special gift that mightotherwise not be in their budget. By the way, you could also give a gift cardfor use at a particular restaurant if you know there’s one your employeeespecially enjoys.

Whatever youdecide, the best place to start is with deep knowledge of your employees. This understanding will ensure your gift is relevantand happily received. There are other ways you can creatively thank your employees at the holidays, too. Here are someideas you might consider:

Delicacies. Consider Omaha Steaks, Lobster Gram Dinner, Harry andDavid food baskets delivered directly to an employee’s home or gift cards to local grocery stores. Again, this choiceallows employees to spread holiday cheer to friends and family.

Holiday lunch for all employees. Depending on the size of your organization,this can be off-site or a catered in-office lunch. If off-site, think aboutholding it in the early afternoon and then giving employees the rest of the dayoff—a few more personal hours during this busy season is something everyoneappreciates. If you hold a catered, in-office event, pump up the holiday spiritwith decorations and grab bag gifts.

Charitable donation. Offer employees the option of making adonation to their favorite charity. We’veseen that this particularly resonates with younger employees.

Rotating use of the “best” spot in thecompany parking lot. Difficult togift wrap, but much appreciated by employees, especially after a long commutein bad weather.

Vouchers for iTunes, MP3s, ebooks, or other digital media.  If you can uncover your employees’ media habits, a voucher or gift cardthat lets them add to their digital library is a gift they’ll enjoy for months to come.

With a little timeand effort, holiday gifts can be a personal way to say “thank you” to your employeesfor their many contributions over the year. Moreover,I think you’ll find that they areas much fun to give as to receive. So, put on your Santa suit (or maybe just aSanta cap) and let the holiday cheer begin.

Stuckon the best way to thank your employees this holiday season? Contact a Marketing Innovators solutions expert for ideas that fit your budget.