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Brad Callahan
Vice President, Business Solutions Group

Holiday Gifts for Employees Are an Opportunity to Be Creative

When managers think of holiday gifts for employees, they often standardize the event by giving the same kind of gift year in and year out. If you find yourself choosing the same gift option every year, maybe it’s time to break the pattern and get creative. By switching your focus from the gift to the employee, you’ll find lots of options, limited only by your willingness to know your employees, their interests and your own creativity.

We’ve found that the more time and effort organizations put into really understanding recipients of a holiday gift, the more powerful that gift’s impact. Looking at gift cards, merchandise, and pre-paid cards, we know that all pack a dose of holiday cheer, but each has a particular flavor and works best when targeted closely to the intended 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’s where 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-oriented retailers like LL Bean or REI would be a hit. If you know your employees’ hobbies and interests, you’ll find a gift card that resonates.

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

Pre-paid debit cards. This deeper understanding of employees also extends to gifts that offer theflexibility of cash, such as pre-paid cards. These cards can be issued in any amount, and they can be used at any time during the holiday. For example, say that you’re aware of the generous nature of a particular employee. A pre-paid debit card would enable that employee to share the holiday cheer with others—maybe by taking their family to a restaurant to celebrate or by using the card to purchase a special gift that might otherwise not be in their budget. By the way, you could also give a gift card for use at a particular restaurant if you know there’s one your employee especially enjoys.

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

Delicacies. Consider Omaha Steaks, Lobster Gram Dinner, Harry and David food baskets delivered directly to an employee’s home or gift cards to local grocery stores. Again, this choice allows 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 about holding it in the early afternoon and then giving employees the rest of the day off—a few more personal hours during this busy season is something everyone appreciates. If you hold a catered, in-office event, pump up the holiday spirit with decorations and grab bag gifts.

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

Rotating use of the “best” spot in the company parking lot. Difficult to gift wrap, but much appreciated by employees, especially after a long commute in bad weather.

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

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

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