December 15 2021

Top 5 employee thank you gifts to avoid (and what to do instead)

’Tis the season to be jolly, but what will you be doing this year to thank your employees for their hard work? We all have good intentions when it comes to choosing employee thank you gifts. But sometimes organisations inadvertently get it terribly wrong. Read on to discover the top 5 employee thank you gifts to avoid and some great alternative ways to say thank you. 

Why thank your employees at Christmas?

Christmas gifts for employees aren’t just a ‘nice to do’: they are a vital part of keeping your employees motivated and productive. The need to be recognised and appreciated is a basic human one and one that gets magnified in the workplace. 

Employee appreciation is also important when it comes to retention due to the positive impact on employee engagement that recognition has. One report shows that 85% of engaged employees plan on sticking around compared to 27% of disengaged employees (BlessingWhite, 2008, The State of Employee Engagement). 

Happy employees are good for business

A recent study at Oxford University revealed that there was a direct link between happy employees and productivity. When employees are happy their productivity leaps by around 20%. So prioritising your employees’ happiness is good for business too. 

Since 2021 has become known as the year of the Great Resignation, organisations need to focus on increasing levels of employee engagement in 2022. One of the key ways to tackle employee engagement is ensuring that employee rewards and recognition forms part of your HR strategy. 

One thank-you gift for a diverse workforce? 

Finding meaningful ways to thank your employees has always been, and continues to be a challenge. With a workforce diverse in age and interests, there are countless employee thank you gifts you should avoid.

As well as a diverse workforce, you probably have employees working across different locations too. There’s been immense growth in hybrid working and 2 in 5 employers are expected to embrace this by 2023 according to research by Willis Towers Watson (2021). 

Consequently, organisations need to ensure that employee gifts resonate with everyone, whether they work from the office or from home. 

Employee thank you gifts to avoid

With a clearer understanding of why thoughtful employee gifts are so important, you’re probably now thinking what makes the perfect gift? 

To help make your job of deciding how to thank your staff this year easier, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 employee thank you gifts to avoid:

5. Trivial dress down days

Dress down days always bring back memories of non-school uniform days as a child. For some, this was the perfect opportunity to show off but not everyone enjoyed having to decide on the perfect outfit.

Your employees may still have these mixed feelings today when it comes to dress down days. When there’s a dress code or uniform, everyone knows what to wear and everyone knows how to fit in. Take this away and you can make colleagues stand out in ways that make them feel uncomfortable. 

If employees value the freedom of choosing what they wear, why not consider organising a day out instead? Then employees can dress for that rather than worrying about being perceived differently at work. 

4. Bring-your-own-food workplace events 

When you’re looking for employee gift ideas, try to focus on what employees will really appreciate. Often this is being made to feel special or even getting some of their precious time back. 

So when organising events like after-work drinks at the office or Christmas buffets, take a minute to think about what you’re asking your employees to do. Often these types of events call for some food, but asking your employees to bring their own tends to put a damper on it.  

Your employees work hard all year, so giving them more work to do by way of making or buying food for events isn’t going to make them feel appreciated. The chance to relax goes a long way, so bring in the caterers and spoil them. This will be received much better and is far more likely to make your employees feel valued.

3. Company merchandise

From pens and mouse mats to stress balls and mini jenga sets, company merchandise is definitely eclectic, but it’s often poor quality. While company-branded merchandise might be perfect for handing out at events and while networking, the real value of these items is normally pretty low. 

Using this kind of merchandise as a gift for your employees is unlikely to go down well with your employees. Now, if you decide to invest in some high-quality company products like company swag, then that’s a different story. But be sure to put real thought into it.

2. An expensive Christmas party

A Christmas party in itself isn’t an automatic fail when it comes to showing employee appreciation. They can be a great way for your teams to bond and to be made to feel special.  

But have you stopped to consider the cost implications for employees attending the Christmas party (at an already expensive time of year)? Dazzling your colleagues at the Christmas party can be expensive when you consider costs such as:

  • Travel 
  • Hotel rooms
  • Hiring or buying evening wear 
  • Drinks

What starts as a fun idea can actually be the cause of a lot of stress for employees who are likely to have many other expenses at this time of year. Before planning your Christmas party, think about your employees and their financial situations. Involving your employees in party planning decisions can be a great way to ensure you nail it. 

1. A pay rise

Pay rises are a vital part of employee reward and can have an extremely positive effect on staff motivation and productivity. Employees will always be grateful for a pay rise but using pay rises to thank employees may leave them feeling undervalued. So what’s a better alternative? 

An end of year bonus is a great way to show your employees you appreciate all their hard work during the year. Seeing that their hard work translates to company success, and that company success brings personal financial reward can be really motivating for employees.

Don’t go abandoning pay rises by the way! Just avoid using these as an employee thank you gift. 

Key takeaways

Employees aren’t necessarily looking for high-value gifts at Christmas. All that they really want is something that has meaning and something that makes them feel appreciated. This needn’t cost the earth.

Choose something simple and thoughtful that has genuine value to thank your employees. 

“It’s the thought that counts” holds a great deal of truth when considering Christmas gifts for employees. Anything that shows your employees that you truly appreciate them and their efforts will be chalked up as a win.

How we can help

Are you considering more strategic ways to recognise and reward your employees? Giving your employees the freedom to choose when they get paid can be a real game-changer. 

Christmas should be a time of enjoyment, but for many, it can also be a cause of financial stress. By offering your employees the ability to access their pay when they need to, it shows your employees that you care about their wellbeing.

Using the Openwage app and at no cost to your organisation or impact on cash flow, employees can access a portion of their earned pay. This flexible approach to pay means that employees aren’t left feeling stressed out while waiting for payday.

If you’d like to know more about this financial wellbeing benefit, get in touch now and we’ll be happy to show you the ways on-demand pay can benefit your employees and your organisation.