November 15, 2023
January 26, 2022

Employee Gifts: Better Than Rewards?

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Close your eyes and think of the word “award.” What comes to mind? What emotions—oh, you can open your eyes now. What emotions do you feel when you think of awards? Pride for achieving something great? Disappointment for missing out?

Now think of the word “gift.” What comes to mind now? Feelings of gratitude? Memories of birthdays with friends or the smile on a loved one’s face as they open the perfect present? And let’s be real, maybe also disappointment as you open a gift from your great aunt Agnes, who you never see, and it’s some weird knickknack you don’t want? We’ve all been there.

The point is, awards and rewards have their place in the world, and they even have their place in the work environment. But at Awardco, we believe gifts are far more important in the workplace than awards can ever be—and all it takes is a simple reframing of how we think of gifts vs awards.

Many organizations still hold to traditional models of service awards or think of bonuses as rewards for a job well done. However, it’s time for a shift in our mindsets. We, as business leaders and HR worker extraordinaires, should think of these things as gifts to our employees, not awards. They should be things we give freely because we care, not things that have to be earned.

Why Are Gifts So Important?

The psychology behind gift-giving can be a complex and lengthy study, so let’s just focus on the basics. Humans give gifts for two reasons: to make the recipient happy because we care about their happiness, and to strengthen the relationship between the giver and the recipient.

When you give a gift to a friend, you want to see them smile and you want to strengthen that bond of friendship. When you give a gift to your spouse, you want to show them that you value your relationship and that you love them.

As long as the gifts are thoughtful and personalized, the recipient will respond with feelings of joy, excitement, and closeness. 

What About Gifts for Employees?

Despite what some may think, these benefits are something you should definitely want in the workplace as well. No, you probably shouldn’t try to show romantic love to your employees, but you should absolutely want to build a relationship between them and the company. And gifts are the best way to do that.

To play the devil’s advocate, some people say “Isn’t cash enough? Shouldn’t a paycheck be enough to engender feelings of happiness, loyalty, and belonging?” Well, no. In fact, the majority of people who have quit throughout the Great Resignation have quit because they don’t feel valued, comfortable, or happy at work, not because they didn't make enough money (and besides, employees don’t see their paychecks as a gift—it’s something they’re owed for their time).

In order to make employees feel like they matter to a company, you have to go above and beyond a paycheck or regular benefits. This is where gifting comes in.

Rethink Employee Gifts

Think back to how gifting makes you feel. When you give or receive a great gift, you feel great, right? That’s how a good gift for your employees will feel, too. A personalized gift will show them that you care about them individually, and, in turn, employees will have a greater relationship with your organization.

Shift From Awards/Rewards to Gifts

Rewards and awards have their place at work. If you’ve set up a quarterly goal for your company, you’ll want to reward everyone if you hit it. If your sales team nails their sales incentive, award them for their efforts. 

We’re not saying don’t award and reward your employees—not at all. But what we are saying is that we need to change the way we think of awards and rewards in the workplace. We need to think of them as gifts. Just that little tweak in our thought process can bring about some major changes in how we view employee rewards. 

For example, think about the last time you gave a gift to someone you care about. Did you fret for an unreasonable amount of time, trying to come up with the perfect gift? Did you make sure to wrap it just right so that there were no creases or tears? That type of care really shows your appreciation, and employees will reflect that in renewed motivation, productivity, and connection to your company.

On the flip side, incentive-based awards or performance-based rewards aren’t very creative for each person. You may reward an employee with some extra cash, or you may give a team a pizza party. While these are fun, they don’t have the benefits of a thoughtful gift.

Examples for Your Own Workplace

Gifts are the perfect way to make everyone feel appreciated, and when you do them right, each of your employees will have a strong relationship with your company. Here are some ways to rethink gifting in your workplace:

  • Service Awards. Instead of thinking of these as rewards for surviving another year, think of these as gifts of appreciation. Your employees have stuck around for an entire year! Show them you care by choosing a personalized, unique gift that they’ll love.
  • Holiday gifts. Holidays are the perfect time to give gifts to your employees, and 86% of employees say that receiving a holiday gift would make them feel valued. Plus, 45% of employees believe that the gift they receive reflects their value at the company. So think of great gifts for each of your employees to make them feel like a valued member of the team.
  • Recognition gifts. Recognition at work shouldn’t be saved for the top-tier employees. One of the best ways to recognize the people around you is with a thoughtful gift. This can show even the most introverted employee who works behind the scenes that you recognize their efforts and care about them as a person.

The best part is, if you use a recognition platform with reward points (i.e. Awardco), you can provide a gift of points to each employee that allows them to buy what they want. Those points are easy to send out, no matter which goals or celebrations you’re rewarding, and that employee-choice could take your gifts to the next level.

Let’s Wrap This Up

Gifts should have a far larger part in most businesses than they do now. The key is shifting your mindset. Yes, employees should be rewarded for their good work—that’s vital! And yet, gifts (i.e. rewards) have more of an impact when they’re thoughtful and personalized.

As a final disclaimer, don’t have the mindset of “we are the most gracious and giving company of all, and our employees should now be more loyal,” (we’re sure you wouldn’t think that—but we’re still covering our bases). Your gifts should only be motivated by the care you feel for your employees, not in the hopes of getting back benefits.

For more on how to give gifts, when to give gifts, and what gifts are good gifts, check out our Employee Gifting Guide (have we said “gifts” enough yet?).