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What your employees are really wanting this holiday season

by | Nov 21, 2023

As we usher in another holiday season, the specter of global challenges looms large, from geopolitical tensions to economic uncertainties and inflationary pressures.  Despite these outside stressors, one thing remains constant: employees still enjoy feeling valued and appreciated during the festive season, especially when expressed through thoughtful holiday gifts from their employers.

The Crux of Employee Desires:  Choice

So, what is it that employees truly want?  The answer is surprisingly straightforward: choice.  Much like the growing demand for flexibility in work arrangements – be it remote, hybrid, or in-office – employees are seeking a similar level of flexibility and empowerment when it comes to holiday gifts.  Providing them with options allows them to choose what resonates with them, transforming the gift into a more meaningful and impactful gesture.

According to a recent study conducted by Tremendous, encompassing 1,500 U.S.-based employees across diverse demographics, geography and industries, the most highly valued holiday gifts are those that offer choice.

  • Money or Gift Cards (e.g., Visa, Amazon): Optimal denominations suggest around $100, recognizing that such gifts are taxable.  Enhance the personal touch by accompanying it with a handwritten “thank you for all you do” note from the CEO.
  • Extra Paid Bonus Day Off: Beyond the standard holiday allowance, this gift provides employees with the freedom to spend an additional day according to their preferences.

Navigating Gift-Giving Pitfalls

While the right gift can uplift spirits, there’s always a risk of missing the mark.  Some items that will score lower include:

  • Company swag: Best reserved for company events.
  • Turkeys or Hams: Insensitive to the dietary preferences of vegan and vegetarian employees.
  • Box of Chocolates: Not considerate of employees with dietary restrictions.
  • Pen Holders or Personalized Notebooks: With the rising shift to paperless work environments, these items may not align with the preferences of all employees.

The ROI of Holiday Gifts

Employers may wonder if there is a return on investment (ROI) on holiday gifts.  Actually, research indicates a significant impact on employee morale and productivity.  A study conducted this year by the American Psychological Association with Harris Interactive reveals that employees feeling valued by their employers are considerably more motivated to give their best effort (93% vs. 33%).  While there is no substitute for salary increases or promotions, a well-thought-out gift, coupled with the emotional resonance of a handwritten thank-you note, spreads holiday cheer and certainly contributes to enhanced employee engagement.

This holiday season don’t miss out.  Recognize the power of choice in gift-giving.  By acknowledging the diverse preferences of your workforce, you not only express appreciation, but also foster a sense of empowerment, contributing to a positive and diverse-sensitive work atmosphere.

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About the Author

Mary Toland Shaw, MHR, SHRM-SCP

Mary Toland Shaw, MHR, SHRM-SCP

Talent Optimization Partner

Mary is an Executive Human Resources professional and coach, bringing 30+ years of experience gained with predominantly fast-growing software solutions companies. Passionate in guiding executive leadership teams in creating initiatives that enhance an internal sense of meaningful purpose and engagement in employees. Unlocking this human component serves as a predominant business results accelerator.