Secrets to the Holiday Gift Every Employee Wants

by Lynette Silva

Give the gift of thanksRecognize This! – The best gift anyone can give or receive is the gift of thanks.

What’s the most fraught HR decision/situation this time of year? Easy answer – the office holiday party. Setting aside some of the more drama-filled scenes and stories (though I enjoyed Tim Sackett’s holiday party rules), the holiday party is a good way to celebrate a year’s worth of hard work and success as well as an opportunity to strengthen relationships with colleagues.

If the holiday party is the most fraught situation, what’s the second most? I submit, it’s the holiday gift, end-of-year bonus, etc. Why would a gift or a bonus (arguably, both desired by the recipient) be such a challenge? The top reason is because it’s annual. When recognition and rewards are held in reserve, expectations and anticipation often grow exponentially (and out of whack with realities of the business). That’s why frequent and timely recognition throughout the year is a top driver of more human workplaces.

A recent blog post by Ben Eubanks highlights three factors of social recognition that have the most impact on creating a more positive employee experience:

  1. Aligned with Desired Behaviors – How do you need people to behave, every day, in every role? The answer is likely codified in your core values, but do your employees even know what your core values are? (This recent survey says nearly half of employees don’t.) Make it easy for anyone in your organization to recognize and appreciate colleagues for living those values in their daily work. That makes your core values come alive – in people’s hearts as well as their heads.
  1. Differentiated based on Contribution — What did the person do that’s deserving of recognition? Leading a significant project that potentially saves the company millions certainly deserves far more than a pat on the back and casual, “Thanks for all you do.” Instead structure multiple award levels differentiated based on level of effort, contribution, time invested and result achieved.
  1. Appropriate to the Person – Never forget the incredible variability of us humans. What’s personal and meaningful to you (a donation to your favorite charity, perhaps) could be very different than what’s personal and meaningful to me (a runaway escape weekend). Avoid the nightmare of the unwanted (or worse, insulting) gift. True stories include the giving of a steakhouse gift card to a vegan and tickets to the latest hot theater production to a single mom who couldn’t get childcare for the night of the show. Instead, make it fun and easy for the recipients to choose their own meaningful rewards.

Finally, this holiday season, the greatest gift anyone can give or receive is the gift of thanks. Because to say “thank you” means “I see you. I notice you. You are valuable. You matter.”

Who will you give the gift of thanks to this year?

Lynette Silva

About Lynette Silva

Facts and stats run through Lynette Silva’s veins. She uses her wealth of data and knowledge to help customers build strong business cases for the power of thanks to increase employee engagement, retention, productivity, and performance. In her role as senior recognition strategist and consultant at Globoforce, she’s also a frequently requested speaker and session leader. Lynette holds a B.S. and M.S in History Education from Boston University.

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