What’s in Management’s Holiday Bag?

By Brian O'Connell December 7, 2021
What’s in Management’s Holiday Bag?

​The holidays are here, along with a long list of gifts to buy for family, friends and—if one is a company leader—employees.

Make no mistake: Executives are more giving-oriented than Grinch-like when it comes to holiday gifts for employees this year. That's especially the case at a time when the Great Resignation looms large over the corporate landscape, and when valuable employees may need some extra persuasion to stay on the job.

According to a November 2021 survey from Snappy, an online gifting services platform in New York City, nearly 6 in 10 employees say meaningful holiday gifts from their employer would make them more likely to stay in their jobs.

"Some organizations still don't realize how important it is to show appreciation to their employees for all their hard work," said Hani Goldstein, co-founder and CEO of Snappy. "It's a missed opportunity that later on has a big cost. A small end-of-year gift to celebrate accomplishments can go a long way and has a huge impact on how employees feel at work and on their future contribution to the company."

What Company Leaders Are Giving This Year

A quick canvass of company managers, executives and business owners reveals that many are giving workers gifts this holiday season.

"Yes, we are giving gifts this year," said Chris Gardner, CEO of PaintRite Pros, a commercial and residential  painting company in Elk Grove, Calif. "In a year where many people have had every excuse not to work, we want to reward them for coming in and doing their jobs."

Gardner's not into providing traditional employer gifts like a company pen or sweatshirt. "We never felt those gifts are received well," he said. "A mug with our logo on it just doesn't seem to get people excited. Instead, we're focusing on giving people extra time off or taking them out to a fun team activity such as an escape room or a free lunch."

Other company leaders are choosing "experience" holiday gifts over traditional ones, too.

"Gone are the days when corporations give mugs with their company logo printed on it," said Wayne Connors, managing director of ACCL, a London-based cable services company. "This year I'm considering giving my employees virtual gifts by enrolling them in online courses. That should help with their professional growth, or if they use the experience to engage in a new hobby."

Giving staffers a learning experience isn't just good for the employee, it's also good for the company.

"The pandemic has shifted the world in the digital space and so, I think it is about time to normalize e-learning gifts," Connors added.

More Unique Gifts

With the environmental, social and governance (ESG) movement shifting into high gear, other company leaders are encouraging staffers to tap into their charitable side this holiday season.

iCASH, a fintech company based in Montreal that specializes in online lending, plans to get staffers together to provide a day of service in the community. But that's just for starters. "We also plan to present our employees with Christmas baskets containing Italian food and drink products," said Dror Zaifman, director of digital marketing for iCASH.

VEM Tooling, a mold manufacturing company in Clovis, Calif., is giving remote workers a "tech lovers" box to make life easier for them.

"Basically, the gift box helps workers stay connected with a cable organizer, blue-light-blocking glasses to safeguard the eyes against excessive screen time damage, a portable charger and leather mouse pad, among other tools," said David Reid, the company's sales director.  

VEM Tooling is also offering workers "painted" Apple AirPods—a "step-up" gift for team members who haveperformed exceptionally well during the year.

"We feel it's a one-of-a-kind worker gift that leaves a lasting impact," Reid said.

Business leaders can also get creative with gifts that keep on giving.

"We wanted to get our employees something slightly different this year," said Dean Botham, market manager at Jaydee Living Ltd, a sustainable building products company in Tewkesbury, UK. "It's been a successful year and I wanted to celebrate by gifting our employees in a way that had nothing to with work."

Botham's idea? High-quality wooden planters that allow employees to grow the plants of their choice.

"We thought the planter would be the perfect gift for our team members," Botham added. "We're also rewarding the employee who keeps their plant alive the longest."

The Takeaway on Management Gift-Giving in 2021

The pandemic has been hard on workers and a holiday gift—along with, perhaps, a separate year-end bonus—can go a long way toward making a team member feel appreciated after an arduous year.

"Thoughtful gifts do make a difference," said Jonathan Tian, co-founder of Mobitrix Perfix, a New York City-based iPhone services and solutions provider. "I'm a coffee aficionado and I drink up to six cups a day. One year, I received the Breville espresso machine as a holiday gift and it was the most engaging gift I ever received. The machine was personalized [with] my name and designation, too."

This year, Tian is personalizing his holiday gifts to match team members' personal tastes.

"I do think holiday gifts should be functional, just like my coffee maker," he said. "We want to give something employees can proudly display or use, and our gifts are focused on the employee's unique style or personality."

Brian O'Connell is a freelance writer based in Bucks County, Pa. A former Wall Street trader, he is the author of the books CNBC Creating Wealth, (John Wiley & Sons, 2001) and The Career Survival Guide, (McGraw-Hill, 2004).



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SHRM's Employee Engagement Survey service focuses on more than 50 aspects of job satisfaction and engagement commonly linked to performance.

SHRM's Employee Engagement Survey service focuses on more than 50 aspects of job satisfaction and engagement commonly linked to performance.



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