Find the perfect gifts to reward your employees for their hard work—and show them just how much you appreciate them.
Everyone loves presents—from kids on Christmas to your 80-year-old grandma on her birthday. Nothing beats the feeling of receiving a gift that someone took the time, energy, and effort to pick out just for you.
That feeling is something money can’t buy—but companies sometimes forget that. According to a recent O.C. Tanner study, 40% of employees feel that the recognition they receive at work feels like an empty gesture. Often, this is a result of employers only recognizing employees with a bonus whenever Christmas or employee appreciation day comes around.
Instead of relying solely on your checkbook, take a more personalized approach to your gift-giving with these great gifts for employee recognition.
1. Help them feel at home—at work
You can help your employees feel like work is their second home with gifts that enhance their comfort at the office. Does Jennifer always have cold feet? Surprise her with a mini space heater. Does Mark’s bad back make it difficult to sit all day? He might love a standing desk converter. Pay attention and make it personal.
2. Give employees a say in the office design
Your surroundings can have a significant impact on everything from your mood to your productivity. Reward your employees with the opportunity to alter the space where they work every day—even if it’s just adding a fresh coat of paint or installing new art pieces.
3. Give the gift of time
A recent poll showed that 74% of millennials ask for flexible work schedules. With this in mind, set up an incentive program where your employees receive occasional rewards of getting to go home early, more PTO, or a chance to sleep in. The few hours they get off will be paid back in harder, more dedicated work.
4. Offer the prime parking spot
Getting to work on time every day can be hard enough without having to worry about where you’re going to park. Give the employee of the week or month the best parking spot right next to the entrance—and watch as everyone’s performance jumps up just to get a chance at it.
5. Create personalized business cards
Help your employees take pride in their abilities with personalized business cards. Work with each team member to select their preferred card design, job title, and contact information. This will also help employees feel that you value them for their individual strengths.
6. Take care of their transportation
Not everyone has dependable transportation or lives within walking distance of work. Repay your employee’s dedication by assisting with bus fare, helping with monthly gas fees, or even investing in a new bicycle. They may not be glamorous, but these are thoughtful gifts that will show how much you care about the little things in your employee’s lives.
7. Celebrate them with Years-of-Service Awards
Don’t let an anniversary or milestone go by without celebrating it. Show your employees you value every second of time spent in the office with unique years-of-service awards—made just for them. OC Tanner’s Yearbook app helps make these moments more meaningful by creating a community where coworkers can celebrate a career together.
8. Let them work from home
This phrase often strikes fear in the hearts of employers, but there’s a simple way to do it right. When working from home is given as a gift to an employee who has earned that trust, it not only rewards that team member, but it also inspires others to follow their example.
9. Match the gift card with the team member
Let’s face it, it’s far easier to hand out money than think of unique gift ideas for every employee—but who says you can’t do both? Instead of generic gift cards, match the card with the team member. Aspiring baker Josh would enjoy a gift card to a kitchen appliance store—whereas hiker Madison would love a gift card to an outdoor equipment center.
10. Give them something they’ve always wanted
If you’re still at a loss for what an employee would love, try letting them pick out the perfect gift for themselves. Have a catalogue of items or let them create their own wishlists, and when they earn enough points or hit a milestone they can choose an award they’ve always wanted. This will give them a tangible goal to strive for while still keeping an element of excitement.
11. Enhance their vacation time
If one of your top-performing employees is taking a break, ensure they get the most out of it by contributing to their vacation in some way. You don’t need to go overboard—a nice meal or a pre-paid tour of a local landmark are great gifts to enhance their trip.
12. Create a night to remember
If the employee you’re celebrating goes above and beyond at work, odds are that they don’t get to relax much at home either. Remedy this by gifting your star employee a night out on the town. Create a bundle that includes a gourmet restaurant, concert or game tickets, and a babysitter if needed.
13. Give them a spotless living space
Your employees live full, busy lives. Surprise them with a house cleaning coupon that will give them a pristine place to come home to after a hard day’s work. This shows your employees that you care about their well-being outside of the office.
14. Contribute to their favorite charity
A recent O.C. Tanner survey revealed that 68% of millennials say “changing the world” is a personal goal they’re working toward. You can help your people feel they are accomplishing this goal by taking a personal interest in the causes they support. Offer employees the opportunity to let you make a donation in their honor.
15. Help with childcare
Not every employee recognition gift needs to be showy. Sometimes what your employees need most is simple help with the everyday parts of life. Help your employees concentrate at the office by assisting with childcare fees and providing flexible hours or opportunities to work from home so they can be with their children.
16. Celebrate company milestones
In-office celebrations are fantastic for both rewarding your employees and giving a company milestone the recognition it deserves. Bond your team together with OC Tanner’s Unite program, and turn every corporate event into a meaningful celebration remembered for years to come.
17. Offer educational masterclasses
Employees who work at companies that provide mentorship opportunities to all employees (not just top performers) are 66% more likely to believe their organization provides an opportunity for career advancement. Masterclasses are fantastic incentives for employees who want to develop their current skills or learn something new.
18. Treat your team to a day out
Even if you love your job, there are few things more reinvigorating than getting to spend a workday out of the office. Take your team to see a movie, go on a tour, or sample fare at a local restaurant. This will give your team a chance to bond together as a work family.
19. Hold an in-office wellness day
Celebrate your team by holding an in-office day dedicated to their wellbeing. A great theme for this is “body, mind and soul.” Poll your people to get their ideas for how they’d like to be treated for the day. You might end up hiring a massage therapist for “body,” learning a new skill for “mind,” and bringing in some puppies for “soul.”
20. Provide company-branded items
Items branded with your company logo and name are great gifts for employee recognition—especially for company-wide recognition. While it’s okay to be playful with a few fun gifts, make sure the items you choose are actually useful for your employees, such as blankets, socks, and mugs.
21. Help employees attend conferences
You’re always striving to improve your business; similarly, your employees are always striving to improve themselves. Help your people grow by giving them opportunities to attend educational conferences and seminars where they can learn and network.
22. Design a few DIY trophies
For an inexpensive employee appreciation idea, you need to get a little creative. Scour your local thrift shop or craft store to find items to create customized trophies for employees. These trophies don’t always have to be serious (Linda in accounting is “#1 at Not Texting in Meetings”), but they should always be sincere.
Recognition ideas are only as effective as the tools you use to implement them. Use OC Tanner’s employee recognition program to bring your ideas to life and infuse sincere recognition into the heart of your culture. We help turn every employee win into a company-wide victory.
Now that you’ve been inspired by some of our employee recognition ideas, it’s time to make them your own. Remember, personalization should always be your starting point for any recognition gift. Pay attention to your workers, help supervisors get to know their teams—and most importantly, show your employees that you see them as people first, employees second.
More Employee Recognition Resources
There are so many different ways to recognize, appreciate, and celebrate your employees. Here are more resources for guidance:
• Guide to Employee Recognition Programs
• 11 Employee Recognition Ideas
• 22 Awesome Employee Recognition Gift Ideas
• 9 Tips for How to Choose Employee Recognition Software
• Heartfelt Employee Appreciation Quotes to Say "Thank You"
• Benefits of Peer to Peer Recognition
• Best Practices for Virtual Employee Recognition
• Guide to Years of Service Awards
• Tips to Celebrate Work Anniversaries
• Employee Recognition in the Modern Workplace
• Victories: Modern Recognition Software
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