Happy New Year! Our first blog article in 2014 focuses on the art of giving employee gifts.
Over the years, I've received a lot of employee gifts — most of them given during the holiday season. And while I'm thankful for all of them and the thought behind them, some were definitely hits and others misses.
Here's a run-down of just a few of the gifts I've been given over the years:
- The frozen turkey that had to be picked up at a butcher with inconvenient hours, located a 20-minute drive from my home. It was so small it wasn't useful for any family gathering over the holidays. (miss)
- The beautiful pewter ornament I treasure to this day. (hit – but I like Christmas ornaments)
- The extra vacation day. (big hit)
- The branded denim shirt that was too large for even my husband to wear. (miss)
- The wine, coffee, chocolates… (hit – but I'm pretty open taste-wise)
- The Christmas music CD (miss – not my taste)
The thing is, it's really hard to come up with a gift all your employees will like.
It has to be something appropriate for all, regardless of culture, religious practices, family situation, etc. It has to be the right price — not too cheap and not too expensive. It has to be personal — not some generic tchotchke. And yet it has to be general enough to appeal to everyone's preferences.
Rarely will you give something that everyone likes and will use.
Well this holiday, I received what I think is the "best employee gift EVER".
First I'll tell you why, then I'll tell you what it is.
It's suitable for everyone
This employee gift doesn't scream "Christmas", so it's perfect for a multi-cultural group. It's great for anyone over the age of eight. It's not consumable, so there's no problem with dietary restrictions, customs or preferences, or with allergies. It's truly one size fits all (remember that shirt!).
It provides long-term enjoyment
It's something that I'll enjoy over several months. It will generate memories and give me great stories to tell.
It's environmentally friendly
It has limited packaging, all of which is made from recycled materials. That this employee gift is environmentally friendly aligns nicely with our corporate culture and focus on corporate social responsibility. And we have a corporate safe disposal program for the one element that's not easily recyclable.
It invites each of us to use our "smarts" and creativity
We're a marketing team, and this employee gift challenges us to use our diverse marketing skills.
But it will also require us to use our creativity and knowledge of things like physics, materials and weather.
We'll need to leverage our leadership, communication, persuasion, negotiation, conflict resolution, organization, teaching/mentoring, time-management, project management, research, goal-setting and recognition skills.
And though all of that might sound like it involves a lot of work — this employee gift is going to be really fun. I expect we'll have some great laughs over it.
It shows my manager cares
Clearly my manager put a lot of her own thought and creativity into this employee gift. This tells me that her team is important to her. That she thinks we’re worth the time and effort. That she cares about us. That's a great gift in itself.
And the best reason… it encourages team building and engagement
It's an employee gift that invites me to work on a collaborative activity with my colleagues, so it will help us get to know each other better and become a stronger team.
So what is it?
It’s an electric conversion kit for paper airplanes!
As part of this employee gift, our department has been assigned to small teams, and tasked with building, branding and marketing a fleet of high performance paper airplanes. (All without interfering with our day-to-day responsibilities of course.)
It is a competition. Our teams will be rated on brand (name, icon, slogan, USP), flight distance, and esprit de corp.
This employee gift keeps on giving because our flight trials will take place at a team outing later this year. And of course, we'll have to get together several times to strategize, plan, build, trial, etc.
And there's a prize for the winning team. They get a gift certificate to the entertainment venue of their choice.
Providing the opportunity to use our creativity and business smarts while working together towards a common goal means this gift isn’t just thoughtful; it’s well thought out.
I'll keep you posted on our progress and results. Something tells me there will be some great stories (and photos!) to share in future.
Your turn: What's the best employee gift you ever received from your employer or boss? What's the worst? Share in the comments section below.