Can Gift Giving Transform Your Leadership Team?
It’s the thought that counts.
We usually remind ourselves of this — silently, as we hope our faces don’t betray us! — when someone delivers a present that just doesn’t land. Whether it’s a gift card to a store we don’t shop at, a bottle of wine when we don’t imbibe, or an “As Seen on TV” wonder (as in: I wonder what to do with this?), we do believe it’s that the thought counts. But, really, how much thought did the person actually put into it!?
(As in: How much thought do you put into gift giving when it comes to your people?)
Gifts are one powerful way to build meaningful relationships and a healthy work culture. And those gifts, in turn, keep on giving.
Gifts — By the Numbers
Gift giving is not new! Not even a little bit. It’s certainly not a revolutionary idea. In fact, there’s evidence that cavemen gave one another presents. An animal tooth, a bone, an attractively or unusually shaped rock. Why? To show appreciation. To show affection. To build relationships. To woo. To get something back in return!
But it comes down to this: they did it to connect.
A gift (the right gift) is so essentially human. In giving, leaders differentiate themselves, providing a welcome change in a world that is so often faceless, nameless, and anonymous. They also reach right into the heart of organizational health: acknowledging, recognizing, and expressing gratitude to the people who work every day to make it all work. It matters — and people notice when you don’t.
If you had to distill the so-essentially human act of gift giving down to numbers, if you had to calculate the ROI… you can.
- It’s an expectation today, particularly with younger employees. Nearly half (45%) of those aged 30-44 expect a gift from their employer during the holidays. (The other 55% want one too but perhaps don’t anticipate it!)
- Frequent and formal recognition are tied to retention. Companies see a 41% increase in retention with frequent displays of acknowledgement, while those with formal programs have 31% less voluntary turnover — and they’re 12 times more likely to have strong business outcomes. Meanwhile, people who are not recognized are twice as likely to quit before the next holiday season.
- Gifts boost productivity. Most (80%) of employees believe gifts motivate them to meet or exceed goals, and 90% say recognition prompts them to work harder.
- Giving creates connections. A healthy 69% of employees say that rewards — meaningful ones — increase loyalty, while 20% say gifts help them feel more connected to their employer.
Gift giving conveys value, appreciation, and worth. All thoughts that most certainly count!
It’s Not the Gift… But, Yes, It’s the Gift
Were you surprised that only 20% of employees say that gifts make them feel connected to their employer? But maybe it’s not so unexpected because of the manner in which it was given, who the giver was, or, of course, the gift itself. Come on, how special would you feel if someone scrounged around in the supply room and came up with a branded mug or (another) branded mouse pad? (Who even uses mousepads?)
In one study, for example, 42% of employees surveyed said they received a gift they did not want. Over half (56%) reported receiving a gift that was “generic” and “impersonal.” It’s not that they are ungrateful — it’s that they don’t feel appreciated, valued, or known.
The problem is that many senior leaders don’t know how to show care well. Sometimes, many times, giving a good gift is a remarkably effective way to do this — but a lot of leaders don’t know what makes a good gift, especially if they are not that close to the recipient. Gift-giving is a great way to push yourself to practice listening skills. After all, the best gifts come because you’ve listened when someone mentioned how much they loved that or what a big fan they are of this.
And it’s important that you give it. People value recognition, especially from top leaders. According to Gallup data, 28% of employees say the most memorable recognition came from their manager. For 24%, it came from the CEO.
Giving with Purpose
Gift giving is one way, within a larger human relations strategy, to foster a healthy culture. Arguably, the best leaders, HR professionals, teams, and salespeople are already doing this. But how well are they doing it? How well are you doing it?
To give a gift that will keep on giving:
- Be Generous. Earmark a budget that allows for meaningful gifts. While the cost is not the sole predictor that a recipient will like it, enjoy it, and feel valued because of it, they will certainly know if you took the cheap (and generic) way out.
- Be Proactive. Start your gift-giving initiatives early so you are not scrambling for branded pens (or worse, those mousepads) at the last minute. Give intentionally.
- Be Savvy. Equip people and implement systems that make gift giving smoother, more seamless, and ensures that it isn’t a big lump of coal for everyone involved. This could mean using gifting platforms (e.g. Sendoso, Alyce, Snacknation, Snappy, Swagup, etc.) or setting up a good old spreadsheet with deliverables (e.g. have chat with Marty in IT), due dates (e.g. “order her New York Yankees jersey by 20 November”), and responsibilities (e.g. gift selection — you! — ordering, shipping, wrapping, card writing, presenting — someone!)
It’s better to give than to receive, as they say! For leaders, it is one powerful way to ensure your people feel seen and heard, valued, and appreciated for their efforts. They more than return the favour when it comes to engagement, productivity, and connection. If that’s exactly what your team needs, it might be time to get gifting!