Meaningful Ways to Give Thanks to Your Employees

This year, choose gifts that tie to key benchmarks of employee satisfaction.

By Tamra Chandler, CEO, PeopleFirm

Maybe it’s a drawer at the office or a box in the garage, but chances are you have some place where well-intentioned work gifts are stashed away and forgotten. Peek inside and you’ll likely find a clock, a paperweight, or a branded polo shirt.

Company gifts are well meaning but often impersonal or generic, providing no real value for the employee. The right gift, however, will generate goodwill for the holiday season and boost long-lasting employee satisfaction.

This year, choose gifts that tie to key benchmarks of employee satisfaction. Zero in on the areas that need the most bolstering for your staff and use the guide below to give gifts that will enhance morale, performance, and loyalty. As a result, your gestures—small or large, monetary or not—will feel personal and connected to the employee’s goals.


A key factor to employee satisfaction is the physical workspace. Because we spend long hours at work, often without moving much from one area, our environment can greatly affect mood, productivity, and happiness. Research shows that improving work environment can reduce complaints and absenteeism.

  • Because the holiday season can be slower in some businesses, this can be the perfect time to add new equipment or furniture.
  • If you don’t have the budget for large changes, small gifts such as plants (shown to reduce stress and improve focus and mood), desk lamps, or picture frames can make cubicles feel homier.
  • Team gifts such as a new rug or coffee maker are a way to say thank you to a group of employees and boost team spirit.

Meaningful Relationships with Coworkers

Employees are happiest when they feel respected by their co-workers and when they trust that everyone is working together for a common goal. The holiday season is a perfect time to build team morale.

  • Take the whole team out to a meal or activity where there is opportunity for bonding. Consider a volunteer opportunity, which promotes collaboration, leadership, and communication.
  • Cultivate opportunities for employees to give thanks to their coworkers publically. A meeting or get-together where people share what they are thankful for at work can be powerful and impactful.

Meaningful Relationships with Supervisors

The most effective employee/supervisor relationships are built on trust, transparency, and positive reinforcement. The holidays are a great time for supervisors to check in and connect.

  • A simple, handwritten thank you card can go a long way.
  • Give gifts to direct reports that show care about that employee’s outside-of-work life. A gift card to a favorite restaurant, a book they’ll love, or tickets to a sporting or arts event are all great ways to say thanks.

Work/Life Balance and Stress Management

One of the best gifts you can give employees is the trust that they can balance work life and home life. Freedom and opportunities for self-management lead to increased engagement and ownership. Knowing that the company cares about your well-being makes an employee, in turn, care more.

  • One of the best gifts you can give is time. Consider granting a paid half-day or giving employees a free comp day to use when they want in the coming year.
  • If you’re hesitant to dole out vacation time, think about ways to relive stress—just steer clear of the over-gifted company stress ball. Bring in a masseuse to do 15-minute sessions with employees, or consider gift cards for childcare, a local grocery store, or dry cleaning.

Financial Rewards

In order for employees to feel satisfied, they need to believe they are being rewarded fairly for their work. This doesn’t mean you have to dole out huge bonuses in order for employees to feel compensated, but this is a great time of year to be transparent about the company’s financial situation and share with employees what you can. The gesture will be meaningful, no matter the size, if everyone understands the reality of the current financial picture.

Tamra Chandler is a founding partner and CEO of PeopleFirm, a strategy and implementation consulting firm passionate about a single mission: helping clients achieve a competitive advantage through their people. PeopleFirmpartners with clients to design and implement talent-centric solutions that address today’s workforce challenges. The company’s service areas include People Strategy, Organizational Performance, Talent Management, and Change Management.


Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.