Leadership Playbook Excerpt
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When you find an opportunity to recognize an employee’s great work, consider recognizing their performance with personalized gifts.

Overview

Consider purchasing a personal gift as a method of recognizing a team member’s contributions. Ask their co-workers for inspiration, select something from their Amazon wishlist, or order company swag with their name on it.

Why We Give Personalized Gifts

“It’s the thought that counts” is a common turn of phrase used when people receive undesirable gifts, but it’s also a truism when receiving the perfect gift. Knowing that you took time out of your day to consider what a team member wants may be just as meaningful to them as the gift itself.

Additionally, the value of other types of recognition can depend upon what the person values. However, you’re guaranteed to leave a positive impression when buying something on a person’s wishlist. After all, they selected the gift themselves. They just weren’t expecting you to be the one to buy it for them, and likely didn’t expect to receive it in the middle of their work day.

Giving a gift at work is also a special event. Don’t be surprised if your gift recipient places their prize somewhere for all to see. Instead of one moment of recognition, the team member may receive several throughout the day. As others notice their gift, they’ll have the opportunity to retell what good work they did to warrant your gift. It’s a way for the gift recipient to brag a bit without appearing self-aggrandizing.

How We Recognize Performance with Personalized Gifts

Choosing the right gift

The gift should be personally meaningful to the recipient. Your gift is most impactful when it holds personal meaning to the gift recipient. If you’re unsure of the appropriateness of your gift, ask co-workers or mutual friends for their thoughts before completing the purchase. There are numerous methods to find an appropriate gift. Below are a few possibilities for choosing the right gift.

Review their online wish lists

Search for the person’s wish list on Amazon.com or other shopping sites you know they visit. If you can’t find an online wish list and wish to maintain the element of surprise, ask a co-worker or office manager to find out by asking the gift recipient for you. The best long-term approach to handling this is to request links to wish lists for every employee, either as part of new employee onboarding or an upcoming gift-giving holiday.

Consider their interests

If you know the person well, look for gifts related to their interests. Alternatively, ask their co-workers for gift ideas. If no one comes up with anything, you can ask about their hobbies, what they do after work, what TV shows they watch, or what games they play. Casual conversation should turn up a few ideas for things you can give them.

Personalize company swag

Engaged employees are proud to work for their company. Therefore, consider presenting recognition-worthy employees with personalized merchandise that includes a company logo, internal slogan, or something else meaningful to the team. Services such as CafePress, CustomInk, or Zazzle help you easily create your own custom-printed shirts, jackets, coffee mugs, and other personal items. If your company already gives everyone shirts and jackets, consider making a “special edition” jacket emblazoned with the employee’s name. Some companies offer such jackets as a rite of passage for employees who have completed specific internal training programs. Possession of a special edition jacket or other merchandise can be worn as a sign of pride in the employee’s professional accomplishments. Such a gift may also have the side effect of encouraging others to aspire to be as impactful as the employee who wears the jacket.

Purchase consumable items they like

A hard-to-find favorite snack, an expensive beverage (coffee, wine, or liquor, if appropriate in your workplace), or a gift card to their favorite restaurant can also serve as a meaningful gift. This requires knowing a bit more about the person you’re buying for—you’d hate to send a vegan to a steakhouse, for instance—but can give the gift recipient an opportunity to share their spoils with others. For example, a gift card to a nice restaurant is something the employee can enjoy with their significant other. A hard-to-find snack is something they can share around the office so co-workers can enjoy the rare treat.

Ways to present the gift

The way you give the gift to your team member can depend on your relationship and the significance of their achievement. A one-on-one interaction to give the gift is appropriate for smaller or more personal accomplishments. A company meeting where you present the gift is more appropriate when you are recognizing significant achievements that improve the company, or when you’re starting a new recognition program and want to demonstrate your appreciation to the entire company. If you feel someone wishes to be recognized but is not comfortable with such direct praise, you can alternatively write a brief thank-you note describing the reason for the gift and quietly place the gift on the team member’s desk.

Expected Results

Recognizing a team member’s good work with a personal gift should instill in them a sense of pride and accomplishment. They will likely show the gift to co-workers and explain why they received it, thereby receiving additional praise from their peers.

Example

Jim, a self-described Apple fan boy, recently thrilled a client with work that exceeded the client’s expectations. His manager, Anne, receives a phone call from the client where they described how Jim really went above and beyond for them. Anne realizes that the company has earned a life-long customer due to Jim’s great work.

Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino has a gift shop offering t-shirts, stickers, and thermoses that can not be found in online stores or Apple retail locations. Jim has never been to Cupertino, but Anne has a friend who works at Apple’s HQ. She asks her friend to pick up a few things from the gift shop and pays to have the items shipped to her.

In the next team meeting, Anne tells everyone what the client told her: Jim has done excellent work. Anne Anne then presents the rare Apple-branded swag to Jim, thanking him for doing such a great job.

Anne: Before we end the meeting, I’d like to tell everyone about a call I received from Jim’s client. They told me how Jim has really gone above and beyond for them lately, and they’re very impressed with the quality of his work. Jim, I think you’ve ensured they’ll be our customer for a long time.

Anne: As a token of appreciation for your great work, I called in a favor to get something special for you. Straight from Cupertino, here is a limited-edition Apple t-shirt, thermos, and coffee mug. We all know how much you love Apple products, so I thought you’d love having some Apple products most people can’t get. I hope you like them!

Jim: This is awesome! I love this stuff. Thank you so much!

Research

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