How unexpected gifting can strengthen employee engagement

How unexpected gifting can strengthen employee engagement

If increasing employee engagement is a core focus for your business, it's time to consider when and how you celebrate and support your employees.

Employees who feel fulfilled by recognition are four times as likely to be engaged at work, according to a study by WorkHuman and Gallup. That means that, as an organization, you have a massive opportunity to impact engagement with a thoughtful, comprehensive gifting strategy.

While there are obvious times to recognize your team members, there is also something special about an unexpected gift.

This post offers some ideas to help you get creative about your gifting strategy and take advantage of new opportunities to show your employees they matter.

Celebrate holidays that align with corporate values.

Now more than ever, organizations recognize the importance of articulating their core values and putting them into action. Yet even though most companies have established core values, many employees don’t feel those values as they participate in their daily work.

According to Gallup, only four in ten employees strongly agree with the statement, "The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important."

Consider your company's values and brainstorm possibilities to highlight them with a gift. For example, if sustainability is a core value, you might create a gift box of green items like a reusable straw, sustainably made tote bag, and seed packets to help them start a window box garden. Or, if you host a company-wide volunteer day, you might begin or end the day with a gift celebrating your team's commitment to service.

When employees see their employers authentically commit to their values, it can motivate performance, improve company culture, and lower absenteeism. A positive, values-driven workplace culture is also essential to recruitment and retention.

Mark surprising calendar holidays.

While many employers send employee gifts during the December holidays, you can surprise and delight your employees at other times throughout the year.

Depending on your business focus and brand personality, you might consider sending employees an appreciation gift on Valentine’s Day.

Perhaps your company is firmly committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion and wants to celebrate Black History Month by sending gift boxes packed with items from BIPOC businesses.

Or you might send a gift on International Women’s Day recognizing the value of gender diversity in the workplace.


Here are some other unexpected holidays to consider:

You could also celebrate many industry-specific days, like International Nurses Day, Global Day of the Engineer, or National Small Business Week.

Give kudos for company rites of passage.

Work anniversaries and promotions are important professional milestones that are well worth celebrating. Most employees expect that there will be some recognition at these times. But imagine the impact it would make to celebrate the "micro-milestones" unique to your industry or company.

Think of how a new real estate agent feels after their first home sale or how a young attorney feels after winning their first case. These exciting moments are ones that they will surely be celebrating with friends and family. A gift from you as the employer to celebrate these personal achievements can mean so much and go a long way to building connection.

What are the standout moments at your organization? It may help to pose this question directly to your team to see what moments stood out for them during their time with your company. Once you have a clear sense of what matters, you can create a gift demonstrating your understanding of those events' significance. 

Show appreciation during times of extra employee effort.

Whether you are working toward a big deadline, tackling a major project, or just in your annual busy season, there are times when your employees are asked to work a little harder than usual. Times like tax season for an accounting firm or the push to launch a new app in a software development startup.

That extra effort can make people feel stressed, depleted, and less enthusiastic about work.

One way to boost morale is to send a little pick-me-up gift to demonstrate your appreciation for the extra hours and work. The fact that it is unexpected makes this such an impactful moment to deepen the employer-employee relationship and show that you see the effort and the people behind it!

Recognize life outside the office.

At PlumTree, we consider both professional and personal employee milestones when developing corporate gifting strategies.

There are plenty of moments within the lives of your team members worth recognizing. When you take the time to do so, you demonstrate that you see your employees as complete people, not just cogs in the machine. Weddings and new babies are perfect moments to send a gift. Beyond that, there are plenty of other moments you can show your employees you care, including: 


Attending a part-time educational program while working requires commitment and hard work. It is the perfect opportunity to congratulate your employee for their tenacity and celebrate their success. 

Caregiving or Recovery From an Illness

Many employers are making it a practice to send a get-well gift when an employee is recovering from illness or a gift to support their employee who is caring for a sick loved one.

Seasonal Shifts

The transition from summer to autumn often feels like a new beginning. Consider celebrating the start of fall with a gift that will help people ease into this busy time of year. Or celebrate the start of Summer Fridays with your people. 

Are these ideas inspiring you to take your employee recognition program to the next level? We’re here to help and already have plenty of ideas you can explore on our website.  

Get started with a call.




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