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Employee Recognition

Presents or Praise? Navigating the Fine Line Between Corporate Gifting and Employee Recognition

By January 18, 2024February 15th, 2024No Comments

Alright, folks, in the fickle world of corporate culture, we’ve got two heavy hitters vying for the “Annual Employee Appreciation Champion” title.

In one corner – representing almost 2 centuries of tradition and evolution and allegedly started by a famous Rockefeller – we have Corporate Gifting. 

And in the other corner – weighing in with an impressive record of over 2600 years served, dating back to Cyrus The Great in 538 B.C. – Employee Recognition

These two terms are often confused or used interchangeably, and from an employee perspective, this is where their heartbeat for your organization flatlines. Their corporate gifting experience should feel much different than their employee recognition experience, as the two are in fact separate gestures with very distinct purposes and intentions. What is employee recognition? What is corporate gifting?

Finding the perfect equilibrium between presents and praise is an art form. Too much swag without genuine recognition, and you risk drowning in a sea of branded mediocrity. On the flip side, heaps of praise without a sprinkle of tangible appreciation can leave the workplace vibe feeling a bit lackluster.

Let’s teeter a bit on this see-saw of sincerity and sentiment, and navigate the importance of maintaining a delicate balance between the two in the corporate world. 

The Tightrope of Appreciation and Acknowledgment

Hold onto your staplers, folks! We’re talking about that thin line between genuine appreciation for the person and their unique contributions, and the act of acknowledging accomplishments and achievements.How can companies keep the good vibes flowing without turning gifts into expectations or recognition into a cringeworthy hierarchic performance (sans a standing ovation)? By implementing an effective employee engagement strategy with an equal focus on both corporate gifting and employee recognition.

The 411 on Corporate Gifting

Why is corporate gifting so important? It’s the peanut butter to your employee recognition jelly, of course! But there’s always a right way and a wrong way to spread the bread and a solid corporate gifting program alone isn’t going to seal all the cracks in your company culture. So let’s make sure we’re clear on the impact of gifting the right way.

From fancy pens to fruit baskets, corporate gifting is the businessy art of saying, “Thanks for being a part of this!” But let’s not kid ourselves – there’s a fine line between a thoughtful gesture and “oh yay… another branded coffee mug (insert eye roll).” 

“Gifting” as an action is the same, no matter who the receiver is or where the gift is given. We give a gift and hope the person enjoys it. But when it comes to corporate gifting, your strategy really needs to make sense. Corporate gift-giving occasions aren’t that much different than personal ones. Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, new jobs, promotions – all totally valid reasons to give someone in your personal life a gift. 

It’s much the same in the business world. Birthdays, holidays, work anniversaries, new hires, promotions… you see where we’re going with this? These occasions make sense for corporate gifting. 

But hear us clearly… do NOT underestimate the importance of what you give as corporate gifts, as well as when you give them. 

Picture this: you’re handed a beautifully wrapped box, your eyes wide with anticipation. Is it a trophy of appreciation or just another branded USB drive? Corporate gifting can be like navigating a maze of mystery prizes. Are these presents heartfelt tokens of gratitude, or are they mere trinkets destined for the dusty shelves of forgotten swag?

Some corporate gifts have a lot of potential to come off as impersonal and make employees feel like you’re just trying to check a box to make everyone happy. Pump the brakes on your bulk swag game and get personal with your people. After all, that’s how gifts were meant to be given! 

What is Employee Recognition – More Than Just High Fives

Now, what is employee recognition, some people say, Kudos, which is could be the currency of the workplace soul. Spoiler alert: employee recognition isn’t just about tossing around compliments like confetti or creating bonus point mafia rings every month. It’s about acknowledging the hard work, dedication, and endless superhero feats of your colleagues. It’s shining a spotlight on the office rockstars, the word wizards, the software sorcerers, and the solution sleuths. 

In the world of recognition, a well-timed “You rock!” can do wonders. But the keyword in that 2-word praise is “you.” 

Employee Recognition is directly tied to the individual and something they’ve achieved, accomplished, completed, etc. It’s acknowledging their performance, their effort, and their teamwork, as opposed to this attention being tied to a certain date or event as with corporate gifting. 

What is the goal of an employee recognition program? We’re so glad you asked!

  • improve employee engagement – when employees feel valued, they’re more engaged in their roles and less likely to be job-hunting
  • improve employee morale – there’s nothing like having a payroll full of employees who are actually happy to be there
  • improve workplace culture – regulate the vibe across the entire office so that everyone is operating at their optimum appreciation level
  • improve company culture – if your company covers multiple locations, you can calibrate the culture across town or across the globe
  • improve team culture – when employees are empowered and appreciated, ALL your teams can be A-Teams

Great employee recognition examples don’t have to blow your budget either. Sure, it would be awesome to give each employee a weekend getaway each time they close a deal! But as the business grows, that can become a tad unrealistic (although still a super cool recognition gift). Two of the most important components of an effective recognition plan are authenticity and personalization, and neither of those has a minimum buy price. 

Design an Engaging Employee Appreciation Strategy (That Doesn’t Activate their Eye Rolls)

To really nail this appreciation game, you need an employee engagement strategy that’s more exciting than a mandatory once-a-year team-building exercise. We’re talking about aligning gifts and gratitude with company values, understanding that not everyone loves a tote bag with the company logo, and creating an atmosphere where employees feel seen without feeling suffocated. 

You’re creating a workplace where appreciation isn’t just a checkbox but a genuine celebration of the fabulousness that is your team. Ask yourself what employee appreciation means to you, then build an appreciation strategy that doesn’t put people to sleep during the initial roll-out PowerPoint presentation.

How Can You Improve Your Company’s Employee Recognition Score? 

Like most corporate strategies, there are some best practices to consider when designing an effective employee recognition plan. As an added bonus, Caroo offers a well-defined guide to help you upgrade your recognition strategy like a Boss. But in the meantime, here are some short-list actions you can take to make the whole shift go a little smoother:

  • Learn their Recognition DNA type
    • By understanding how your employees best receive recognition, you can tailor your acknowledgments to their preferences and stop wasting money on bulk ideas that leave no lasting impression.
  • Talk about it
    • Book some time in your monthly schedule to have intentional discussions with managers and colleagues to talk about the ways they feel most recognized (and maybe the ways they do NOT).
  • Caroo’s Care Preferences
    • By answering our 6 simple questions about how your employees like to be recognized (aka their Care Preferences), Caroo can help you zone in on the ways to best show them how much they’re valued.
  • Remember things!! 
    • Each employee has a file, right? So add some valuable information to those files like their birthdays and work anniversaries, then set reminders so you’re sure not to miss them. While you’re at it, note the names of their children, spouses/partners, and don’t forget their beloved cockatoo, Gladys. 
  • “Hero sandwich” feedback
    • Imagine the sub roll is the good news and the innards (meats, cheeses, veggies, etc.) are the not-so-good feedback (odd, I know, since the innards are the best part, but play along for a second). Serve up a “top roll” of positive commentary, followed by a respectable delivery of where they could make some improvements (aka “the innards”). Then leave them with a “bottom roll” of optimistic and empowering feedback that’s motivating, not deflating. 

The Verdict

So, which side of the appreciation spectrum wins in this clash of the workplace titans? Is it the allure of a shiny gift or the roar of a thousand kudos?

And the trophy goes to…. BOTH!When it comes to effective employee relations and engagement, juggling gifts and gratitude is a delicate balancing act. Remember that corporate gifting and employee recognition are like the peanut butter and jelly of workplace appreciation – great on their own, but even better together.

Want to learn more about Caroo?

Our platform uncovers deep behavioral understanding of individual employee recognition needs, provides insight on when to recognize and makes it easy to send rewards employees actually want. All in one place.

Learn your workplace personality here, or if you’d like – check out our gifts and rewards to make your entire team feel recognized.

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