Uh-oh: What If Your Employees Don't Like Your Holiday Gift? Here's How to Avoid That Fate.

A new survey reveals the three biggest reasons why your gift was a loser.

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By Hani Goldstein

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Throughout the year, we see top companies work hard to provide lucrative benefits, to make their employees' lives easier and better, because they recognize the importance of showing employees how much they're valued. This is especially important in the current tight labor market.

Related: This Is the Best Holiday Gift I Ever Received From an Employer

But it's also true in any labor climate -- and true whether employees express their appreciation or not. In a recent survey at my employee recognition company, Snappy, 96 percent of U.S. employees in a survey we conducted (details below) agreed that recognition in the workplace leads to a stronger workplace culture.

To create just such a strong culture, companies like Lyft offer free lunch every day, while the cafés on Google's campus serve some of the best food in the Bay Area. Then there's Reebok, which stays true to its brand by providing an on-site gym with CrossFit classes.

In addition to providing perks that pay off every day, companies are also showing appreciation by creating special memories that employees won't soon forget. SendGrid, Wistia and Zapier are just a few examples of companies that nurture culture by conveying employees to off-site and international retreats, to encourage out-of-office team bonding.

Although companywide retreats are expensive and can be tough to coordinate, they reflect that team relationships are just as important as the product or service.

Practical considerations

It's challenging enough for organizations creatively show employees their appreciation throughout the year. But the holiday season we're now in adds a whole extra layer to this challenge: On top of the regular madness that comes with the end of the year, HR departments are particularly swamped. Imagine you yourself are an HR manager for a large company. Besides your regular responsibilities and duties, you need to curate, source and send hundreds (or even thousands!) of holiday gifts to your employees.

The worst of this it takes hours and hours to find and send these gifts, and you never really know if your employees even want what you send them (Pssst: They probably don't, as you'll see in our survey findings).

Related: 11 Gift Ideas Perfect for Co-Workers, Employees or the Entire Office

To find out more, our company conducted a survey of 1,000 U.S. employees to gain more insight into how $125 billion dollars is being wasted on unappreciated corporate gifts every year. We found that one in three employees polled said they generally did not feel valued.

Why is that, and how can we fix this number? Without further ado, the following reasons are three of the biggest for why corporate gifts go unappreciated -- and what you can do to be on the right side of the statistics.

1. The gifts don't reflect an employee's value in the business.

According to our survey, 56 percent of participants didn't feel their value was reflected in the gifts they received from their employers (and 37 percent had never received any type of gift recognition in the workplace). This doesn't mean you necessarily need to spend more on bigger gifts. What it does mean is that you need to be giving the right gifts.

For example, a lot of companies opt to give their employees gift cards. What they fail to realize is that gift cards put a price tag on an employee's value -- making them feel like they're worth just that face value: $25. Instead of a gift card or small cash bonus, try giving a physical gift or experience that doesn't have a visible price tag.

2. Lack of personalization

Eighty-one percent of employees in our survey said that a personalized note of recognition from their supervisor would strengthen their commitment to the company. Adding a personalized note goes a long way in showing gratitude for a team member's hard work.

To busy to do that? Bond is a service that will hand-write notes for you when you need an extra hand adding a personal touch.

3. Employees would rather pick their own gifts.

Our survey revealed that 40 percent of employers had thrown out and/or "re-gifted" a gift from their employers. Other studies haven shown that tens of billions of dollars of gift cards go unused. That's your budget going directly to the trash! In fact, we found that 68 percent of employees polled would rather choose their own gift than have their employer choose a gift for them. This is one of the reasons we built a platform that lets employees choose their own gifts from their employers.

Ultimately, our research pointed to one key insight: The most appreciated gifts aren't impactful because of their actual monetary value. What matters most is what the gifts are and how they are given. Just throwing money at gifts doesn't necessarily mean they'll turn your employees into super-engaged rock stars.

On the contrary, we can learn from top companies, which know that the happiest and most productive workplaces are those that let their teams have a say in how they're rewarded. They also turn appreciation into a personalized experience that goes beyond leaving a gift card on an employee's desk.

Related: 4 Ways to Reward Employees and Gain a Return on Investment

So, when you create a memorable gifting experience this holiday season, take the right steps to amplify the positive gifting effect multiple times over. Take the time to give a gift that makes a difference for your employees, because an investment in happy employees is a powerful investment in your business.

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