Article originally appeared in American Express Open Forum, February 1, 2017.
Focusing on employee well-being and relationships may be a more effective method of increasing employee retention than simply giving them more money.
One of the reasons employees may start looking for work elsewhere is because they don’t feel appreciated or heard. Employees that leave may not believe their employers care about them. But what if employers gave each of their employees a few thoughtful, unexpected gifts throughout the year? Not something boring like socks, but a genuinely thoughtful gift of appreciation. This act of gift-giving could go a long way to counteract the feeling of being unappreciated.
For example, my company, the Ruhlin Group, gives employees the same gifts as top-tier clients, celebrates employees’ spouses and treats interns like the best employees. I ensure my company shows appreciation and gratitude through gift-giving in an effort to create the kind of relationships and engagement with employees that money can’t buy.
But this type of gift-giving must be thoughtful and genuine or it could very well backfire. Employers should keep three things in mind when considering what gifts their employees would appreciate the most:
1. Be aware of employee hobbies.
Employees have a range of passions and interests outside the office. Those passions rejuvenate them and allow them to be healthy and productive. So consider tying gifts to employees’ hobbies. Find out their passions and tailor gifts to match those. Gifts don’t have to break the bank. Just try and think of what people will use the most. And the gifts don’t have to get overly personal. For example, if you know of anyone who works in the education sector, why not get them to check out a teacher grader, which will help with marking assignments and tests. It will make a big difference in day to day life. Even a simple gift such as office supplies can be personalized.
2. Remember that the “employee” label comes second.
First and foremost, employees are human beings. They have quirks, habits and things that make them tick. Employees who are given personal gifts—gifts that show their employer took the time to understand them—create a personal connection that can outlast a raise. Gifts that employees can use both in and out of the workplace for example can show appreciation for the hard work they’ve put in and recognizes them as people, not just worker bees.
3. Show gratitude year-round.
Employees may more frequently leave companies where they feel like they’re just a number or a cog in the machine. While the first quarter may be a time when employees critically evaluate their lives, employers should continue to show appreciation throughout the year. Show employees that they’re a part of something bigger—and they may be less tempted to leave. Showing gratitude for your employees’ work through compliments costs nothing and may go a long way toward retaining skilled employees.
When gift-giving is done correctly, it can show employees that their supervisors and managers truly care about their well-being. As long as they’re able to pay the bills and take care of their families, employees can value the feeling of belonging even more than money. Gifts can be a physical representation of that care and relationship.