Giving Meaningful Gifts to Your Employees

Article excerpt

It's been a difficult year for many small businesses, and owners might think it's a good idea to give workers thank you gifts. That certainly can be a boost for sagging morale -- if it's done sensitively and isn't a substitute for meaningful communication between employer and employees.

Management consultants advise that business owners who want to make stressed and nervous employees feel better start during the holidays by sitting down and having a chat, reassuring them about where they stand and letting them know they're appreciated.

"Just talking to people and letting people talk, anything that says `We still care about you and expect to be in business tomorrow,'" should be the first step, said Craig Gipple, president of Leadership Solutions Inc., a management consulting firm in Florham Park, N.J.

The gifts can come later.

"The act of being recognized ... is more important than the gift itself," Gipple said.

Leslie Yerkes, president of Catalyst Consulting Group in Cleveland, agreed that communicating with employees is more important than material gifts, but added that it should be ongoing and year-round.

"Gift-giving is not just for this time of year and not just material," she said. "Are you creating an environment where employees can bring their whole selves to work each day?"

In a difficult or even hostile work atmosphere, a gift could even backfire, Yerkes said. "If your folks are unhappy, no amount of money or material goods that you could give them would be any more than a short-term gesture," she said. It might also make them feel beholden.

In lieu of a gift, Yerkes said, you might consider giving each employee a hand-written note of appreciation "creating some sense of community and connectedness."

The whole point is to do what's best for your company as a whole; if workers feel appreciated, they'll do a better job.

If you decide that giving gifts would be appropriate, don't just pick out something you like or that you assume your employees would like. …