Expressing gratitude: A guide to year-end staff appreciation gifts

minute read

Last Updated July 5, 2023

Category Culture


“What would they like best? A gift card? Or wait, what about a company outing? No, maybe a stainless-steel water bottle with our firm’s logo—but this time, we include their name!”

These questions can only mean one thing: It’s time to start looking for ways to show your staff how much you appreciate them and their hard work throughout another uncertainty-filled year.

To maintain a healthy firm culture, it’s important to express gratitude to your employees. After all, your staff are the people who matter most. They work hard to be successful in your firm and for your firm. You want them to feel like they belong—that they serve a purpose and that you appreciate what they do.

Elevating their employee experience is a powerful way to help them feel appreciated. While staff appreciation gifts are important (and we’ll cover gift ideas later), a great place to start is with employee recognition. So, let’s dive in.

The importance of employee recognition

Take a few minutes to think about your employees and what they mean to you and your firm. Now, think about how you’re contributing to their employee experience in a positive way. Have you celebrated their accomplishments recently, either professionally or personally? Have you encouraged them in their career with your firm?

If not, it’s never too late to start. And here’s why.
Benefits of employee recognition
Recognizing your employees is important in so many ways. It helps boost firm morale; makes employees feel valued and engaged; and increases loyalty and longevity with your firm. Genuine and thoughtful gestures—both tangible and intangible—make employees feel like you’ve invested in them and what they bring to your firm. Some benefits of employee recognition include:

  • Fostering a positive work environment. When a team member accomplishes something noteworthy, take notice and recognize them publicly. It not only validates them for a job well done but also encourages other staff members. 
  • Contributing to an employee’s happiness and health. Receiving recognition from firm owners and other staff boosts self-esteem and a person’s self-worth. Employees who feel supported by their team are happier and healthier. 
  • Enhancing an employee’s productivity. Staff members who feel supported and acknowledged know they’re a valuable part of your team. Rewarding excellent performance helps boost morale, motivation and—you guessed it—productivity. 
  • Establishing connection within the firm. Showing appreciation to staff members, both publicly and privately, helps foster strong relationships with your team. They’ll feel more connected to your mission and work hard to make your firm successful. 

While running a successful firm is the most important goal for many firm owners, making sure the people who matter most feel like they matter should also be top of mind. Your firm needs happy employees, and it starts with consistent employee recognition. Employees who feel valued and appreciated will inherently boost morale, be motivated to produce their best work, and increase your firm’s productivity and success. 

Ideas for staff appreciation

There are several ways to show your staff how much you appreciate them and the work they do, from gift cards to stainless steel water bottles to an extra vacation day. We’ll go over tangible gift ideas later, but first, we want to touch on some non-traditional ways—from simple to more elaborate—you can show appreciation to your staff that you can use at any time of year.

  1. Send handwritten notes of gratitude. Take time to write a short note to express your appreciation. It shows how important the employee is to you and your firm, and they’ll appreciate the thoughtful gesture. 
  2. Offer additional time off. You may already offer your employees an incredible PTO (paid time off) package, but gift them an extra day or two, or allow them to leave early on Fridays throughout the slower months. Employees will value the extra time to enjoy the “life” part of their work-life balance. 
  3. Host gatherings (virtual or in person) during work hours. While you may or may not offer a hybrid environment, treat your team to a hosted gathering during office hours—a catered lunch, a few rounds of trivia or a happy hour. It will break up the monotony of the day and allow your staff to have fun during working hours. 
  4. Invest in leadership and educational opportunities. Give back to your employees by investing in leadership or educational opportunities to help advance their careers. You can do this through tuition reimbursement or even by paying for licenses to access online courses through LinkedIn Learning or Udemy. 
  5. Provide options for financial security. Ensuring your employees are paid competitively is a great start toward their financial freedom. Up your benefits game by offering 401(k) matching or flexible retirement options, and consider providing yearly merit raises that cover the rise in inflation. 

 Remember that any gesture of gratitude is a good gesture. Keep it simple by sending a handwritten note or—if you’re able—offer a competitive benefits package to show your appreciation to your team. Just be sure to use these ideas throughout the year to keep employees feeling appreciated all year long.

How to curate the perfect gift

There are several things to consider when it comes to curating the perfect gift. Is your team working in the office, or do you have remote employees? Do you want to give your team something they can use personally or professionally, or maybe something that checks both boxes?

The perfect gift

It’s a lot to think about, so that’s why we’ve created criteria for selecting the perfect gift. You’ll want to choose something that is… 

  1. Practical and useful. Whatever item you choose, is it something that will get used? Or is it something that will sit on a shelf, collecting dust? Not everyone wants another coffee mug that is handwash-only. 
  2. Thoughtfully packaged. Try to avoid a gift arriving in just bubble wrap or packing peanuts. Choose creatively packaged items—sometimes, opening the gift is part of the experience. 
  3. Personalized. Whatever item you choose to provide, especially if you add your firm logo, add a touch of personalization for each team member. That extra touch of thoughtfulness goes a long way, whether it’s their name or their alma mater. (Not to mention: If everyone receives the same coffee mug and works in the office, it’ll be difficult to know which mug belongs to whom.) 
  4. Reflective of firm values. Does your firm value sustainability or reducing your carbon footprint? Do you truly value work-life balance for you and your team? Make sure that the gifts you select reinforce your firm’s values. 
  5. Not a repeat of last year’s gift. Did you hand out water bottles last year? If so, then your team is probably well hydrated. Don’t default to the “same old, same old,” and instead, be creative. 

If you don’t work with your team daily, collaborate with a couple of coworkers who can help you select the best gift. At the end of the day, choosing something thoughtful and heartfelt is the way to go.

Gift ideas for employees

Now that we’ve covered some ways to show appreciation and how to curate the perfect gift, let’s get down to some fun ideas for staff gifts. We’re splitting this up based on categories to help you choose the best gift for your team members.

Gift ideas

Fun and adventure 

Instead of a traditional gift that may end up collecting dust on a shelf, give your employees the gift of an experience. Allow employees to choose their own experience, whether it’s attending a professional sporting event for the first time with friends and family or crossing a hiking adventure off their bucket list. Here are a few places to start looking: 

Giving your employees an experience creates lifelong memories they can cherish. 

Subscription selections 

Outside the norm of a one-and-done gift, consider a year-long subscription based on your employees’ hobbies or interests, or give them the chance to learn (or master) a skill. From online classes and annual park passes to craft beer subscriptions and pet-friendly gift boxes, there’s something for everyone at multiple price points. And here are a few to consider: 

A subscription is a gift that keeps on giving. 

Health and wellness 

A focus on an employee’s health and wellness has come into the spotlight over the past few years. While you may offer an incredible work-life balance to your team, take it a step further by showing how much their health (including their mental health) means to you and your firm by checking out the following options: 

Helping encourage healthy wellness activities for your employees is not only good for their wellbeing, but it also promotes happiness in the workplace. 

Technology and gadgets 

For employees who are into the latest and greatest gadgets, let them choose from a list of technology they’ll love to use in and out of the office. Items can include: 

Take it a step further by looking into personalization options for whatever you choose. 

Let them get picky 

If you’re unsure what your team would most like to receive, come up with a few gift ideas with the same monetary value, and allow your employees to choose their own custom gift. The sites below let you curate your own inventory, and then your employees get to choose their favorites. 

There are options for branding and many price points, and you don’t have to pack and ship the gifts yourself. This option gives your employees a chance to choose something they’ll enjoy. 

Get to giving 

There are many things to consider when it comes to expressing gratitude to your team. However, don’t let the fear that you need to spend a fortune be one of them. Appreciation doesn’t have to be all about the money if you truly can’t afford to spend a lot. Just be sure you take the time to select a gift or acknowledgement that shows you care about your team and their contributions to your firm.  

Also, remember to keep showing that appreciation not only during the holidays, but throughout the year (and especially after tax season!), and you’ll go a long way toward helping your firm establish a healthy culture. After all, it starts at the top. 

For more information on creating an irresistible culture, download our Healthy Culture in The Modern Firm® eBook today.

Happy holidays and happy gift giving!

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