Hot Holiday Gifts for Employees & Employee Reward Gifts

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holiday gifts for employees employee reward gifts Hot Holiday Gifts & Employee Rewards in 2014

The 2014 ERC Holiday Practices Survey found that 57% of Northeast Ohio employers plan to distribute gifts to their employees in the 2014 holiday season.

For the past several years, this figure has remained largely stagnant, as has the top gift of the season: gift cards. Employers choose gift cards for many of the same reasons as individuals might, including that employers can easily purchase and distribute large quantities of these gifts no matter how large or small their organization.

In some cases employers also noted that they were able to purchase these gift cards using reward points from corporate credit cards, making them a virtually cost-free gift giving option.

Other consistently reported gifts, from most popular to least in 2014, include:

  • Cash
  • Company logo items ranging from clothing to mugs
  • A variety of foodstuffs, such as turkeys and hams (sometimes one at Thanksgiving and the other at Christmas)
  • Raffle items as gifts
  • Gift baskets, again largely made up of various foodstuffs
  • Clothing, including outerwear
  • Electronics
  • Candy

Several unique observations can be made about this 2014’s list. First, one item that was noticeably absent from this year’s list of gifts was alcohol. Although, it has been on the decline in recent years, 2014 is the first year in which no organizations reported gifting alcohol to employees. Candy has also fallen to very low levels, this year reported as the gift of choice at only 2% of organizations.

As a cost saving measure, larger items, such as electronics or more extravagant gift cards or cash are sometimes raffled off at holiday parties. However, organization choosing to raffle off larger items typically still provided smaller gift cards, etc to all employees in order to maintain some equity among the staff.

Despite the decline in popularity of some of these smaller token items, another option that employers often consider as the holidays approach is actually on the rise, i.e., the traditional holiday bonus. A nearly identical proportion of the overall participants in 2014 are giving holiday bonuses as did 2013, i.e. 30%.

However, every year since 2010, the average size of this cash holiday bonus has increased, up by over $150 since 2013 to $980 in 2014. The qualifications for receiving this bonus are primarily focused on the performance of the individual and/or the performance of the company (in terms of profitability) over the year. However, still other organization indicate that all employees receive a holiday bonus regardless of these performance measures.

View ERC's Holiday Practices and Paid Holiday Survey Results

These surveys report on which holidays Northeast Ohio organizations plan to observe as well as holiday parties, gift giving, and more ideas for the holiday season.

View the Results

Tis the Season for 5 Holiday HR Issues

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Tis the Season for 5 Holiday HR Issues

Tis the season for several HR and compliance issues associated with the holidays. Here are five (5) holiday HR issues that you should revisit as the holidays ensue.

1. Holiday decorations

Holiday decorations tend to make their way into the workplace and employees' workspaces this time of year. What an employer allows in terms of decorations in the workplace is up them, but they should not discriminate and should be consistent and reasonable with their policies. 

Organizations need to be particularly careful with religious decorations, however. Refusal to accommodate an employee who wants to display a religious holiday symbol or decoration to commemorate a holiday should be considered very carefully as these can be minor religious accommodations that are protected under law and generally acceptable.

Additionally, according to the EEOC, holiday decorations should not be avoided just because someone objects to them, but organizations should ensure that all holiday decoration displays are reasonable and non-disruptive.
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Ways to Thank Employees This Holiday

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For many employers, 2011 culminated in greater success than the preceding years and the holidays are an ideal time to show appreciation to your employees for that success.

Think back on 2011 and hopefully a great deal of achievements, accomplishments, and successes happened at your organization. Many of those would not have been possible without the efforts of your employees, those in the front lines every day servicing your customers and building your products. Each of your employees played a critical role in how your financials play out on December 31.

So whether you hold a celebration or offer time off work, gifts, or other gestures of thanks, it’s critically important to make the time and regard each your employee’s efforts and accomplishments. They are the people who made your success happen in 2011. Here are some ideas.

Coordinate a holiday party or event.

Providing a holiday party or gathering for your employees is a special way to show appreciation to your staff around the holidays. Nearly three-quarters of local employers coordinate a holiday party for their employees. These events are usually luncheons or evening parties held on a Thursday or Friday, and typically use external locations and caterers to host the parties – such as local restaurants, country clubs, or hotels. Some employers even invite employees’ spouses, significant others, and/or children.

Host a pre-holiday team-building activity.

This could be a departmental or team luncheon, fun activity, retreat, or a community service event. The end of the year is a great time to bring departments and teams together to discuss the past year, celebrate accomplishments, and/or continue to build the team. Encourage each of your managers to spend time with their team as a whole. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming, but should strengthen team dynamics and relationships to get the New Year started on the right foot.

Start a holiday tradition.

Traditions are an important part of your organization’s culture that makes your organization unique. If your organization doesn’t already have a holiday tradition, it may consider starting one. Perhaps it’s a family holiday party, a Secret Santa exchange, an annual breakfast, or an office decorating day.

Recognize and reward this year’s best.

There’s no question that some of your employees contributed in greater ways to your organization’s success than others, and if your organization hasn’t done so already, it should plan to recognize and reward those top performers. Perhaps these individuals include employees who have worked especially hard on a strategic project, those that exceeded their goals or contributed most to the organization’s profitability, or those that introduced a new innovation or initiative to the organization. Make a short list of your top contributors and provide them a special reward this holiday, preferably publicly.

Provide an extra day off (or two).

One of the best gifts you can give your employees is extra time with family and friends and a bit more work/life balance. Provide the opportunity for some time off work, either through extra paid holidays provided by the company, additional paid time off, early-releases, holiday breaks, reduced schedules, or more flexible work. Also keep in mind that the majority of employers plan to provide paid days off for the days surrounding the holidays.

Make a personal gesture of thanks.

Encourage managers (and ideally your CEO or top management team) to write notes to employees, provide personalized telephone calls, or meet with them individually to thank them for their contributions. These personal gestures can go a long way in showing gratitude to employees for their efforts and accomplishments.

Give a gift.

Small gifts or cash/gift cards are a great way to show you appreciate employees. About half of employers provide holiday gifts to their employees. The most common gift given to employees is a general gift card. Some employers, however, provide hams/turkeys, gift baskets, logo items, clothing items, and candy. You may choose to get even more creative with your gifts and vary them from year to year. Be sure that immediate supervisors or top managers distribute these gifts.

…or gifts that keep giving.

By these we mean the things that many employees are looking for this year – beyond just a gift card. Perhaps it’s a new opportunity, a raise, or a promotion. Survey after survey shows that compensation, advancement, and career development rank high on employees’ “wish lists” this year. You’ll find that these “gifts” truly will keep on giving when they improve your employees’ motivation, engagement, and happiness at work in the new year.

Provide a few perks to help save them money.

Finally, the holidays can stretch employees’ wallets, so any way your organization can save its employees money will be appreciated. Discount programs, convenience services, and free benefits are all perks you can introduce to your employees this holiday season. Plus, ERC offers several employee discounts that are available to your employees through your membership. Click here to learn more.

This holiday, remember to thank the people that made your organization successful this past year by showing a few gestures of appreciation.

Additional Resources

Holiday Benchmarking Surveys 

Benchmark your holiday practices and paid holidays your organization offers by downloading our holidays surveys: the ERC Holiday Practices Survey and ERC Paid Holiday Survey.

Discounts on Catering
Need a caterer for your upcoming holiday party? Consider using ERC’s Preferred Partner, Food for Thought, which provides discounted delivery fees on catering services to ERC members within certain geographical areas.

Team-Building
Build your team this holiday season! The end of the year or beginning of the next is a common and great time to gather your team together for a team-building event, activity, or training to ensure that your team is ready to execute for the New Year.

View ERC's Holiday Practices and Paid Holiday Survey Results

These surveys report on which holidays Northeast Ohio organizations plan to observe as well as holiday parties, gift giving, and more ideas for the holiday season.

View the Results

Workplace Gift-Giving & Bonuses

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Giving employees a year-end gift or bonus this year? Here are a few common questions and answers employers ask us about issues related to giving gifts and bonuses to their staff.

How common is gift-giving in the workplace?

Gift-giving is a fairly common practice among organizations. In ERC’s 2010 Holiday Practices in the Workplace Survey, 51% of local employers give gifts to employees. A 2010 survey conducted by BNA shows that 41% of employers across the U.S. plan to provide a year-end gift or bonus to employees, and also reports that this is the highest percent in three years.

What is the most popular holiday gift given by employers?

We find that the most common holiday gift is a generic gift card. In a 2010 survey of local employers, 61% said they provide this type of gift. Some employers also give cash, food (such as a turkey or ham), clothing or logo items, or gift baskets. In addition, a few employers raffle-off gifts versus providing them to all employees. Spending amounts for employee gifts typically range from $25-$75 per employee.

Are there any legal or payroll issues we need to be aware of when giving holiday gifts to our employees?

The IRS has different tax reporting and deduction rules depending on the cost of the gift and whether it is considered tangible (ham, turkey, wine, entertainment tickets etc.) or intangible (cash, gift cards or certificates, etc.). Intangible gifts of more than $25 are taxable income and must be reported on a W-2 form. Tangible gifts do not need to be reported in taxes. Employers can deduct up to a maximum of $25 of the cost of both intangible and tangible gifts, according to IRS guidelines.

Should we allow for gift-giving between coworkers and/or bosses?

Some organizations choose to institute a gift-giving policy on the types of gifts their employees can give and receive in the workplace. While instituting such a policy can decrease the likelihood that employees will encounter uncomfortable situations surrounding giving gifts, gift-giving can be a nice way for coworkers and supervisors to show appreciation to one another that employers may not want to limit. In general, however, gift-giving etiquette is as follows:

  • Gift-giving should be considered voluntary. No one should feel pressured, obligated, or required to give gifts.
  • Gift-giving should also be kept relatively inexpensive, simple, and modest. Several sources suggest that $10-$20 is an acceptable amount to spend on gifts for coworkers or bosses.
  • Gift-giving should be appropriate for the workplace. Alcohol, gifts with political or religious messages, romantic gifts, and hygiene-related items are typically considered inappropriate holiday gifts. Tasteful and professional gifts, cards, treating to lunch, or even donating to a charity on behalf of an individual are all appropriate ways to show appreciation.
  • Group gifts are generally an acceptable way of thanking a supervisor/manager versus an individual gift. 
  • If supervisors or managers choose to give gifts to their employees, it’s best that they are given to everyone versus only certain individuals to prevent perceptions of favoritism or unequal treatment.

Employers should consider their culture before instituting any rules as there is no gift-giving best practice that works for all organizations. Some workplaces are more formal, and others are more family-oriented, and gift-giving should generally align with the culture.

How common are holiday bonuses?

Nearly a third of local employers provide holiday bonuses, according to a 2010 ERC survey. Certainly this isn’t the majority of employers; however, it is a sizeable portion. Recent reports, however, do indicate that the holiday bonus is diminishing in popularity. Discretionary or individual performance bonuses, on the other hand, tend to be more commonly offered by employers.

What criteria should we use to determine who gets a holiday bonus?

That depends. Some employers use a holiday bonus as employees’ gift versus a reward for attaining a certain level of performance. Others only provide holiday bonuses to employees who meet certain criteria such as performance, attendance, or length of service.

How much should we spend on a holiday bonus per employee?

Bonus amounts typically range from $200-$1000 or 2% of earnings with the average being $712. The most popular bonus amounts are $200 and $1000. However, $300 and $500 are also somewhat common. Also remember that bonuses are taxable, per the IRS.

What issues should we keep in mind when providing our employees with holiday bonuses?

First, if bonuses are regularly given at your organization, it may be helpful to develop a policy which includes eligibility requirements for the bonus, criteria for receiving the bonus (i.e. average performance ratings, length of employment, etc.), how the amount of the bonus is determined (i.e. based on company profit, revenue, etc.), when the payments will be awarded, and any legal guidelines or requirements the program is subject to. A disclaimer is also recommended, so that the organization can reserve the right to administer, modify, or terminate the program at any time, should business needs dictate.

Also, make sure your organization is compliant with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Bonuses given to employees for performance, productivity or quality need to be included in calculating an employee’s regular rate for overtime purposes. However, holiday/gift bonuses can be excluded when calculating overtime rates for non-exempt employees if they are not linked to hours worked or production.

Finally, if your organization provides holiday bonuses based on certain criteria, but not to all employees, be sure that you have documented why or why not employees have not earned the bonus to avoid any potential legal issues surrounding discriminative treatment. Performance documentation is crucial for your organization’s legal protection.

Gift-giving and bonuses are certainly great ways to show your employees appreciation and recognition during these final weeks of the year. To obtain answers to other questions related to gift-giving and bonuses, please contact ERC’s HR Help Desk (Members Only) at hrhelp@yourERC.com.