Have you ever attended a yankee swap or white elephant gift party?  If so, you most likely brought a gift from that hall closet full of things you somehow accumulated but never used, wanted, or threw away.  You had fun at the party, reduced your hall closet by one unwanted item, only to receive a decorative 18" ceramic peacock that now takes up more room in your closet than the Chia Pet you gave away.

Well, when it comes to rewarding employees with gifts, just think about that white elephant party.  What would your fellow employees really want?  What would you want?  What will be appreciated rather than be stored away in that closet or "re-gifted" to that person you really don't know that well?

Think about quality first.  Give a gift that will last and actually be used.  Perhaps a nice jacket with your company logo (tastefully embroidered and not too big).  A soft briefcase for a laptop.  A tote bag for the person that works out, goes camping or likes to travel.

Think about fun and useful items.  Logoed golf balls.  LED flashlights.  A marble name plate for their desk or work space.  A digital travel clock.  The ideas are limitless.

You can also come up with great ideas by observing and listening to your employees.  What do they like to do after work?  Do they have kids?  Is music their thing?  Do they like chocolate?  Do they run, ski, surf, play softball, go bowling, love the movies?  Select gifts that will truly be appreciated when given.

They real key is to be consistent with employee gifts and be sure to spread the giving to everyone.  You can create your own office fun and hold an event for absolutely no reason.  Hat day.  Favorite snack day.  A baby photo contest, or Hawaiian Shirt Day made famous in the movie Office Space.

Employee recognition is vital and you don't need to spend a lot of money to make it effective and worthwhile.  Sometimes radio stations will host lunch parties at your office as an ongoing contest.  Check into your local media for employee recognition events and awards.

If you work for a company that sells goods and services, reward employees with discounts that they can pass along to family members, too.  If you have a break room, add some classic board games.  If it is big enough, install a pool table.  Some offices have cut golf holes into their carpets in the hallways so they can have a mini-golf tournament.

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Quality employee recognition gifts and events should become part of your culture.  These days, you and your co-workers are taking on more responsibility and working harder than ever.  Make sure there is an element of fun and relaxation at your workplace.  And if you want, go ahead and throw a white elephant gift party.  Who knows, someone may want that 18" decorative ceramic peacock. But we think they’ll prefer a custom made tote instead.

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