Employee Gift Ideas: Cultivating a Culture of Recognition

June 5, 2024

In Employee Engagement

Employee gifts play an important role in every organization. They help reinforce recognition and foster cohesion among your team, building morale to create a positive workplace culture. When choosing gifts for your employees, there are lots of options available to you. From traditional awards to modern gadgets and life-changing experiences, good professional gifts really can make a difference.

This article presents lots of fantastic gift ideas, so you can find something that works for your people and business.

Why Employee Gifts Are Important

Employee opening gift


More than material objects, employee gifts recognize hard work and a job well done. From traditional gifts to experience-based initiatives and personalized programs, there are a lot of ways to show people how much you care. Regardless of what you offer, employee gifts help build a supportive work environment based on strong professional relationships.

According to a classic study by Nobel Laureate George Akerlof, summarized in Harvard Business Review, gifts were far more motivating to short-term employees than unexpected cash bonuses, effectively paying for themselves by improving productivity.” As the ultimate non-material item, experience-based gifts definitely fall into this category.

Employee Gift Ideas: The Importance of Variety

Employee gifts should resonate with individual employees and the wider workplace. Each person on your team is unique, and they deserve a gift that aligns with their specific personality. As a CEO, Human Resources (HR) person or manager, one of the best things you can do for your people is to offer them a selection of gifts and give them the freedom to choose.

Traditional Gift Ideas

Traditional Gifts Ideas for Employees


Over time, people have offered gifts as a way to show gratitude. Gift giving is a tradition in many cultures, and it’s been practiced since ancient times. Whether it’s marking an important occasion, showing respect to a special person, or expressing love to a family member, gifting is well and truly rooted in human history. Traditional gifts have a timeless appeal that works well in the modern workplace.


If you need inspiration for traditional gifts, the following examples show three proven ideas:

Employee gifts, especially the symbolic ones favored traditionally, can have a positive effect on employee morale and retention. According to a series of studies by the non-profit group What Works for Children’s Social Care, “symbolic awards—interventions such as congratulatory cards, public recognition, and certificates—can significantly increase intrinsic motivation, performance, and retention rates.”

Awards and plaque

Awards and plaques remain popular in many workplaces. Both items can be engraved with personal messages, making them ideal for recognizing notable achievements or commemorating special events. Due to personalization, these gifts are suitable for almost anyone.

High-end Watches

Watches are another traditional gift idea that remains highly popular. High-end watches are a great way to celebrate professional anniversaries or outstanding achievements in the workplace. Watches are perfect for recognizing long-term employees and effective corporate leaders.

Desk Accessories

Desk accessories are gifted by many companies, including quality pens, personalized stationery sets, and promotional items. These gifts are made for office environments, and they’re popular with everyone.

Modern Gift Ideas

Modern Gift Ideas For Employees


If you’re looking for gift ideas for employees, modern products can be perfect. While traditional gifts work great with baby boomers and some Gen Xers, modern gifts are often preferred by younger generations. While this category has a lot of scope, it generally refers to technology-related products or those based on modern designs and materials.


The following three examples highlight some great modern gift ideas:

Small Tech Gadgets

Small tech gadgets are the perfect modern gift. From audio products and mobile gaming systems to smart watches and e-book readers, there are lots of choices available. Everyone appreciates these gifts, especially when they are related to personal hobbies.

Digital Subscriptions

If you don’t want to get something physical, digital subscriptions are another worthy gift idea. From TV streaming services to music, gaming, and online publications, there are many options available. Once again, personalization is the key.

Kitchen Products

For a non-tech but still modern gift idea, what about kitchen products? Products are available at every price point, from smart bottles and container solutions to modern appliances like Air Fryers and Beadmakers. If you have any foodies working for you, they will absolutely love this idea.

Experience-Based Gift Ideas

Employee enjoying an experience-based gift


Offering gifts to your employees doesn’t have to involve buying things. If you prefer, you can focus on experience-based gifts instead. There are lots of activities out there to choose from, including classes, sports, and festivals. Experience-based gifts are easy to personalize, as you can choose based on the employee’s favorite sporting teams, music genres, or hobbies.


The following three gift ideas highlight the power of experience:

The difference between material and experience gifts has been noted in academic studies. According to research from the Anahuac University, “Results showed that the consumption of experiential gifts was construed as more autonomy supportive than the consumption of their material counterparts, which then had a positive relationship with gratitude.”

Cooking classes

Cooking classes are an ideal experiential gift for foodies. From specific national cuisines to baking and cake decorating, there are lots of great opportunities out there. For non-foodies, dance classes can be another great option.

Music Festival Tickets

Music festival tickets can be a fantastic gift idea, especially among younger generations. Whether it’s a one-day festival or a long weekend, music festivals offer great times and memories for years to come.

Sporting Activities

Sporting activities like kayaking or skiing make for fantastic gifts. They promote physical health and well-being while offering valuable opportunities for friends and family to bond.

Personalized Gift Ideas

Personalized Gift Ideas for Employees


Personalized gifts are tailored to particular employees and situations. Instead of gifting generic products to everyone, this approach is about selecting an item based on personality. Personalized gifts are well-considered, and they’re the perfect way to show how much you care. They can strengthen emotional bonds between an organization and its employees.

These personalized gift ideas suit most professional scenarios. They can be used to celebrate significant professional moments, including service anniversaries and team achievements. In this situation, engraved trophies and awards are a great option.


Here are 3 other personalized gifts ideas for your employees:

Gift Baskets

A gift basket is a fantastic way to say “thank you” to your employees. Also known as gift hampers, they can be filled with products loved by your employees. You can create a single gift basket for all the people in your team or put together different hampers based on the personal preferences of each employee.

Gift Cards

Gift cards are a versatile and appreciated option, increasingly popular with employers. However, they can also be perceived as a generic gift, treating everyone the same. If you choose this option, consider selecting a card from a store or restaurant that the employee enjoys. For even more personalization, add a handwritten note of recognition, expressing your appreciation for their hard work and dedication.

Learning and Development Opportunities

Provide a voucher for a course or workshop in a subject they’re interested in, whether it’s professional development or a personal hobby. This shows your investment in their growth.

Eco-Friendly Gift Ideas

Eco-friendly gift ideas for employees


If you’re looking for a novel way to showcase the cultural values of your organization, eco gifts can be a great choice. Along with being popular among employees, eco-responsible products highlight your commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility. This demonstrates an awareness of larger issues, and helps to orient your culture towards ethical and sustainable values.


Eco-friendly gifts cover lots of territory, including these great examples:

Grow Billion Tree, an organization focused on empowering individuals and organizations in climate change mitigation through tree planting and conservation efforts, emphasizes the importance of eco-friendly gifts. According to them, ‘By choosing eco-friendly gifts, you convey your company’s values to your clients, partners, and employees. This demonstrates that your business is not just about profit but also about making a positive impact on the environment and society.’ Furthermore, eco-friendly gifting is an effective strategy to ‘engage your employees in your sustainability initiatives.’ Research shows that ‘when your team feels that your organization shares their values, it can boost morale, employee satisfaction, and retention rates.

Reusable Water Bottles

Whether they’re made from glass, BPA-free plastic, stainless steel, or aluminum, reusable water bottles are a fantastic employee gift. If you have coffee lovers working in-house, reusable coffee cups are another great idea.

Ecological Product Kits

Eco-friendly products kits are another much-loved gift idea. From soaps and face creams to toothpaste and shampoo, there are more sustainable bathroom products out there than ever before.

Gifts Made From Recycled Materials

Gifts made from recycled materials are a fantastic environmentally friendly solution. Stationery or fashion accessories made from recycled products are a great option for office staff, including notebooks, briefcases, diaries, and more.

Gifts From Locally Certified B-Corp Businesses

Additionally, consider including products from locally certified B Corp businesses in your gifting selection. These businesses adhere to rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency, making their products both ethical and sustainable.

“Choice” Gift Ideas

Employee looking through lot's of gift choice


In the world of employee gifts, personal choice is very important. A “choice” gift is something selected by the receiver, normally from a wide range of options. This unique approach to gifting works on several fronts. It reinforces appreciation, it shows how much you value individual preferences—and most importantly—people get to choose what they want.

The “choice” employee gift are a great way to show respect. However, there are a few rules to bear in mind:

  • When choosing a selection of gifts, don’t leave anyone out. Include gifts for every generation, and take your time to think about gender and personal preferences.
  • In some situations, it’s best to limit your choice to a particular type of gift or a specific theme. For example, people may choose between different gifts for a service anniversary, retirement or a moment in life to celebrate.
  • This approach to gifting makes it easy to select items and experiences based on cost. You can set a budget for each scenario and allow employees to choose gifts within predefined limits. To see examples of how this idea can be implemented, take a look at Altrum’s Gifting Catalogue.

As mentioned by Patrick Dupuis, Account Manager and Recognition Expert at Altrum, in Employee Gifts: A simple and comprehensive guide, “Offering choice in gifts is [a way] to ensure that every present is greeted with enthusiasm and used with appreciation. By allowing employees to select [their own presents] from a variety of products and experiences, companies demonstrate a deep understanding of individual preferences as well as respect for their employees’ freedom of choice, reinforcing the emotional connection and positive impact of recognition within the team.”

The Impact of Gifts on Employees and Organizations

Importance of gift on employees


Employee gifts are a great way to show appreciation. The act of gifting strengthens bonds within your team, boosting morale and improving the working experience. Gifts offer benefits across your entire organization, from better performance to increased loyalty and higher retention rates. When you make smart gifting choices, you are recognizing your staff and showing them how much you care.

As Patrick Dupuis points out, Offering thoughtful gifts to employees is more than just a gesture; it’s an investment in your team’s well-being and loyalty.” In today’s fast-moving and often impersonal world, this sentiment means more than ever before. Whatever items or experiences you choose, employee gifts have a real tangible impact. They foster individual employee motivation and engagement, and they influence cultural values throughout your entire organization.

The gift ideas for employees presented in this guide can have a positive impact on your team and workplace environment.


The Author

Alexandra Thibaudeau

Marketing Project Manager

Passionate about the world of communications and marketing, Alexandra joined the Altrum team in 2023 with nearly 8 years of solid experience in the field. She implements innovative strategies and creates customized tools to help companies inspire and celebrate their employees.