What Your Employees Want for the Holidays

What Your Employees Want for the Holidays


With the 2021 holiday season just visible over the horizon, individuals and companies are starting to consider the gifts they’ll be sending. Deciding what to buy people is no easy task. Even when you know someone well, you can’t be sure they’ll like your choice. And if they do, there’s always the chance they might already have what you bought. It’s a process fraught with pitfalls, and businesses have just as difficult a time as individuals.  

 As a business owner or manager, you certainly want to give back something to your employees, but you don’t want to give a present that no one wants. Gifts that miss the mark can sometimes do more harm than good; people like to say that it’s the thought that counts, but that’s not always true.  

 If you’ve ever seen the movie Christmas Vacation, you’ll remember the famous scene where Clark Grizwold excitedly tears open his Christmas bonus, dreams of a new pool dancing in his head, only to discover a year’s membership to the Jelly of the Month Club. He was — displeased, to put it mildly. 

 Thankfully, greater minds than ours have done the research, and the science is clear. We know what your employees want for the holidays, and the answer may not be what you expect. Let’s dig in and start making our gifting plans.

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It shouldn’t surprise anyone that employees want to be paid more. When asked what they’d like for the holidays, people most often say, “Show me the money!” But this isn’t something most employers are amenable to.  

 Businesses prefer merit-based increases. They want to reward employees that go above and beyond. Merit-based raises inspire staff members to strive for the next rung on the ladder. If companies were to give every employee a raise each holiday season, they might unintentionally remove critical performance incentives. 

 If you like the idea of gifted wage increases, consider a one-time bonus instead of a salary bump. Pay increases compound over time, costing you more in the long run.

Cash extending from a colorful envelope.


Considering that raises are what employees want most, you might reasonably assume that cash, or a bonus, would be the second most requested gift. You’d be right.  

 Employees welcome cash gifts with nearly as much gusto as raises. They don’t compound year upon year like increases, but they are exchangeable for any good or service your employees might want. Leger, Canada’s preeminent market research firm, found that 31% of survey respondents preferred cash from their employer.

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As an employee holiday gift, cash is often out of the question. Small businesses often don’t have the cash flow necessary to give everyone on staff a bonus or raise at the same time. But don’t let that worry you. Your employees will be pleased with a gift card as well. 

 Gift cards are immensely popular. An earlier Leger study found that when you remove cash as a gift option, a full 82% of employees surveyed said that they’d prefer to get a gift card or other prepaid option. 

 The reason is clear. Gift cards are almost as good as cash. They allow employees to buy what they want instead of getting stuck with something they don’t need, don’t like, or already own.

We see someone sleeping in, in bed.


The fourth most popular gift among employees is extra paid time off. Some consider it a reasonable exchange for extra pay, but there’s disagreement. Those that don’t use the leave they already have don’t see much value in additional days. It’s a gift they’ll never use.  

 Read the room. If paid time off is valuable within your organization, your staff will likely appreciate your gift. Otherwise, you might consider one of this list’s previous entries.

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Physical gifts are the least popular option among employees. This is partly because it’s challenging to pick one thing that everyone will like. But also, many employers have poisoned the well by gifting generic, often company-branded items that feel more like advertisements than gifts. 

 Your employees don’t want a beer koozie with the company’s logo on it. As much as they might like their jobs, they don’t want to think about them when they’re at home. And if they like beer koozies, they probably already have all they need. This example illustrates how “corporate” gifts can land like a lead balloon. 

 We understand the appeal of physical gifts. In the same way that a physical, handwritten card is more emotionally gratifying than an email, a hand-wrapped gift is more appealing than a gift card. If you opt to go this route, consider these suggestions.

Choose Something Unusual

If you’re getting the same item for everyone, make it unique. You can avoid gifting something that half your recipients already own. Just be sure people can use the item you purchase. You don’t want to go so far afield that you confuse your recipients.

Opt for Personalization

One-size-fits-all gifts often ring hollow. The more you can personalize your gifts, the more genuine they’ll feel. At the low end of effort are stock gift items that offer personalization options; everyone gets the same thing, but slightly different. At the high end are individualized gifts. You need to know your staff well to have success there.

SEE ALSO:  Handwritten Holiday Cards for Businesses and Brands

A woman wearing VR goggles.

Ride the Trends

Trendy items often make successful gifts because they’re exciting, and most people don’t have them yet. Depending on what it is, though, prepare to make an investment.


If you have more than 15 or 20 people on staff, handwriting holiday cards becomes a laborious, time-intensive process. Smart business owners and managers offload this responsibility to Simply Noted. We’ve perfected the automated, handwritten holiday card.  

 Simply choose one of our many holiday card designs (click here to get our new Holiday Catalog), type in your message text, pick your handwriting font and upload your addresses. Our handwriting machines will create stunning, authentic-looking handwritten cards personalized to each recipient. We use real ballpoint pens and AI-powered smart fonts to create a handwritten experience that’s indistinguishable from the real thing. 

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 Want to include a gift? We make that easy, too! You can choose a gift card from several vendors as a part of your order, and we’ll add them to each envelope before we put them in the mail. We add the value of the gift cards to your final cost. Simply Noted is handwritten holiday gift giving made simple.