Starting a business

Holiday gift ideas for employees | Unique, meaningful, small, & more

Running a business requires a lot of moving parts. Luckily, once you have gotten to a point where you can hire employees, you should be able to divide up the labor so you can spend your time on high-level tasks. However, once you have a team, you need to start thinking about how to motivate and retain your employees so that they stick with you for the long haul.

We’ve written a whole article on how to retain employees, which includes strategies like providing detailed and recurring training, creating opportunities for mentorship, including employees in goal-setting, and giving and receiving constructive feedback. But one of the best ways to motivate and retain your team is by making them feel valued. A good salary and frequent promotion cycles are one way to do this, but so are bonuses and gifts (within reason).

As the holidays roll around, we want to outline some holiday gift ideas for employees, including unique, meaningful, and small gifts, so you can let your team know how much you care.

Employee recognition examples

Employee retention, which refers to a company’s ability to maintain their team of employees and avoid turnover, is especially important for children’s activity and education businesses because parents prefer to establish relationships with the people who will be teaching their children. 

However, that is not the only reason that maintaining a strong employee retention rate is important for your business. Research shows that replacing an employee can cost the business as much as 33% of that employee’s annual salary. 

According to research done by Deloitte, companies that have employee recognition programs see 31% lower voluntary turnover. Similarly, a study done by OC Tanner Learning Group showed that 79% of people who quit their jobs cited “lack of appreciation” as their main reason. But, the reward for a job well done does not have to be monetary. In fact, the Deloitte research found that, “across organizational levels, generations, genders, and Business Chemistry types, the most valued type of recognition is a new growth opportunity.” 

It is important to note, though, that it is impossible and impractical to promote employees each time they do a job well done. Likewise, as a small business, you might not be able to provide salary increases or cash bonuses to recognize your employees. That is ok. Behavioral scientist Dan Ariely explains that personalized thank you notes and shoutouts, meaningful, unique, and/or useful gifts, timely positive feedback, and bonus time off, nights out, or other celebratory items can be just as beneficial.

Holiday gift ideas for employees

This leads us to holiday gifts for employees. The holiday season is an especially important time because it gives you the opportunity to show that you care about your employees. Providing appropriate time off, keeping work at work by not sending messages or emails during time off, and giving holiday gifts are all ways to show your appreciation and recognize your employees for their hard work.

We’ve outlined holiday gift ideas for employees, broken down by unique gifts, meaningful gifts, and small gifts, so that you can be sure your team feels valued this holiday season.

Unique gifts for employees

Since the goal is for you to make your employees feel appreciated, giving them a boring holiday gift like company branded Post-It notes is not going to cut it. Instead, check out these unique gifts for employees so they know you put in the time and effort to find something as special as they are.

1. Phone sanitizer and charger

What is a phone sanitizer and charger?

Since your staff may be spending a lot of time with children, a phone sanitizing and charging hub can be a great way to ensure they stay healthy this winter. Employees love gifts that are useful and this definitely is!

How much does a phone sanitizer and charger cost?


Buy here

2. Touch screen compatible gloves

What are touch screen gloves?

These are gloves that have pads on them so that they can be used with touch screens. This is a great gift if you run outdoor activities through the winter, like soccer classes or adventure camps. But, even if your team stays indoors for work, these touch screen gloves will make a great gift.

How much do touch screen gloves cost?


Buy here

3. Customized bamboo lunch boxes

What is a customized bamboo lunch box?

You can add your company logo or design to these bamboo lunch boxes and give your whole team matching sets to reduce plastic waste. This is a great opportunity to show you care about the environment and your team!

How much does a customized bamboo lunch box cost?

$17.97 to $30.64

Buy here

4. Portable Bluetooth speaker

What is a portable Bluetooth speaker?

Your team will be thrilled to receive a portable Bluetooth speaker this holiday season. It is a great gift because it is so handy and employees can use it at home or when teaching or coaching.

How much does a portable Bluetooth speaker cost?


Buy here

5. Popcorn set

What is a popcorn set?

Complete with 3 different types of popcorn kernels and 4 different spices, this popcorn set is a perfect gift for your team members to enjoy with their whole family. If you can, pair it with a movie recommendation that you think would be perfect for that employee so you can make it personalized, too.

How much does a popcorn set cost?


Buy here

Meaningful gifts for employees

If you have children, you probably have said something like this before: the holiday season is less about gifts and more about the act of giving. If you really want to show your team that you appreciate and value all of their hard work, then these meaningful gifts for employees can help.

1. Restaurant gift cards

What is it?

Depending on the size of your staff, getting a gift card to each person’s favorite restaurant might be doable. Employees love this gift because it shows that you listen and care about them. You can buy restaurant gift cards on OpenTable. Plus, it is something they will actually use and enjoy! If your team is too big for individualized gift cards like this, you can get each person a giftcard to a food delivery service like GrubHub or DoorDash.

How much do restaurant gift cards cost?

Up to you how much you want to give them for their meal

Buy here

2. Framed review from a student

What is it?

This is a great gift for the educators on your team. Ask some of your students why they love the educator and write down their response. Then, type up all or part of their “review”, print it, and frame it in a nice picture frame. Voila! You have a beautiful and meaningful gift that your employees will treasure for years. For team members that are not educators, you can frame reviews from parents who have interacted with the team member, photos from work outings, or just give them a beautiful frame that they can use however they’d like.

How much does a framed review cost?

You can find frames for as low as $12

Buy here

3. Extra time off

What is it?

Sometimes, the most meaningful gift is the gift of time. Show your employees that you care by giving them a few extra days off to be used when they need them. Make sure they know that they still need to provide you with adequate notice and prepare backup as needed, but these extra days off will do wonders for your employee retention and recognition of a job well done.

How much does it cost?


4. Cup of compliments

What is it?

Buy each employee a mug with their initials on it or something to distinguish it from the others. Then, write compliments on small strips of paper and fill the mug with it. You can also include some small candies like Hershey’s Kisses, candy canes, or Chanukah gelt in the mug as well. You can also ask for compliments from other team members and managers to add to the mug. When your employee opens their gift, they will see a great new mug and so much appreciation!

How much does a cup of compliments cost?

You can find personalized mugs for as low as $7.75

Buy here

5. A sincere note and a cash gift card

What is it?

According to a survey done by Appirio, 60% of employees reported that feeling appreciated by their manager is the most important metric for considering whether they want to work at a company. Therefore, writing heartfelt letters of thank you to your employees is a great way to show your appreciation and help with your employee retention numbers. But, since it is the holiday season, adding some money or a VISA gift card to the card can also help.

How much does a gift card cost?

You can decide how much money to give to your employees, but we recommend $25 or more.

Buy here

Small gift ideas for employees

We know that running a children’s activity or education business can be difficult financially, especially during the age of COVID when parents are not sure what is comfortable for them and their family. We still recommend giving your staff a token of your appreciation this holiday season. Therefore, here are some great small gift ideas for employees. Everything on our list is under $20. Plus, need help setting up your small business budget so you know you have room for holiday gifts? Check out our guide!

1. Spreadsheet mug

What is a spreadsheet mug?

This handy mug is perfect for your accounting and admin staff, who likely have their heads buried in spreadsheets. It features some of the most common spreadsheet shortcuts right on the mug so they can have their coffee with one hand and key in the shortcuts with the other.

How much does a spreadsheet mug cost?


Buy here 

2. Watercolor anti-slip desk pad

What is an anti-slip desk pad?

These beautiful, colorful watercolor desk pads are a perfect pop of color for your employees in the office or at home. Giving a useful gift is a great way to show you care and help them get excited for work each day.

How much does an anti-slip desk pad cost?

$8.43 - $15.46

Buy here

3. Custom face masks

What are custom face masks?

When you interact with children and families, it is important to put up a united front. Creating custom face masks with your company’s logo is a great way to show current and prospective families that you are professional and ready to provide the best possible care for their children. Plus, employees benefit from feeling included and part of a team, so it’s a win-win.

How much do custom face masks cost?


Buy here

4. Insulated travel mug

What is an insulated travel mug?

For a staff of educators and admins, drinking coffee or tea right after it’s brewed might feel like a pipe dream. That is why this insulated travel mug is such a great gift for your team. They can pour their hot or cold beverages in here and then take it on the go where it will stay at the desired temperature for hours.

How much do insulated travel mugs cost?


Buy here

5. Daily planner

What is a daily planner?

This daily planner is the perfect holiday gift for your employees because it will get them in the mood to start the new year off organized. Featuring tear-away sheets and to-do lists as well as spots for tracking how much water they are drinking and other healthy habits, this planner can be used for work or for home.

How much does a daily planner cost?


Buy here

We hope these unique, meaningful, and small holiday gift ideas for employees have inspired you to find the right mix for your team. If you are looking for more guidance on hiring for your small business, we have a great guide to walk you through the process. For all of your children’s activity and education business needs, Sawyer is here to help. Learn more about us and see how you can save time and boost revenue by speaking with a member of our team or signing up for a free demo to see how it works.

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