Benefits & Comp 4 min

11 Holiday Gift Ideas for Employees

December 6, 2018

When it comes to gifts, it’s the thought that counts. That’s why it’s important to be deliberate when deciding between employee holiday gift ideas.

In today’s ultra-competitive job market, you need every employer branding advantage you can get in order to recruit and retain the best people. Every aspect of the employee experience should come from thoughtful, deliberate strategy, and holiday gifts are no exception.

If anything, how employers handle the holidays—and holiday gifts—can greatly influence employee satisfaction.

More companies plan to give holiday gifts this year than last year. So, what you choose to give will make all the difference in turning happy employees in December into satisfied employees in the year to come. Below are 11 ideas to help you choose the right work holiday gifts.

Cash Bonus

In an informal survey of more than 700 employees, we found that cash bonuses are by far the most preferred holiday gifts.

1. Profit Share – One option for holiday bonuses is to give employees a percentage of the current year’s profits. You can divide the money by tenure or performance, or a combination of both. The important thing is that you help employees understand that your successes are their successes, keeping them highly incentivized to perform going forward.

2. Standard Bonus – In many instances, it makes sense to simply offer a standard amount. If you go this route, make sure employees know the cash bonus is a gift and not a new benefit to be expected every year. By doing so, you can manage expectations in future years and foster feelings of gratitude.

Want to learn more about incentivizing employees?

Gift Cards

Have you ever received a gift card for a store you would never shop at? It’s terrible. If your organization decides to give gift cards, make sure you offer what your people will actually want to use.

3. Amazon – You’ll be hard-pressed to find somebody who can’t use an Amazon gift card (ya’ know, because they sell everything).

4. Entertainment – Many employees might feel obligated to spend their money on something responsible, perhaps because they’re stuck in “adulting” mode. By offering entertainment gift cards—like movie passes or concert tickets—you give people permission to be frivolous and have a little (much-needed) fun.

5. Travel – In the same vein as the previous idea, offering gift cards related to travel (e.g., airlines, hotels, etc.) can give your people permission to take a long-overdue vacation or cut down on holiday costs they already accrue by visiting family.

6. Personalized Cards – If you have the time and information, don’t shy away from offering gift cards that are specific to the employee’s preferences. The individual attention will go a long way.


There’s no better time to offer new benefits than December, and when you frame them as a holiday gift, all the better.

7. More PTO – Whether you actually adjust your PTO policies or merely allow employees to spend more time with their family and friends during the holidays (while getting paid as if they were at work), they’ll be grateful. According to our survey, this was the second most popular holiday gift among employees.

8. Other Benefits – Four years ago at our end-of-year company meeting, our founders announced a new benefit called “paid paid vacation,” in which each employee would be paid $2,000 annually to spend on vacation expenses. To this day, the benefit engenders a sense of gratitude throughout our company. This is just one example of many creative benefit offerings you might unveil during the holiday season.

What kind of holiday employee are you? Take the quiz now!


For some people, there’s simply nothing better than getting a physical gift to hold and use—the kid in each of us simply loves getting a cool new toy. Assuming it’s something we’ll actually use and not some pink bunny costume from our aunt.

9. Best Tech – Whether it’s the latest iPad or an Amazon Echo Plus or whatever exciting new shiny object your employees are drooling over, you can make a big impression by giving your people the best tech available.

10. Work Items – Some gifts will make employees happy and help them do their job better. For example, you can give your coffee lovers a mug warmer or a thermos bottle. Or maybe you can offer noise-canceling headphones to employees who work in louder parts of the office. Kill two birds with one stone and a partridge in a pear—wait, what’s going on now?

11. Personalized Toys – Not to beat a dead horse, but the more personal the item, the better. So, one idea is to simply give managers a set budget and delegate a workflow to them to find something that their individual employees will love. It might be one of the items we’ve already listed or it may be something so obscure that literally nobody else in the company would want it, but that one employee will never forget that you gave it to them.


Like we said at the start, it’s the thought that counts. Thoughtful holiday gifts show employees that you care about them. When employees know you care during the holidays, they’re a lot more likely to reciprocate in the form of satisfaction and engagement throughout the following year. And that’s a New Year’s resolution we can all live with.

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Bryson Kearl

Bryson Kearl is an HR content creator at BambooHR. His role enables him to study HR's impact on organizations, and he is a diehard believer in the vital role HR plays in building company culture to achieve overarching business objectives.