As HR and employee engagement professionals, we want to find the best ways to engage our employees to improve retention. This will benefit your company from many perspectives. If your employees are happy at work, that can improve their individual productivity, as well as productivity across the organization. Additionally, if employees like where they work, that can improve employee loyalty and retention. And from our POV, a little bribery never hurt anybody.
The DAS team compiled research from our own customers and polls by other companies to get an idea of what swag employees not only want but will use.
During the hiring spree of 2022, before the present economic downturn, buying swag for employee loyalty and team spirit initiatives was at an all-time high. Also during 2022, a few companies, namely VistaPrint, OnePoll, and WeGift ran surveys to figure out what are the most popular items for employees to receive from their own companies for employee engagement initiatives.
Some of this data overlaps with some of the popularly searched items that we see customers searching for here at DAS, but we will stick to the user survey gathered for the rest of this article.
The top 5 items that Americans say they want are: t-shirts, pens, mugs, water bottles, and headphones. However, when people were polled specifically about what they would want from employers, merchandise, in general, came fourth to gift cards, cash, and food. Plants as gifts, like cactuses, took 5th place.
For the purposes of this list, we will keep the conversation focused on swag. Here are some ideas for keeping your employees engaged through swag and gifts:
Branded t-shirts, especially high-quality t-shirts, are a great way to increase brand awareness and to turn your employees into brand ambassadors. Moreover, statistics show that having staff wear items with their company’s branding can make them feel more engaged with the organization and can help to boost collaboration and teamwork.
Sustainability is top of mind for many consumers these days. Opting for t-shirts or other types of branded apparel made of organic cotton is a great way to incorporate sustainability into an employee engagement initiative, while also gifting your employees with a product that they will be able to wear for years to come.
When asked what is most important to them, 38% of those surveyed responded that they like swag that is useful. And who doesn’t need more pens? A high-quality branded ballpoint pen can keep your company top of mind for your employees as well as anyone outside of the company that receives these pens, as well as, while they work, in meetings, at conferences, or when making lists, journaling, or writing checks in one’s personal life. A branded pen is a small way to have a big impact on someone’s life.
As previously mentioned, one of the big takeaways from the survey by VistaPrint and OnePoll, was that those surveyed stated they value utility in the swag that they receive. One item that is useful to have extras at home and in the office is mugs.
Mugs are great tokens for your employees to show their team spirit and have something branded to sip their coffee from in the office. Getting some good branding and a funny slogan or inside joke from the company is a great way to foster camaraderie and loyalty with your employees.
If you want to get something outside of the box in the mug realm, one of the latest crazes in the thermos world are “ember mugs” or coffee mug warmers that keep hot beverages hot via a small hot plate. A branded ember mug can be a great way to show your employees that you care about their quality of life at home or at the office by helping them keep their beverages warm.
Also on the top 100 items list were travel mugs.
Ever since there has been a growing awareness of environmental problems over the last 10-20 years, reusable water bottles have increased in popularity. According to the survey by VistaPrint and OnePoll, swag receivers care about sustainability. Finding a water bottle that can be used again and again, like glass or aluminum, that is also recyclable, will not only make your employees feel that you care about them, but also that you care about the environment, and will decrease your company’s carbon footprint, dependence on plastic and petroleum products, and overall negative impact on the environment.
This is an item that people that care about sustainability and hydration will carry with them to work, in the car, and in their bag around town and will help increase employee loyalty and team spirit by having their brand on display when they are at work and outside of work.
Headphones are an item that everyone in the modern world uses that are easily lost during travel. Offering up a high quality branded set of headphones — like Airpods, Samsung Galaxy Buds, Beats, or Skullcandy — are an easy way to gain browning points with your team or employees, as well as foster camaraderie and morale. And to give them extras of something they may need replacing after the next work trip!
Some other “unique” items that made the top 100 list, that may help establish rapport and loyalty amongst your employees are:
An upgrade from the tote bag, a backpack is a nice touch to show your team that you appreciate them. Brands like Herschel or even outdoor brands like Puma, Patagonia, or Osprey are high-quality packs that your employees can take with them on work trips or on vacations in their time off. Showing your employees that you care about their work-life balance when they are at work and when they are off of work is a very easy way to show empathy and that you care. Outdoor gear or a backpack that can double as a good travel pack or backpack for work can be a great way to convey that, all by offering something branded to show off company pride. A backpack can also double as the “box” that the rest of your swag comes in for an onboarding package.
An umbrella is another utilitarian item that all people need but don’t always have. The act of giving an umbrella shows that you care about your employees’ well-being. It demonstrates consideration for their comfort and demonstrates that you are thinking about their needs beyond the workplace. This thoughtfulness can contribute to a positive employee experience and foster a sense of appreciation. Giving employees a practical and useful gift like an umbrella can be a tangible way to express appreciation for their hard work and contributions. It shows that you value their efforts and want to provide them with something meaningful and practical as a token of gratitude. Putting your branding on an item like this will certainly foster feelings of loyalty to the company as well as team spirit.
Bottle openers — what a way to show that you appreciate an employee’s desire to have a life outside of work. Making an object like this branded, makes it a subtle branding tool. Each time an employee uses the bottle opener, they are reminded of their connection to the company, fostering a sense of pride and loyalty. Bottle openers are relatively affordable compared to other promotional items or swag gifts. They can be purchased in bulk, making them a cost-effective choice for companies or organizations with a large number of employees. Bottle openers have universal appeal, as they are not limited to a specific gender, age group, or demographic. They can be appreciated by employees from various backgrounds, making them an inclusive gift option. Overall, a bottle opener can be a practical, versatile, and long-lasting swag gift that promotes your brand, provides value to employees, and is cost-effective for the company.
Similarly to bottle openers, other “drinkware accessories” like stainless steel straws and glass or tumbler sets can be a great way to think outside the box with your swag and show your employees that you care.
Remember, the important thing with giving out swag is making your employees feel valued. Employees are humans first, workers second. If you use this approach to make sure they know that they are valued for more than just their productivity and output, that will help them feel valued.
Being creative in your employee engagement initiatives is an easy way to incorporate swag into your employee gifting initiatives. Birthday gifts, onboarding packages, work anniversaries are a few occasions when gifting comes in handy for showing appreciation for your employees.
Get your HR team or your employee operations team together to think about some out-of-the-box ideas for the folks in your organization. The ideas on this list are the most popular ideas from employees across different organizations. However, if you take into account your company culture and the people within your organization, you can probably think of some ideas that are unique to your brand and how your company does employee engagement. Employee gifting can provide even more value and make your employees feel like the company really cares about them.
Employee engagement may be a buzzword today, but employee satisfaction is shown to improve productivity and loyalty, which will in turn increase profits for your company. As an HR professional, keeping this in mind when planning engagement initiatives like events, team bonding activities, and employee gifting can be a great way to keep the employees in your organization not only engaged but satisfied and fulfilled with their work lives.
And remember, great employee engagement can turn into viral moments that can turn into great marketing for your company and can create a great reputation for your brand to attract the best talent for years to come.
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