Gift-giving is a time-honored tradition in the U.S. and many other parts of the world. The holiday season is particularly well-known for the exchange of gifts. This is when many companies commonly give out holiday gifts for staff. In fact, the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) conducted a study in 2014 that showed 62% of companies planned to give gifts for employees and client gifts.


It’s nice to know that so many companies think of their employees during the holidays, but what kinds of gifts should they be giving out? The same ASI study mentioned above found the most popular gifts to employees tend to be gift cards, food or beverages, apparel, or cash bonuses. The question is, are these the types of gifts employees want? took the time to ask a few people what they like as a gift and they got a variety of answers. Based on their research and other insights, here are the best holiday gift ideas for employees.



Consumables might not sound appealing, but there are so many gifts in this category that are ideal as employee recognition gifts. It is common for employees to want something that is useful and won’t clutter up their desk or a shelf at home. Examples of nice consumable gifts include:


  • A spice collection
  • Food/fruit basket
  • Vinegars and/or oils
  • Steak, ham, or turkey
  • Gourmet chocolates
  • A full holiday dinner for the employee and their family



Yes, alcohol is a consumable, but one that deserves its own category. If you know your employees drink occasionally, then just getting a bottle of the finest makes a great gift. However, you need to know their tastes. Then you can choose their favorite from any of the following:


  • Wine
  • Whiskey
  • Scotch
  • Bourbon
  • Brandy
  • Rum
  • Vodka
  • Beer
  • Coolers
  • Cider


Gift Cards

You simply can’t go wrong with gift cards. A gift card to a grocery store is something everyone can appreciate—after all, everyone has to eat. Aside from that, if you are giving gift cards, try to get to know your employees so you can get something the employee will actually use. You don’t have to get the same card for everyone. Ideas for gift cards include:


  • Local restaurants
  • iTunes
  • Movie theater
  • Shopping mall
  • Clothing stores
  • Target/Walmart
  • Book store
  • Spa/salon



This one will depend on how many staff members you are buying for and how much you want to spend on each. But if you can swing it, electronics are a great way to go. Everyone loves a new toy or gadget to play with. Ideas include:


  • Tablet/iPad
  • Mobile phone
  • Camera
  • Laptop
  • Speakers
  • Video game
  • Smart technology of any kind


Tangible Items

If you want to get non-consumable gifts for employees, the key is to make sure the gift is useful to them. Think about what your employees might want that is practical, perhaps something that will make their life easier or enhance it in some way. Remember, this list could truly go on and on so what is here is just a sampling of potential gifts:


  • Plants
  • Books (if you know your employees well enough to choose the right ones)
  • Tickets to a sporting or cultural event
  • Coffee mug
  • Slippers
  • Tools
  • Camping gear
  • Luggage
  • Cook sets
  • Grill



The gift of travel never goes amiss. People love to get away and gifts to employees can include a trip to somewhere fun and interesting. This doesn’t have to be an extravagant trip. It can be as simple as a weekend away in a nearby city or even in a local hotel. Maybe a nice ski trip or a spa weekend. If your company can afford it, you can certainly make the trip more substantial. Either way, employees will appreciate it.


A Staff Party

A staff holiday party might not be a new idea, but it can be so much more fun than dinner at a restaurant. The key is to come up with some unique ideas. There are so many things you can do, such as:


  • A night at the racetrack
  • Bowling
  • Karaoke
  • Night at an amusement park
  • Rent a movie theater for an evening
  • A night at an arcade
  • Ugly Christmas Sweater party
  • A formal party that gives people the chance to really dress up
  • Fancy dinner at the boss’ house.


Good Old Cash

One of the most traditional forms of holiday employee appreciation gifts is the cash bonus. We often associate this with large corporations that can afford to give their employees bonuses into the thousands of dollars. However, a cash bonus at the holidays doesn’t have to be big. Even $100 or $200 is nice and will be appreciated. It will give each employee the opportunity to spend it on what is most fun and/or meaningful to them.


Paid Time Off

In lieu of a cash bonus, giving employees one or more paid days off is a great gift. This gives them more time to spend with family or to travel or just plain relax. Even just one extra paid day off is a great gift, especially if the employee can choose a day that best suits them.


Another alternative is to give them paid time between Christmas and New Year or at least an extra day or two around the holidays. Of course, this will depend in part on the type of business you run. If you are front line with customers, this won’t work for everyone you employ.


Charitable Gift

Sometimes what is meaningful to an employee isn’t a tangible gift they can use, but a charitable gift that they know will make someone else’s life better. According to an Ipsos Reid survey, 54% of Canadian employees would prefer their employer give to a charity on their behalf rather than get them employee gifts. This is certainly something to think about and maybe you can even survey your own employees to find out their preference of a charitable or non-charitable gift. When it comes to charitable gifts, these gifts can still be tangible if they are one of the following:


  • Locally made
  • Has sentimental value
  • Is Fair Trade
  • Is environmentally friendly
  • The proceeds from the sale go to support charity


You can even take the actual gifts you would buy for your employees and simply donate those to needy families in your region. In fact, this is exactly what Google did in 2016. It’s definitely something to think about.


Extra Gift-Buying Tips

The absolute most important key to buying holiday gifts for employees is this—get to know each and every employee. This has been mentioned a couple of times above because it is so important. The gift you give needs to have value and meaning to the recipient or there really isn’t any point. If the gift isn’t meaningful, you’ll be wasting your money and your employees will feel incredibly awkward accepting the gifts you give.


Holiday gift-giving may be a tradition, but if it is done mechanically or purely out of obligation, it really makes no sense. So, put some thought into it and choose staff gifts that your employees will truly love and value. When they know you’ve put thought into it, they will also truly love and value you.