15 May, 2019

Timing Is Everything: How To Time Employee Recognition For Maximum Impact

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Work Trends
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Written by
Bianca Polizzi
It’s been less than 90 days since I started at my current position, yet I find myself presenting in front of all our investors. My boss is on a business trip so I am representing our team.

I hold my voice from shaking as I talk about our work, slipping in a joke or two while the audience stares or scrolls on their phones. Well, it turns out that they liked my presentation the most! Hearing that positive response felt amazing! But getting a “job well done” gift card to a day spa felt even better.

It’s always a good time to give a gift. There’s always something to celebrate, appreciate, or show support for. But it’s the timing of the gift that affects its impact and amplifies your message. I would accept a pre-paid spay day any day, but getting it right after nailing my first big presentation made me feel confident and valued, even during my probation.

There are a few key times to give gifts, each time bringing its own subtle message to the recipient. Let’s explore these moments, and how the timing makes a difference.


Many industries give time off for the same holidays, so these days are mainly for spending time with friends and family who are also available. Gifting your employees on days that they look forward to encourages them to put down their phones and live in the moment with people they love.

Now, you don’t have to give a gift every holiday…that gets expensive. But you can switch up the holidays that your company sends gifts to create fewer expectations and more genuine excitement. You can give one year on Independence Day, another on Valentine’s, another during Easter/Passover weekend, etc. Outdoor camping equipment from REI, the latest best-selling novel from Barnes & Noble, or a customized photo-book from Shutterfly are top options for giving your staff a chance to appreciate the priceless things in life.

If your company isn’t able to grant vacation days for holidays, gift giving has an even greater impact. Your staff will feel festive with a present that they can use during other free time. It creates positivity in the work environment that remains through the working holiday and beyond.

Epiphany Moments

Significant events both inside and outside the office motivate people to reevaluate their life choices. Use these events to get creative and invent employee appreciation ideas. A firstborn baby gets the new parent thinking about the role they want to play in their child’s life. A personal relationship changes can spark a whole new outlook on life. A work-anniversary specifically has employees evaluating their impact, goals, and dedication to their organization; this crucial moment leads to a 6% increase in job-hunting. Sending a gift won’t be the main factor when making the next big life decision, but it will remind your employee that they are an important part of a caring, human-centric organization, and leave them feeling favorably toward the place where they spend most of their time.

Each pivotal moment comes with authentic gifting ideas. A new child warrants a gift card for Amazon (hello diaper deliveries!) or a much-needed massage from Gilt. A work anniversary calls for a celebratory night out with a voucher for the crowd favorite steakhouse. A wedding deserves some home decor from Wayfair or honeymoon-help from Airbnb! Use these gifting opportunities as a time to guide your employee through their thought process during the most important achievements. You can play a bigger part in their narrative with a simple e-mail — and a fun present as if you’re friends or family. 


Another candle on the cake leads to a 12% jump in job hunting. Now, that’s not the main reason to celebrate an employee’s birthday, but it does mark the day as an annual moment of reflection. Gifting your employee with a meal to their favorite restaurant, or a pair of tickets to a concert through StubHub tells them to relax from work and enjoy. It’s a gift that is anticipated all year long and is still exciting when it appears in their inbox! And with employee recognition services, you can automate birthday gifts so you’ll treat each employee equally, and let your staff choose their favorite celebratory activities.


When your employee is having trouble keeping up her usual work persona because she recently experienced a loss, let her know that it’s okay to be human. Your employees need to know that they are valued even during their roughest times. They can lose confidence at work if they take more time to make certain appointments, and feel overloaded when they get back. When there’s an emotional matter at hand (loss, accident, illness), your employee might need to get around a little more. A gift card for Uber, Airbnb, or Hello Fresh services helps them to cover extra costs and can cut them a break from an exhausting commute home. Simple gift ideas for office staff can make a huge difference.

Job Well Done

Managers set expectations for their employees. Many employees meet those expectations, and some go above and beyond regardless of the circumstance. Recognizing your employee’s latest feat encourages their behavior and leads them to future success. This gift should be playful to break up their average day, try to find unique employee recognition ideas. They could buy a game from GameStop, or pop open a bottle of wine from Wine Enthusiast. Be sure to accompany the gift with a personal note of what they did well; so asides from a fun voucher, they’ve also gained a stronger work relationship with you. This goes back to my personal story — I knew exactly what I did well, and knew that I was truly seen in the company. Now, I don’t expect a gift for every big thing I do, but the confidence that came with the gift allows me to accomplish even bigger tasks that I might never have taken on.

No Reason At All

You don’t need to wait for annual Employee Appreciation Day; every day is a good opportunity to show your team members some appreciation! These can be simple uplifters — a spontaneous $5 Starbucks gift card to break up their daily instant-coffee habit is enough to improve your employee’s morale. Unexpected gifts bring security, optimism, and creates more smiles in the office.

There’s no such thing as a bad time to get a gift. But there are times that make a greater impact than others, and it’s up to you to choose which moments you want to recognize. Proper timing brings joy and support to any occasion and also shows authenticity and thought behind the gift choice itself. So go ahead and get gifting! 

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