Best Holiday Gifts for Your Employees


With the holidays around the corner, year-end also brings about the gift-shopping season. While we bang our head against the wall for new gift ideas every year, organizations are also constantly brainstorming new ways to reward their employees and show appreciation for their contributions. Historically, monetary compensation was the ultimate reward in the workplace. However, the modern workplace calls for new ways to motivate employee productivity and engagement.

On one hand, the ever-changing world economy creates financial challenges to organizations, which limits employers’ capacity to offer monetary rewards. According to the latest findings on pay trends, employers remain cautious with their salary budgets as a result of the most recent recession. Therefore, organizations need to experiment with innovative compensation solutions beyond salary to keep employees motivated.

On the other hand, while extrinsic motivators such as monetary rewards can drive performance, they are not adequate, and sometimes may even hinder performance. People tend to be driven by two sources of motivations: extrinsic versus intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation originates from things outside of our passions and personal interests (e.g., salary, bonuses), whereas intrinsic motivation is the opposite. Multiple studies conducted across various settings consistently show that recipient of external rewards can boost extrinsic motivation yet reduce intrinsic motivation. Specifically, the presence of tangible rewards makes people believe they behave in certain ways only in exchange for external rewards, which reduces their internal motivations and decrease performance in the long run. Indeed, according to a recent Gallup engagement survey, 63% of employees who are intrinsically motivated and engaged at work would continue with their current job even upon winning a $10 million lottery, whereas only 20% of disengaged employees would remain in their current job.

Clearly, the question comes down to: What is the best gifting idea to retain intrinsically motivated employees? We all know that the best gifters send us what we want. Similarly, the best reward to boost intrinsic motivation should tailor to employees’ personal interests. To understand such interests, employers need to gain insights to employees’ motivations and values, which often differ by individual. For example, while some employees aspire for recognition or opportunity for growth, others may value training and continuous learning. To address such individual differences, Hogan developed the Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory (MVPI) to reveal a person’s key drivers – what they desire and strive to attain.

Like all other Hogan tools, the MVPI demonstrates sound psychometric quality through reliability (e.g., internal-consistency reliability, test-retest reliability) and validity (e.g., construct validity, criterion-related validity) evidence. Besides revealing individual interests, the ten core values assessed by the MVPI also provides implications for organizational culture fit. Moreover, knowing individual drivers shed light on the compatibility and potential conflict among team members, which informs the formation of functional teams.

As Sarah Dessen wrote in “Lock and Key”: The best gifts come from the heart, not the store. Understanding employees’ motives, values, and preferences and developing compensation strategies accordingly is the key to an intrinsically motivated workforce.