These gifts have nothing to do with company store vouchers, gift cards to Starbucks, or any special holiday baskets. These gifts are about leadership and, trust me, they will mean more to your employees over the long run than any buy 1, get 1 free coupon at the local bowling alley.

  1. Development: Employees want to grow, they want careers, and they want to feel like they are on a path that is fulfilling at a deep personal level. If we treat our interactions with others like transactions at the mall, then we shouldn’t be surprised if get the bare minimum from them in return.
  1. Clarity: Employees want to know where the organization is going, what is expected of them, and how their efforts tie into the larger purpose of the organization. They also want to know what is most important. We get into trouble on this one by sending mixed signals, rapidly changing our mind about what matters most, or expecting everything from everyone right now.
  1. Rewards: Employees want to feel like rewards are actually linked to performance and effort- if I succeed, I get rewarded. If I fail, I get sanctioned. But I have met very few people who believe annual reviews or raises or promotions are strongly linked to individual performance.

So before you rush out to the local gas station and buy whatever gift cards are at the register (that’s where I do most of my holiday shopping), think about what really matters to your employees. Having a career path, knowing how they make a difference, and rewarding their hard work and performance, or a re-gifted candle that your aunt gave you two years ago?

*If you want to know more about the impact of development, clarity, and rewards on employees, check out The Ins and Outs of Successful Leadership (PDF)



Tom Epperson

Tom Epperson

Dr. Tom Epperson is the President of InnerWill, and an instructor in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Executive MBA program. Tom is a certified business coach and has a Doctorate in Leadership from The George Washington University. Tom works with clients on cultural transformation, leadership development, executive coaching, and igniting individual and organizational potential. Previously, Tom served as the HR Director for Luck Companies, and played a significant role as one of the architects of Luck Companies’ cultural transformation.

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