Every year at Christmas, I would struggle with what to give the employees at my printing firm. I wanted to give them something nice, but since I usually had a limited budget, it wasn’t always easy to find good gift ideas. I realized that to some employees a $500 gift might not seem like much, but when you multiply that $500 by 18 employees, it adds up to $9,000.00 — an amount that would pretty much wipe out all our profits for the entire month of December.
So even though I wanted to be generous, I always felt like I needed to be careful and not spend too much. I needed to maintain a reasonable budget on Christmas gifts.
Through the years, we were able to find some creative Christmas gift ideas, and I’d like to share some of them here. If you’re looking for some fresh and creative Christmas gift ideas for your employees, this blog might be helpful for you.
Here are some of the more popular Christmas gifts that we gave our employees… and a few to avoid!
#1. Money. There’s something easy about giving money, and it certainly doesn’t take a lot of creativity. How much should you give? Well, no matter how much it is, it will never be enough to satisfy everyone. In my opinion, money is not the best gift to give for several reasons. First, money sometimes causes grumbling because there always seems to be at least one employee who will make negative comments about the amount given.
Secondly, because it seems like such an “easy” gift to give — and can even seem to lack creativity — money as a gift often seemed unappreciated by many on my staff.
Also, with money gifts, there’s a tendency among employees to think that every year the amount of money given should grow, no matter how the company is doing.
When we did give money as Christmas gifts, we always tried to add to the creative aspect of the gift by giving some type of unique coins or currency. For example, if you want to add a little pizazz to your gift of money, don’t write a check for $500.00. Instead, give each employee five brand-new, uncirculated $100.00 bills. Better yet, give them five bank-wrapped bundles of 100 one-dollar bills. Five hundred one-dollar bills in those official bank-money wrappers is way cool because it’s a whole fistful of money and often takes two hands to carry!
In addition to cash, here are some other unique gift ideas I gave my employees at Christmas.
#2. A big pile of miscellaneous gift items from Sam’s Club or Costco. This was actually very popular, and I used this idea multiple times. I’d set my budget (say $250.00), then go on this massive shopping spree to Sam’s Club or Costco and buy a whole bunch of miscellaneous items until I hit the budget limit. For example, if I had 18 employees, I’d buy 18 big boxes of M&Ms, 18 jars of Jif peanut butter, and 18 DVDs of the latest Batman movie.
By doing this, every employee got a Christmas gift that was actually a sizable collection of gifts. The entire “collection” of stuff often required them to make numerous trips to their cars… which added to the fun and energy of our Christmas party. We would pile all of the like items in one pile and have 10 or 12 piles of stuff (Christmas gifts) on display. Then we’d let everyone walk around and gather up each of their items.
If you like this idea, have some fun and choose from a wide selection of gifts. Food, candy, CDs, DVDs, small appliances, and even office supply items for home use all add to the fun. This Christmas gift idea requires some extra effort on your part, but if you do it, I think your employees will be very grateful.
One suggestion: be sure you choose exactly the same gift items for everyone. For example, if you buy everyone a five-gallon jug of pretzels, don’t buy half pretzels and half potato chips, or most assuredly you’ll wind up with some workers not getting exactly what they wanted.
#3. Gift Cards… with a twist. Several times, I spent my entire Christmas budget on gift cards in $100.00 increments. Then we did something that really added to the fun. We asked all of our employees to sit in a circle. Then, we gave everyone a $100.00 gift card to a popular grocery store for food and another $100.00 gift card to the local mall.
But in addition to these $100 gift cards, we also purchased 18 different gift cards from a variety of popular places (Starbucks, Lowe’s, McDonald’s, Victoria’s Secret, JC Penny, Apple iTunes, etc.). We put the cards in sealed envelopes, and each employee got to take one envelope. After everyone had opened their envelopes and revealed their one-of-a-kind gift cards, we all sat in a circle and did a “gift card swap.”
Here’s how it worked: We went around the circle and asked each person if they wanted to keep their card or take someone else’s. It took a little while for everyone to decide, and it was a great time of employee interaction and bonding. There were lots of laughs and fun galore as we did our gift card swap.
#4. Apple iPads. OK, this was a little more extravagant, but one year I gave every employee an Apple iPad for Christmas. In retrospect, it was a great gift and paid some giant dividends. Morale improved, and it was very gratifying to see my employees bring their iPads to work and use them every day. The gift was more special and creative because I gave them as a gift when iPads were hard to get and very few people had them.
#5. “Here’s some cash. Buy your own present.” This was a very clever idea that proved fun and interesting. About six weeks before Christmas one year, I gave every employee $200.00 and told them to use the money to buy themselves a gift. But there was a “catch.” Each employee had to buy their gift and then bring it “new and unused” to our company Christmas party, where they would show off their gift to all their co-workers and explain why they purchased the item they chose. Listening to my employees explain why they wanted the gift they purchased for themselves was interesting and, in some cases, inspiring and even heartwarming.
The self-purchased gifts included things like a new bicycle, a lawn mower, a vintage wooden tool box, a complete library collection of Plato’s writings, and an infant car seat. It was a most interesting time as we all listened to each other share about our gifts, and we all felt like we got to know each other better as a result.
#6. Christmas dinners. Christmas parties were unpopular at my company, so we replaced them with a Christmas dinner and invited everyone to bring their family. These were very well-liked and well-attended. We always went to very nice places. One year we went to a country club restaurant. Another time we chose a nice Italian restaurant with a big fireplace in our private room. Once, we even reserved the pool area at a big local hotel because it had an amazing “Pirate’s Cove” play area for the kids. It was great fun, especially considering the outside temperature in Fargo was 20 below zero!
We always tried to arrange it so our employees could order food off the menu instead of everyone getting the same “banquet food.” The way we got restaurants to agree to do this was by placing our individual food orders a week or more in advance, so they had time to prepare everything easily.
In my experience, an annual company Christmas dinner was something many employees looked forward to simply because it gave them a chance to bring their families to a work-related event. If you can afford to do this, it’s something I highly recommend. Oh, and for what it’s worth, I always made every company party or dinner an alcohol-free event. That may surprise you, but we always had a lot of fun anyway. It saved a lot of money, and nobody ever embarrassed themselves in front of their co-workers because they drank too much.
Well, Merry Christmas! I hope you found an idea or two to help you with gift-giving at your printing firm this Christmas.
If you have any good Christmas gift ideas that you’ve used with your employees, be sure to share them in the comments, so all of us can benefit from your experience.
Thank you for your time. My name is Mike Stevens, and I am a printer.