Employee gifting for Christmas 2023: More impactful than ever

Posted on September 11, 2023 by Kess Crighton

2023 has been challenging for HR managers, to say the least. 

You’re responsible for your company’s most valuable asset – its people. But despite this, you’ve probably had to do more with less this year. Reduced headcount, reduced support – maybe even reduced budget. 

After a year of company cutbacks, it may be tempting to forgo employee Christmas gifting this year in an effort to save money or recoup any overspend. You might even assume that staff won’t expect to receive a gift this Christmas anyway, so it’ll be no harm done? 

You may be right. And that’s exactly why your employee gifting will be more impactful than ever this year. Treating your staff to a thoughtful gift when they least expect it will ensure your gesture is more meaningful, memorable and impactful than ever – delivering increased motivation, morale, productivity and engagement long into the new year.

The power of the unexpected

An unexpected gift carries weight. It leaves a strong impression on your recipient and makes them feel truly valued and appreciated – helping to strengthen the relationship between you and your giftee.

Think about when you’ve been surprised by a thoughtful gesture. It could be your favourite vanilla latte waiting on your desk when you get to work. Or a hand-written thank-you note from a colleague that you weren’t expecting to receive. Nothing fills our hearts with little moments of joy quite like an unexpected gift. 

The gift itself doesn’t need to be elaborate or expensive. It’s the unexpected surprise that engenders an emotional response, and commits the gesture to memory for longer. 

There is some science behind this. 

When something unexpected happens, it triggers an error response in our brains. We’re wired to always be prepared for the next event that’s likely to happen, so when we experience an outcome that we didn’t foresee, our unconscious predictions have failed. This is an essential adaptation we’ve inherited from our ancestors, who had to take note of unexpected events to react and learn quickly enough to survive. 

On a neural level, surprises trigger a dopamine release in the brain – a neurotransmitter that drives attention and motivation. Dopamine also helps us feel pleasure as part of a reward, connecting the positive feeling to the act of receiving a gift. 

Put simply, surprises make us stop, notice and learn, ensuring that we remember the moment. 

And this is exactly what you’re aiming to do with employee gifting. You want to make staff feel valued and appreciated. And you want your gesture to be remembered and impactful. 

After a year of company cutbacks, treating your employees to a thoughtful gift this Christmas will be more impactful than ever – because it’s unexpected. You’ll trigger the surprise response in your employees’ brains, helping them feel more positive about your company, and more motivated for longer. 

Employee gifting for Christmas 2023: A little sparkle goes a long way 

This year’s employee gifting has the potential to be the best yet. However, your choice of gifts will still determine how they’re received. 

It often takes less than we think to stand out from the crowd. Small, thoughtful, well-timed acts can deliver significant impact, so finding the balance between cost-effectiveness and thoughtfulness is important. 

It may sound a little cynical, but presenting staff with a bottle of wine or box of chocolates at Christmas isn’t going to blow them away. The gift isn’t overly surprising and doesn’t feel particularly thoughtful – and therefore doesn’t deliver the same impact. 

But this doesn’t mean you have to indulge employees in extravagant gifts or substantial cash bonuses, either. A surprisingly thoughtful gesture delivered at a much-appreciated time will trigger their surprise responses, and make all the difference to your employee engagement. 

Spark a little magic this Christmas

It’s not always the grand gestures that garner the greatest impact. So what do the best corporate gifts for employees look like this Christmas? 

We surveyed 1,000 British people – from all age groups and backgrounds – to discover their opinions around employee gifting. 78% said they’d feel ‘truly valued’ or ‘genuinely appreciated’ if they received an M&S Gift Card from their employer. 

This year, more than ever before, receiving an M&S Gift Card is a thoughtful, well-timed surprise. It allows your staff to treat themselves to all the little extras that make Christmas so special – from festive pyjamas for all the family, to a decadent Christmas pudding for the big day. You’ll be giving them the freedom to choose what will really make their Christmas – a thoughtful surprise they’ll remember long into the new year.

M&S is synonymous with Christmas for many people across the UK, so treating your staff to an M&S Gift Card will spark a little unexpected magic across your workforce – helping to make your employee gifting more memorable and more impactful than ever. 

To learn more about the lasting impact of thoughtful employee gifting, read our report, Unforgettable impressions: What do your corporate gifts say about your brand?’.