In January, Give Your Employees An Unusual Gift That They Might Actually Love

Most leaders know that burnout is horrible and that employee retention and attraction are of paramount importance. In the Leadership IQ study, Employee Burnout In 2021, we learned that only 25% of leaders feel that their employees are thriving emotionally and mentally and that 79% of leaders have seen less productivity as a result of employee burnout.

But what’s underlying all that pain? Is it that people are overworked due to staffing shortages? Is it that employees are struggling to work from home effectively while having their kids around? Is it trying to maintain a household while still doing their jobs? Are they frustrated with their weight and health?

It’s likely that across your workforce, you’ve got employees who are frustrated with all those issues and dozens more. The challenge is to assess and diagnose the frustrations and demotivators that are most impacting your unique workforce.

Most companies, unfortunately, take a guess as to what their employees might enjoy. And that’s how so many organizations end up giving their employees generic gift cards or fruit baskets or whatever. 

While it’s not wrong to give employees holiday gifts or offer benefits that could attract and retain employees, organizations should try to target these offerings to deliver maximum benefit to the well-being of their people. To do that, each manager in your organization will need to ask employees about their “Shoves and Tugs.”

Shoves are demotivators; they’re the issues that drain your energy, frustrate you and make you want to quit. In other words, they shove you out the door. Tugs are motivators; they’re the factors that fulfill, excite and motivate you and make you want to keep working here. In other words, they tug at you to stay.

To discover each employee’s Shoves and Tugs, managers will need to conduct a one-on-one conversation with each person and ask two questions:

  1. Could you tell me about a time in the past month or two when you felt demotivated?
  2. Could you tell me about a time in the past month or two when you felt really motivated?

An employee’s answers will reveal the particular moments and situations that frustrated and demotivated them. Within those answers, leaders will discover the solutions to alleviating those frustrations, and that brings us back to the idea of giving employees gifts or benefits that will make a real difference in their lives.

If you discovered that a large number of employees were struggling with household chores while working from home, you might consider offering employees a subscription to a cleaning service. If it’s more an issue of trying to maintain family rhythms with long hours, perhaps a food delivery membership would be more appropriate. If you hear frustrations about health, you might consider gym memberships or emotional wellness classes. If the top concern is a lack of career advancement, educational reimbursement might be the way to go.

None of those benefits and gifts are good or bad; their efficacy will depend entirely on the context of your particular employee population. The key is to better understand the pains of your people and avoid the reflex to give everyone something bland and generic.

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