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The ROI of giving a great employee gift this holiday season

By Kate Monica|4 min read|Updated Sep 26, 2023

A gift surrounded by coins and a smiley face.

The right employee gift around the holidays can boost job satisfaction for a year or more for nearly half of employees. 

Giving your coworkers or workforce a thoughtful employee gift during the holiday season pays off more than most people think. And in a cross-industry survey, we found out that it’s pretty easy to be thoughtful: just send people money. 

If you do, 65% of recipients will see this gesture as their ideal holiday gift. And it’ll boost their level of job satisfaction for a long time. 

Notably, almost half (46%) of survey respondents experience a boost in job satisfaction for a year or more after receiving the ideal holiday gift. About three-quarters of respondents say their improved attitude lasts for three months or more. 

So, the ROI for doing it right is high, when you break it down: according to survey results, a gift of $50-$100 constitutes the ideal holiday gift for most (55%) of people. Another 22% said cost doesn’t matter. So three-quarters of the workforce would be happy with a gift in that range. 

That means giving each of your employees $100 around the holidays produces a considerable boost in job satisfaction and engagement in 75% of people, and for nearly half of those people, that boost lasts almost a year. 

So, amortized over a year, your company pays 4.8 cents per hour per full-time employee to reinvigorate your workforce. 

Not a bad deal. But while there’s a pretty simple conclusion, taste does vary by salary and role. We analyzed the numbers so HR professionals and business leaders can knock it out of the park across demographics. 

ROI is just one (important) piece of the puzzle. Want the full story?

Check out our webinar, where we discuss the results of our employee gifting survey in detail. We touch on which gifts employees want, which ones they definitely don't want, how to create a holiday gifting budget, and, of course, the ROI of a gifting program.

If you want to skip to the part about ROI, read on.

Table of contents

How does employee attitude change after a good holiday gift?

As a baseline, most people feel pretty happy with their work situation. We know this because we recently surveyed 1,500 American workers across 10 industries to find out exactly what employees think about holiday gifts. 

And we found out most people don’t get what they want. But when they do, it improves their attitude toward work for way longer than you’d expect. 

According to survey results, the vast majority (85%) of respondents said they’re either satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs, and about equally satisfied with their company. 

Additionally, 91% feel they’re engaged or very engaged at work. 

But there’s room for improvement, even with these solid numbers. Remarkably, 77% of survey respondents said their level of job satisfaction increases markedly when they receive their ideal holiday gift. 

Job satisfaction increases most among workers in software and information, followed by those in the construction industry. Meanwhile, holiday gifts have the smallest impact on workers within public administration

A bar graph showing that employees react positively when given their ideal holiday gift.

“It makes me feel appreciated and seen as an employee,” said one respondent who experienced a notable improvement in attitude after a holiday gift. “There are a lot of employees and other things to take care of, so getting a little bit of praise for doing my job lets me know I am needed and wanted.”

“I feel appreciated,” wrote another. “Since I help take part in making them millions a year, I feel like we should have some incentives.”

The extent to which employees’ attitudes would change if given the ideal holiday gift varies substantially across roles. Those in operations and production are particularly hard to please. 

Even when given the ideal holiday gift, 27% of respondents in ops and production said they’d experience “no change” in attitude toward their boss. 

However, 96% of marketers would view their boss either ‘more positively’ or ‘much more positively’ after getting a great gift for the holidays. 

Looking at the data by salary: top earners are the most likely to view their supervisors and leaders ‘much more positively’ after receiving a good holiday gift, with 37% of those making $150,000 or more saying they’d experience a significant positive attitude shift. 

Meanwhile, those making under $50,000 a year are most likely to experience no change in attitude, even after the ideal gift. The takeaway here: don’t count on a great gift once a year to make the undercompensated feel any better about their boss. 

“An occasional gift is a nice surprise but it does not make my job any better,” said one unimpressed respondent. 

How long does this attitude boost last?

Surprisingly, we found increased job satisfaction lingers longer than you’d expect: 

  • 92% said the positive sentiment would last at least a month.

  • Nearly half (46%) say it would last a year or more

  • A surprisingly small number of workers (only 8%) said the improvement would end within a couple of weeks.

A pie chart showing that employees' improved attitudes from receiving the ideal gift last a surprisingly long time.

“My job satisfaction changes as a result of receiving a gift from my employer because I feel more motivated to do more,” said one respondent. 

“I always work my best when I feel appreciated,” said another.

Those making less money (<$100k) are more likely to see an improved attitude last greater than one year: 37% said their positive attitude improvement would last as long. 

And a sizeable number of respondents reported they’d feel better about their jobs for a while after receiving a great gift. A little over a quarter of respondents making over $150,000 said their improved attitude would last over a year.  

Overwhelmingly, an employee gift around the holiday season makes people feel valued, appreciated, motivated to do their best work, and, in several instances, “needed”. 

Who’s the hardest to impress?

We found a direct correlation between higher salaries and more expensive tastes. People get harder to impress the more money they make. They’re also a lot more likely to feel the amount matters.

Those raking in $150,000 a year or more are 29% more likely to feel unappreciated by holiday gifts than those making less than $50,000. Along the same lines, only 11% of high earners say the amount doesn’t matter, compared to 27% of low earners.

Nearly half of those making $100,000-$149,000 who named an ideal dollar amount want a gift of $100-$1,000. Fifteen percent of those making 150k+ want a gift of $1k-5k. Same pattern holds true for personalization — higher incomes are more likely to want personalized gift.

The takeaway here is that the stakes are especially high for higher earners. They’re easily put off by the wrong gift, but also highly motivated by the right gift. 

The stakes are also a bit higher for employees in certain roles. Those in IT/software roles are exceedingly hard to impress. Almost half (49%) of tech professionals have received a gift that made them feel unappreciated. 

A bar graph showing that employees are often saddled with gifts they don't want.

The other two most discerning job titles are HR professionals and those in finance roles, tied at (31%). 

All this to say, a humdrum holiday gift may seem like an innocuous misstep. But it can have surprisingly far-reaching implications for your workforce or colleagues. 

As long as HR professionals and business leaders err on the side of caution by giving people money they can spend on what they really want, all should be well. 

But gifting company swag, gift cards to specific retailers, various food items, basic household items, or pizza parties can swiftly backfire. Trust us. We got the full rundown on the worst possible holiday gifts to get employees. 


This data reveals the holiday season is a golden opportunity to inject some renewed vitality into the workforce. While an extra $100 may not seem like much, it has a big impact on recipients, who truly value this monetary nod of appreciation for a while after the snow melts. 

While the stakes are surprisingly high for holiday gifts, the formula for satisfying most employees is quite simple. Don’t overthink employee gifts this year: just send money. 

To dig deeper into the data and find out exactly how to nail employee gifts this holiday season, read our white paper. 

A trash can with holiday gifts thrown in.

Published September 26, 2023

Updated September 26, 2023

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