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Top 10 Ideas on Thanksgiving Gifts for Employees

Keep your workforce engaged and incentivised with the best ideas for Thanksgiving gifts for employees.

Gift Cards
10 Min read
Last Updated on
July 29, 2021

The Thanksgiving Holiday season signifies the hottest shopping and rewarding seasons in the West. The famed ‘Black Friday’ and the ‘Cyber Monday’ is flanked between two of the largest gifting festivals – Thanksgiving and Christmas. Rewarding during Thanksgiving though, is essentially different from that of Christmas. It is more to denote gratitude than to celebrate the joy of giving. Organisations are increasingly discovering enthralling ways to express their thankfulness to their employees. This article consists of the best ideas for thanksgiving gifts for all employees.

Ideas for Thanksgiving Rewards for Employees this Holiday Season | Source: Inc.com

A Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and ZBW 2014 study denotes how a non-monetary reward to the employees increases the productivity by 26% in comparison to a monetary reward. The employees might not explicitly reject a monetary benefit, tells the study. Yet,  the employees believe monetary rewards are disassociated and transactional.

Hence, making non-monetary rewarding a part of your rewards and recognition strategy is critical. It is not just an engagement expense alternative but is also a driver of a motivated workforce.


I. Gift cards

Gift Cards as Rewards for Employees
Source: CNET
Gift Cards allow employees to pick their own gifts according to their preference

Gift Cards fringe the effect of a handpicked reward and the flexibility of choosing the exact product. It has been trending since 2012 as a favourite rewarding option. 

There is also another significant variable that needs to be considered while implementing the gift card reward. The decision whether it needs to be an open loop gift card – cards that are redeemable across vendors ( like a Xoxoday gift card) or a closed loop gift card – cards that are redeemable only at a particular vendor ( like a JCPenney gift card) should be one based on demographic evaluation of your workforce.

For example, the Bank rate survey 2015 reveals that the preference of open loop gift cards is dependent on age. It is higher for the age group of 18 to 45 than that of greater than 45 and is skewed towards the millennials. The decision between open and closed gift cards should be based on the significant age group of the company.

II. Experience Rewards

 Experiences at Xoxoday

A wide variety of Experiences provided by Xoxoday as Employee Rewards and Recognition

A study published by the Journal of Consumer Research in 2016 proves experiential rewards to be more fulfilling than other forms of rewards for the recipients. 

The reason for it, says the study, is the strong emotional response the experience reward manifests in the recipient. The excitement for a sightseeing tour or the thrill of paragliding  is an example of it. The study also extends to discuss how this emotional redolence further strengthens relationships.

A Journal of Consumer Research study in 2016 proves experiential rewards to be more fulfilling than other forms of rewards for the recipient. It is then not a surprise why corporates already are in the experiential rewarding bandwagon. 

A few examples - AirBnB’s annual $2,000  stipend to travel, Reebok’s crossfit memberships, Goldmansach’s Scavenger hunt. 

These experiences -if formulated based on employee interests and company motto – proves to be a great opportunity for synergy, as seen in all the three examples.

| Explore various kinds Experiences for Rewards and Recognition with Xoxoday Plum |

III. Brand Products

The brand of a company is not just a significant component of its brand identity. It is also an emblem of pride for its employees, tells a study on Employer Branding . 

It was 2009 when Google launched its first Android phone . Since then, Google's employees have been receiving Nexus phones or Tablets as rewards. Every single time this happens, the internet is set ablaze at the news of it. Pictures of the phones are enviably shared over the social networks by the employees. The rest of the internet re-shares it in awe. 

Brand products also help instilling organisational citizenship behaviour - tells the same study. And organisational citizenship behaviour is a key determinant of workforce efficiency (MacKenzie et al, 1997).

The brand of a company is not just a significant component of its brand identity but also an emblem of pride for its employees.

If a phone or a tablet is over the reward spending budget , a company t-shirt should still do the trick.  Apple’s 2017 reward of customised t-shirts to all their shop front employees sets an example.

IV. Technology

All these examples below signify how technological products have been highly preferred by the world's best corporates as rewards.

Buzzfeed’s reward of an Apple watch in 2014. Google’s reward of LG smartwatches. Apple’s reward of a nine-month subscription to Apple Music and a pair of urBeats headphones. EY’s reward of JBL wireless speakers. 

These rewards not just are associated with a higher monetary value. They also possess the right context as a corporate reward.  Careful evaluation of what is appropriate for the employee mix of your organisation has to be done. After which, the choice has to be made between a tangible technology reward  (headphones, speakers, etc.) vs a subscription reward (Steam, Netflix, etc.).

V. Paid Holidays

Netflix offers its employees unlimited parental leave. Their CEO, Reed Hastings, proudly talks of how he takes six weeks off every year – for all the right reasons. Apple gives its new hires – to help them manage change better - a 12 days of paid time off.

An interesting study was conducted by the Harris Poll, of 2,225 U.S. adults. It spoke of how ‘A family holiday’ was the most preferred reward amongst 57% of  the married males in the sample set. This indicates how because of the strenuous work schedules the concord of a holiday is neglected from an employee’s life.

So this thanksgiving, you can rethink on rewarding itself. Allow a paid holiday for your team. It would be a breath of fresh air for them as well as the reward budget.

VI. Perks & Privileges

It is inspirational to learn of the employee perks a few companies provide.  

Apple and Spotify’s covers IVF and fertilization treatments. PWC, IBM and Honeywell are helping to pay off  college debt for employees. 

These are highly individualistic and fundamentally transformational. They deeply affect the employees’ lives.

If one cannot afford to be capital intensive, it can also be smaller perks. 

It is something that is feasible and economic – yet, thoughtful. Thanksgiving can also be the right time to start off with a new perks and privilege plan. Rethinking on what has the lowest opportunity cost and how it could be life changing to the team  gives extra miles on employee happiness.

VII. Media

Since ages, free movie passes to employees are one of the favourites in the list. Modern workplaces are repackaging it to create an exquisite entertainment experience. 

For example, Netflix has a 200 person on-site theatre and the employees get to preview all upcoming Netflix productions. Spotify’s New York office hosts bi-monthly performances of top musicians.

Modern workplaces are repackaging it to create an exquisite entertainment experience. Though not to an 'own amphitheatre' scale, the good old movie passes are still a bliss . It is a perfect opportunity to allow a break for the otherwise very busy workforce. 

Another example, Holiday Extras Inc. hires out a cinema for its employees and their family and it is truly astute.

VIII. Accessories

Coffee mugs, Alarm clocks, Watches – now arrive with great customization and innovation. Limited edition gifting is also a significant mode of rewarding. 

LEGO is rewarding their store staff with exclusively themed LEGO boxes since the past 7 years.

Accessories score well in affordability because of the scale discounts and the reducing prices for customization.

IX. Chocolate/ Goodie Boxes

Goodie Boxes for Employees
Holiday Gift Boxes for Employees | Source 

The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and ZBW 2014 study shows how a hand-made origami reward box had a significant correlation to employee motivation.

P&G sent out large blue reward boxes filled with P&G goodies to all their 95000 employees. 

Showing how important annual rewarding is for P&G. In 1890 the company rewarded turkeys to all its 600 employees for Thanksgiving. They possess the 2018 Top Employer Belgium certification - and we know why.

A recent trend is to combine the best of worlds, like the Xoxoday experience box. It places the most in demand reward vouchers inside beautifully designed, elegant keepsake boxes.

X. Team lunches

Team Meals help increase bonding
Team Meals help increase bonding | Source Hatchbuck

Team Lunches help boost communication and morale within team members

Team lunches are a classic and earnest method of building team cohesion. They are also a necessary part of prominent employee engagement programs.  Google, Facebook, Apple, Tesla – are infamous for their exorbitant Thanksgiving parties and dinners.

A Gallup 2016 case study showed how team building activities correlated with exponential growth of revenue. 

Though predictable and conventional, having a team lunch or an office party reverberates the spirit of thanksgiving.  A study conducted in 2015 successfully correlated team motivation and group activities.


Irrespective of the size and kind of the reward, giving itself has a high apparent worth. Rewards are highly correlated with employee motivation and in turn employee efficiency.

Following are a few pointers for planning this year's Thanksgiving rewards.:

  1. Significant demographics of the employee group play a key role in the preferred reward type.
    For example, age directly correlates to the preference of traditional rewarding mechanisms.
    (Consumer Holiday Report OpenX 2018, Event Brite 2014 study, A. Nujjoo et al 2012 study )
  2. ii. Synergy with Company's Strategy.
    For example, a company who is into fitness products can work out rewards that align with their business strategy. A gym membership, for instance, works well with this company's strategy. Also, it does not deteriorate the perceived value of the reward. Tools like the Xoxoday can be used to closely monitor and implement a rewarding strategy.
    (Implementing Total reward Strategies - SHRM, 2007, study).
  3. iii. The rewards should be significant to the size and the life cycle of the organisation.
    For example, a team lunch has more employee motivation and relevance in a startup in comparison to an MNC.
    (Journal of Asia Entrepreneurship and Sustainability, 2007, study).

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