Expert Insights: What Employees Want for the Holidays

The pandemic put stress on people personally and professionally, and acknowledging employees’ efforts will help businesses drive performance, loyalty and engagement through the remainder of the year and well into 2021.

Rewards and incentives expert Theresa McEndree, global head of marketing and corporate brand at Blackhawk Network, has valuable advice for employers on motivating employees and showing them appreciation this holiday season.

In lieu of more virtual meetings, holiday parties and happy hours, some of the most strategic businesses are giving the gift of time, and permission to step away, alongside a digital gift as the key focus for this year’s “new normal” holiday celebrations.

Theresa points to the following data points to shed light on employee recognition preferences this holiday season:

  • Pre-pandemic research1 showed that surveyed workers prefer a gift card or prepaid card (43%) over traditional gifts like merchandise (1%), food (3%), travel (8%) and even a day off (14%) when it comes to receiving gifts or rewards from an employer.
  • More recently1, October research found that virtual employees would rather have cash (31%) or a prepaid or gift card (20%) from their employer this year so they can treat themselves or buy something they need—as opposed to a virtual holiday party (11%).
  • 40% of employees anticipate getting a holiday gift from their employer—and digital-friendly, contactless rewards are favored2. Physical and digital gift cards can both be uploaded to mobile wallets, redeemed online and spent in-store for optimal flexibility.
  • Gift cards are key motivators in that they make employees feel valued and boost loyalty2. Most people3 would be encouraged to work harder after receiving gift card rewards and feel gift card rewards show that their employer values them.

This holiday season, Theresa encourages employers to use prepaid and gift cards to show appreciation to their employees to help drive year-long benefits. These cards are versatile give employees the much-deserved rewards they want most.

This article originally published in Business2Community here:


[1] “BrandedPay: How People and Brands Connect Through Payments” is based on the findings of an internet-based survey conducted by Leger on behalf of Blackhawk Network between February 12 and March 17, 2020. The sample size included over 12,000 respondents in eight countries.

[2] The “2020 BrandedPay™ Holiday Shopping Preview” report is based on the findings in our Holiday Gifting 2020 study, an internet-based survey conducted by Leger on behalf of Blackhawk Network between August 24–31, 2020. The sample size included 1,500 respondents. Gift card category findings are based on 2018–2020 sales data from Blackhawk Network from over 50,000 merchant locations across the U.S.

[3] The “Receiving Incentives and Rewards from Your Employer” study was an internet-based study conducted by SurveyMonkey on behalf of Blackhawk Network between March 24–25, 2020. The sample size included 1,718 working U.S. employees ages 18–60.