Research: People Value Holiday Gifts from their Employers, but Many Consider their Employers to be Bad Gifters


Study by Blackhawk Network found that meaningful, thoughtful holiday rewards-particularly prepaid and gift cards-can drive lasting employee retention, loyalty and engagement

PLEASANTON, Calif. – October 18, 2022 –After two years of a global pandemic and worldwide economic challenges, many Americans are looking forward to this holiday season as a source of festive cheer. However, inflation and a competitive hiring market are empowering them to demand higher pay and greater employee rewards and recognition this holiday season. Global payments provider Blackhawk Network (BHN) conducted original research to better understand employees’ holiday reward expectations and learn how employers can leverage holiday gifts to deliver impactful employee engagement results year-round. As it turns out, many employers are in danger of falling short.

Blackhawk’s research1 found that 57% of respondents want to receive a reward at the end of the year from their employer. But only one third of employees surveyed anticipate they will actually get one and more than half (52%) report that they don’t like their company’s holiday gift(s)2. Those sentiments can have significant consequences, as four in 10 employed respondents would consider leaving their current role if a new employer were to give holiday rewards. Younger employees surveyed are twice as likely as older generations to leave an employer that doesn’t offer rewards during the holidays.

“Employers should absolutely be prioritizing holiday gifts and rewards in the coming months-and should ensure those rewards are aligned with employees’ expectations. Your workforce is your most valuable asset, and your employees are looking forward to receiving recognition before year end,” said Jeff Haughton, SVP, Incentives, Corporate Development & Strategy at Blackhawk Network. “Voluntary turnover is high-tens of millions of people are leaving their jobs-and disengagement is rampant. But our research found that 83% of respondents would be more productive and loyal to their company if their employers provided meaningful rewards and recognition. This holiday season, it will be more important than ever to show your employees you care. With the right rewards and recognition, you can help boost year-long retention, loyalty, productivity and engagement while protecting your bottom line. For example, the out-of-pocket costs of rewarding your employees with prepaid and gift cards are a fraction of what it costs to recruit, hire, onboard and train new ones.”

Here’s what else employers need to know when considering their holiday rewards and recognition options:

  • The gift of choice is preferred. The research2 found that 84% of respondents want prepaid and gift cards from their employers-beating out all other options, including additional vacation days (40%), food gifts (29%) and physical gifts (28%). People value and appreciate the flexibility gift cards and prepaid provide and find these rewards meaningful-70% of respondents reported wanting cards because they enable people choice in what they buy. This is particularly appreciated as inflation is driving price increases for groceries, restaurants, apparel and more. Gift and prepaid cards can be used for any of these items and help contribute to larger purchases. Alternatively, employees can use prepaid and gift cards to buy something they wouldn’t normally have splurged on (like a shopping spree or dinner out). People have needs and they have wants, and prepaid and gift cards solve for both.
  • Digital gifts are a must. As the workforce becomes increasingly globalized, and as more people shift to hybrid and remote work arrangements, it’s becoming nearly impossible to distribute holiday gifts in-person. People are also more digital- and mobile-minded than ever. More than three quarters of respondents (77%) find digital prepaid and gift cards to be appropriate holiday gifts2. Employers can lean on technology to better meet employees where they are because they are delivered on time and almost instantaneously. Plus, digital rewards can be easily embedded in video conferencing and CRM tools many employees already use each day. Employers can surprise employees with digital rewards during a company meeting to create a unifying, positive experience that helps nurture company culture and show thoughtful acknowledgement of employees’ contributions and achievements.
  • Trinkets and thoughtless gifts will receive a cold reception. People don’t want tchotchkes. And they don’t want gifts that clearly have no thought put into them. Bad gifting is rampant; respondents to Blackhawk’s study2 reported receiving gifts like hand-me-down awards that had their boss’s name on them, fruit cakes accompanied by bottles of water to try to wash them down, desk organizers that were larger than the employees’ desks and company office decorations that were required to be on display. These types of bad gifts do more harm than good and create negative sentiments among employees.
  • Office parties and get-togethers are dying off. Due to the widespread adoption of remote and hybrid work, people are less likely to want to drive to an office or join a video call to spend extra time with their colleagues. Blackhawk’s research2 found that only two percent of respondents prefer office parties as their top choice for holiday rewards.

“Smart gifting during the holidays can pay long term dividends for employers. Our research has found very few respondents want once-a-year recognition; nearly 75% of respondents reported that they want to be rewarded at least quarterly,” added Haughton. “We recommend employers use the holidays as a starting point to create meaningful, year-round reward and recognition programs. For instance, many prepaid cards are reloadable; after giving one out during the holidays, employers can offer spot bonuses and reload those cards throughout the year for ongoing recognition. Employees will feel seen and appreciated, and the regular touchpoints can help drive lasting engagement.”

To buy the most in-demand holiday rewards for your employees, visit www.blackhawknetwork.com/on-demand/holiday.

About Blackhawk Network (BHN):

Blackhawk Network delivers branded payment solutions through the prepaid products, technologies and network that connect brands and people. We collaborate with our partners to innovate, translating market trends in branded payments to increase reach, loyalty and revenue. We reliably execute security-minded solutions worldwide. Join us as we shape the future of global branded payments. Learn more at blackhawknetwork.com.


1 “Workplace Arrangements, Rewards, and Engagement Survey” is an internet-based survey conducted by Survey Monkey on behalf of Blackhawk Network between February 25, 2022 and March 1, 2022. The sample size included 2,608 U.S. respondents ages 18+.

2 “Blackhawk Network 2022 Holiday Forecast Study” was a study conducted by Leger on behalf of Blackhawk Network in August 2022. The sample size included 2,001, US consumers ages 18+.