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The Secret to Keeping Your Team Happy: Employee Recognition or Swag?

by Cord Himelstein
Employee Recognition or Swag web


When deciding between recognizing your employees or giving them swag, it’s important to consider the company culture and the most effective way to engage employees.

Employee Appreciation Works

It’s no secret that keeping your employees happy and engaged is crucial to the success of your business. A happy team improves several positive business outcomes, including increased productivity, stronger employee loyalty, and better customer service. Employee recognition and swag are two popular ways to show appreciation for your people. However, the question remains – what’s the difference between employee recognition and swag, and which one is more effective?

Perception vs. Reality

HALO Recognition Program

Employee recognition is about acknowledging and rewarding employees for their hard work and dedication. Many companies offer multi-initiative recognition programs such as peer-to-peer nominations, service anniversaries, and training goals. Employee swag typically refers to the company-branded merchandise given to employees as an onboarding kit or during culture-building events such as Employee Appreciation Day and Nurses Week. This often includes branded apparel, drinkware, and other company-branded merchandise.

Although both employee recognition and swag can positively affect employee satisfaction, their differences lie in how employees perceive them. Recognition programs offer employees a sense of accomplishment and pride in their work and have been shown to directly increase employee engagement and productivity. Numerous studies have shown that 90% of employees said recognition improved their engagement levels. However, this doesn’t always mean that recognition programs are the most effective at incentivizing employees. Recognition can sometimes have a short-term effect on employee motivation, and programs can become stale if they are not aligned with company culture and properly managed.

Striking the Perfect Balance for Your Culture

Corporate Gifts on table spread

Employee swag has been shown to boost company morale and create a sense of unity among employees. People love receiving free merchandise, and if done tastefully, can create a positive association with the company. However, employee swag is not a substitute for true employee recognition programs. While swag can be a great token of appreciation, it sometimes lacks the personal touch and reward for hard work that comes with recognition programs.

When deciding between employee recognition and swag, consider your company culture and what will most effectively engage employees. Prioritize unity and positivity with swag or achievement and performance with recognition programs. Recognition programs can positively affect employee engagement and satisfaction, while swag can add a bit more fun to a more fun work environment. Balance is key to creating an environment where employees feel appreciated and motivated to succeed.

And The Winner is…

Employee recognition and swag are both powerful tools for fostering a positive work environment and building stronger connections with employees. Recognition programs cultivate a sense of accomplishment and trust among employees, while swag giveaways create a sense of company pride and encourage team unity.

Instead of viewing employee recognition and swag as two distinct concepts, companies should embrace the power of both in combination to maximize their impact. By leveraging a combination of recognition and swag, businesses can create a dynamic workplace culture where employees feel valued, motivated, and inspired to succeed.

About the author

Cord Himelstein

Cord Himelstein

Vice President of Digital Marketing

A dynamic B2B marketer with 20+ years of proven experience connecting people and brands, Cord posts regularly on the HALO blog and contributes to the Forbes Communications Council. His work offers unique insights into the employee experience, brand building and has been featured in leading industry publications including Entrepreneur, SmartBrief, Ragan and Incentive Magazine.