Focus on Experiences, Not Things
As a boss, you want to want to reward your people for the work that they do every day or for a special effort that they made. You know that gifts can bring joy and also boost workplace morale and engagement. But what is the best way to show your appreciation? Consider the following scenarios.
Cindy has been working really hard lately. She has committed herself fully to her job and has produced tremendous results. She’s not working on commission, so you want to find a tangible way of recognizing and motivating her. What do you do?
It’s the end of the year and you’re thinking about distributing office gifts. The usual suspects, food, tech gadgets, desk organizers, coffee mugs, and even cash bonuses, have had their days and have been appreciated. But you want to do something different this year. Something better. Something that will engender good feelings that last and, while you’re at it, strengthen team cohesion and worker connection to you and the company. All without breaking the bank.
In both instances, consider gifting experiences.
For the longest time, common wisdom held that, when it comes to happiness, things trump experiences. The logic was that if you pay for an experience, like a night out, it will be over and done with quickly. All you’ll have left is a fleeting memory that speedily evaporates into the ether. But if you buy a tangible thing, it’ll be around for a long time and can offer repeated opportunities for usage and happiness.
Yet, research makes clear that experiences make people happier than do possessions. Sure, owning a new gadget may be satisfying or even thrilling for a short while. But the thrill always fades as we become used to the (not so) new, shiny item and it fades into the backdrop. Soon, we find ourselves back in the same mental “place,” seeking our next purchase or gift to experience a new rush.
Experiences, in contrast, are personal, shareable, emotionally evocative and memorable.
Experiences are personal – Whether experiences are customized or “one size fits all,” they can still become very personal, authentic and relevant. Well-designed experiences challenge us on a personal level and help us bring forth new levels of confidence, wonder and / or cohesion. They also offer different ways for individuals to self-customize the experience to their liking.
Experiences are shareable – When was the last time that employees went around bragging about the same gift that everyone else got? Or started holding court about their recent bonus? But when you offer experiences, they get shared before, during and after, in conversations, on social media, and elsewhere. And the shared emotions run much wider and deeper than the joy of a gift ever could.
Experiences are emotionally evocative – One reason that experiential gifts are more socially connecting is that they tend to be more emotionally evocative. They elicit strong emotional responses when a coworker consumes it—like the fear and awe of mountain climbing, the excitement of a ball game or the calmness of a spa—and is more intensely emotional than a material possession.
Experiences are memorable – We experience – and remember – events deeply, with all our senses. The things we do and share, including activities, jokes and even mess-ups, stay with us and get embedded in the deepest parts of our brain via our episodic memory. They mean more to us and stay with us longer than a cash bonus or even a nice gift. On top of it, employees come to associate fond memories directly with their achievement at your company, which embeds such feelings more deeply.
They can also, depending on the nature of the trip/experience, create tremendous anticipation. Which extends the shelf-life of the event by more time. (For example, my family’s recent two-week trip to Israel – our first ever – was the topic of conversation for many months leading up to our actual arrival.)
So, if you want to engender that level of coworker happiness and have it be associated with you and your company, finding ways to gift and promote healthy experiences should become a go-to strategy.