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Understanding the tangible gifts language of appreciation

Paul White (Appreciation at Work, Wichita, USA)
Natalie Hamrick (Appreciation at Work, Wichita, USA)

Strategic HR Review

ISSN: 1475-4398

Article publication date: 9 October 2019

Issue publication date: 9 October 2019




Businesses are spending billions of dollars on recognition rewards with the intent of boosting employee engagement, job satisfaction, and ultimately, their bottom line. However, employee engagement is at an all-time low. The purpose of this study was designed to take a step back to understand if there are demographic differences that influence personal preferences for tangible gifts as their preferred language of appreciation and of those who prefer to receive gifts, what types of gifts are most valued.


This study compared the demographics of those who selected tangible gifts as their primary (N  =  8,811), secondary (N = 14,827) or least valued (N  = 108,586) language of appreciation (motivating by appreciation inventory, White, 2011). From those with tangible gifts as their primary language of appreciation, 500 were randomly selected to code their open-ended suggestions for a preferred gift.


There are no important factors across the demographics of gender, age or work setting that influence whether individuals are more or less likely to choose tangible gifts as their primary, secondary or least valued language of appreciation. Respondents identified gift cards, additional paid time off and gifts related to desired personal experiences as their top gift choices.


When giving gifts to colleagues, discovering individuals’ personal preferences (favorite store, restaurant, ticketed event, food, drink and lunch option) is more likely to result in a gift that “hits the mark” in showing appreciation to the recipient.



White, P. and Hamrick, N. (2019), "Understanding the tangible gifts language of appreciation", Strategic HR Review, Vol. 18 No. 5, pp. 222-226.



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