When I was a child, I used to think that gifts at the year-end were given by Santa Claus. The sense of anticipation would build up and reach its peak on the eve of Christmas. I had to tell my parents about my wish list so that they could convey it to Santa in time.
I would lie in bed agonising over what I would receive that year. The mystery and the suspense would overwhelm me. Even when the gift was not exactly what I had asked for, it did not take away from the joy of receiving it.
When I went back to school after the holidays that year, Frankie, the precocious one in our class, told me that there was no such person as Santa. I was devastated. With that knowledge, I had left behind forever, the magical world that children inhabit and entered the mundane world where most adults live. A gift has two values -functional and intangible.
The functional value of a gift is driven by its utility, cost, usage, etc. For instance, if you know that your friend wants to read the latest bestseller and you decide to gift him or her that book, the utility and usage of the book will meet its functional value.
On the other hand, when a child hands the parent a messy card drawn with stick figures and full of spelling errors, they are delighted because they see the intention behind the card and not its form, even though a greeting card bought from the shop next door would have been more slickly produced. This is an example of a gift that is low on functional value but extremely high on the intangible.
And because the value of a gift is always in the eyes of the receiver, not the giver. When you gift something to someone, ensure that the functional value does not drown the intangible. If the intangible component of a gift is negligible, it limits the gift to the price sticker or its utility value. A handwritten note telling the person why they matter to you can enhance the value of the gift manifold.
A gift should tell the person that they were in your mind when you bought that gift. Surprise, mystery, celebration can enhance the intangible value of any gift. The best gifts are those that are so high on the intangible component that the functional or monetary value is irrelevant.
When employers create policies around reward and recognition for employees they need to ensure that the recognition makes the functional and monetary value of the gift irrelevant. They could add elements of mystery, surprise and celebration to enhance the intangible value of the occasion. Without the intangible element being the predominant part of the gift, the employees tend to focus on its monetary value.
The water cooler chat then is around the quality of the gift or worse still, a comparison with how much your competitor is spending to reward employees. Someone told me recently how their company had paid for an extra air ticket for the winner of a sales contest to bring along anyone who mattered to them. Some used the ticket to invite their spouse to the event.
Others brought their parents or a relative who mattered to them. The value of the occasion was amplified in the mind of the winner because they were being recognised in front of someone who mattered. When they were invited to come up to the stage to receive their award, the guests joined them.
As the winners received the award, their loved ones stood on stage, overwhelmed by pride and happiness. "You thought about me" is what enhances the intangible element of the gift. Think about it.
This article appeared on The Economic Times. Please find the article here.
Abhijit Bhaduri (http://abhijitbhaduri.com) is a bestselling author. He works as the Chief Learning Officer of Wipro Ltd. The views presented are his own and don't necessarily represent his employer’s positions, strategies or opinions.