Swag: Does It Improve the Employee Experience?
Many organizations use swag to improve engagement, loyalty, and productivity. Does it work? And what are the benefits?
Swag has been used by companies for decades to improve employee engagement, loyalty, and productivity, but the question stands, “Does it help?”. S.W.A.G. stands for “stuff we all get” and typically refers to company branded items that are given out to either customers or employees. Items may include shirts, pens, hats, keychains, stickers, notebooks, or other promotional products typically with a company logo on them. Here we dive into both the benefits and challenges that come with utilizing swag in improving the employee experience.
What Does Swag Symbolize?
Actions speak louder than words and the act of gift giving speaks volumes about the organization and the culture. Here are a few distinct concepts that the act of giving swag to employees can say:
Belonging: When an employee is given swag, they are sent subliminal messages that they belong, that the organization is invested in them, and that they have something to be proud of. Swag improves team and organizational culture because it strengthens a sense of ownership and connection between individuals and their organizations. When employees wear or use company swag, they display their pride and can easily bond with others who are similarly proud to wear or use the company branded items.
Appreciation: One way that organizations can recognize employee efforts and encourage productivity is through appreciation. Swag can be used to display appreciation and show employees that they are valued. Recognition goes a long way - it has the potential to reduce turnover by 31%. Swag can be used to celebrate events, milestones accomplished, and exceptional performance to foster a positive workplace culture.
Identity: Swag also symbolizes an organization’s values and brand. For example, Woodgrain is an organization in the business of selling lumber. The swag that they hand out to employees and customers is centered on their brand - they offer swag made out of wood including usb drives, notebooks, and pencils. They utilize swag to reinforce who they are and that they are proud of their products.
How Does Swag Improve the Employee Experience?
Some business professionals fear that the act of giving away company swag is solely a cheap trick to catch peoples’ attention. This is not the case. Organizations have an opportunity to use swag in a meaningful way to improve the employee experience. Consider, for a moment, the following scenarios:
You’re starting a new job at a new company. You’re nervous, yet excited and wondering if this was the right choice as you eagerly wait for your first day to start. About a week before your start date, you receive a package in the mail with a few items from work and a note welcoming you to the team. You find a hat, pen, mouse pad, and mug all with the company logo on them. How would this make you feel? Excited? Accepted? In most cases, it makes new hires feel like they belong and that they are a part of something.
You’ve been at a company for nearly 5 years now and you are coming up on your work anniversary of when you started. You arrive at your desk and find a gift sitting there. You open it to discover a pin that says “5 Years” with the company colors and logo on it as well as a nice jacket in the company colors with your name and the company name side by side. You also find a note that says “thanks for all your hard work, we love having you on the team.” What message does this send to you? In most cases, forms of recognition like this one help increase employee loyalty as they encourage employees to feel that their leaders care about them as an individual.
What Are the Drawbacks?
While swag has many potential benefits, there are a few drawbacks. Cost is the primary drawback. It can be difficult to monetize the benefits of swag (e.g. employee engagement and loyalty), therefore it can be challenging to determine a budget or set amount the organization is willing to allocate to it. Additionally, cost can seem high for organizations with many employees.
Is It Worth It?
In the end, what really matters is the answer to our original question, “does swag improve the employee experience?” coupled with the secondary question, “is it worth it?”. In short, swag that is utilized in the right ways, can most definitely improve the employee experience and be worth the cost. If companies skimp on quality, then swag gifts for recognition may come across as insincere. If some employees get swag while others do not, a sense of injustice or unfairness can cause more problems than the swag solves.