Before I joined the team at INM, I worked for a company in Tucson, Arizona. The company was fairly small with around 100 employees, and I’d call the culture… a bit stiff. We had a very “check the box” culture. We had an events committee, which of course I was on, that would meet to plan out quarterly festivities. These included birthday celebrations in the cafeteria with a Costco sheet cake, a Chili Cook Off each fall, and a holiday celebration in December where we were given a profit-sharing bonus. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know I called the culture stiff, but I enjoyed every single one of these things and felt very fortunate to work there. It wasn’t until we were acquired by a company out of Austin, Texas, in 2007 that I learned what a truly thriving company culture looked like.

The company that acquired us was FUN. They loved music. And beer. I’m not sure which they loved more. Headquartered in Austin, a city known for music, with a product offering that tied into music, music was part of their identity. They routinely had parties with live bands and gave their employees gifts like t-shirts. Oh my, the t-shirts! So many t-shirts. The shirts were great quality, had really fun designs, and they are still hanging in my closet today.  Even back in 2007, this company knew the importance of gifting quality items to their employees. Through their gifting, they made me feel connected to them and very welcomed.

My new employer wasn’t just checking the box. They genuinely loved to recognize their people and had successfully built a culture through celebration and gifting. The items they gave out were thoughtful. From the items themselves to the artwork they placed on the item. They marked significant occasions with company branded items that every employee was proud to own. Employees could point to a beer stein in their cupboard and remember exactly what product release that stein was commemorating. They were handing out memories for their employees to cherish.

Fast forward 15 years (wow do I feel old) and things have really changed. There have been so many evolutions in the way that we conduct business and try to bridge gaps with those around us.  Corporate Gifting has been on the rise since the pandemic. Companies are finding new ways to connect with their employees, clients, and vendors in a rapidly changing environment. Gifting no longer consists of handing out cheap swag. Companies are giving out higher value items, gifts that have purpose and meaning (much like what I saw from that Austin company oh so many years ago), items that have DEI or CSR initiatives, etc. Gifting is taking place during significant times throughout the year. Yes, during the holidays but also marking other occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, and other milestones. There is far more intentionality in gifting than we’ve ever seen before.

I’m fortunate to have an inside look at what’s possible thanks to INM. I don’t just feel the impact internally as we reward and recognize people (which we do a lot of), but I also get to feel the impact through our customers. Seeing the way other companies recognize their employees in creative and inspiring ways makes me excited for the future of work.