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Boosting Team Morale with Promotional Products: HR’s Guide to Success

Employee engagement hit a low of 32% back in 2022, although that figure’s slowly back on the rise. However, there’s a 70% variance between how engaged your employees actually are and how engaged managers think they are. That’s a recipe for low morale, out-of-touch management, and slipping retention figures. 

As a seasoned HR pro, it’s your job to keep employees engaged, productive, and content. Flexible work arrangements, promotions, and pay increases are retention staples, but even then, they might not be enough to recover a slip in team morale. 

You don’t have to throw pizza parties or host Wednesday afternoon karaoke to get your team on the same page. What you really need is a robust recognition program that makes employees feel seen and valued. In this guide, we’ll explain just how important recognition is in the workplace and how to integrate promotional gifts into your HR engagement strategies. 


The Impact of Recognition in the Workplace

Just one in three U.S. employees say they received recognition or praise in the last week, and 65% say they haven’t received any in the last year!

So many employees go along expecting not to be recognized or valued—that’s just the way it is, right? Unfortunately, that mindset can lead to long-term resentment, which is terrible for both your company’s culture and team morale. 

Recognition won’t fix all HR problems, but it can still have a stunning impact on your business. Recognized employees are 63% more likely to stay in their current job, saving you the hassle and cost of hiring replacements. 

Promotional products are the perfect sidekick for creating recognition programs that make employees feel valued. Whether it’s custom T-shirts, sleek office essentials, or tech tools, promo items serve a dual purpose. For one, employees use the items regularly, getting more exposure to your brand in their day-to-day routines. These products also remind employees about the company’s support, fostering a sense of belonging and (hopefully) long-term loyalty. 

How To Motivate and Engage Employees With Promo

Eighty-two percent of employees want more recognition at work—so give it to them! Ditch Hawaiian Shirt Mondays and follow these steps to blend promo with your employee engagement initiatives to see real results.

1. Align Promo Products With Company Values

We love a good, durable pen or T-shirt, but does this promo connect with your corporate culture? Delight is the secret ingredient for recognition that sticks, so go with unexpected but relevant promo products to sweep your employees off their feet. 

Choose products that reflect your company’s ethos. For example, a K-12 consulting firm might use tongue-in-cheek teaching references, like Apple-shaped custom USBs or eco-journals made from apple pulp. Make sure these products align with your company policies on a deeper level, too. For example, a vegan snack brand wouldn’t give employees beef jerky snack sticks.


2. Creatively Source the Right Promo for the Job

Maximize the impact of promotional products by creatively integrating them into your HR initiatives. They’re a great fit for: 

  • Employee of the Month awards: Customize awards or gifts, like engraved plaques, premium stationery sets, or branded luxury items, to convey a sense of achievement and prestige.
  • Milestone achievements: Celebrate work anniversaries or project completions with personalized items like commemorative watches, custom artwork, or even an exclusive piece of apparel. You’d be surprised how well an exclusive retail brand jacket encourages friendly competition.
  • Team-building events: Order products like branded games or sportswear that encourage teamwork and interaction.
  • Wellness programs: Support employee well-being with items like branded water bottles, fitness trackers, or yoga mats.
  • Seasonal gifts: Tailor products to the occasion, like insulated tumblers for summer outings or custom scarves and beanies for winter holidays.

Whatever you do, don’t compromise on quality. The point of a recognition program is to show employees how much you value them. Nothing quietly says “You don’t matter” like a flimsy notebook that snaps in half on its second use, so go for high-quality promotional products. If you’re strapped for resources, work with your Boundless Brand Consultant to balance quality and value. 

Of course, relevance matters here, too. Go for gifts that are useful and relevant to employees’ daily lives. After all, will a team of Gen Z college students appreciate branded neckties? If you aren’t sure, poll a diverse group of employees to get a feel for what your team would like to receive. 

3. Pair Promo With Recognition Experiences

Promotional products are fantastic tokens of appreciation. While you’ll create plenty of Brand Love™ moments with promo alone, pairing this with memorable experiences will amplify their impact. Instead of treating recognition as a transactional gesture (“Great job; here’s a backpack!”), this approach creates a deeper sense of value. 

Why not make recognition a public affair? For achievements like Employee of the Month, organize an internal dinner or a special segment in a town hall meeting. Present the award and highlight their achievements in front of everyone to boost the feeling of accomplishment. 

That’s a pretty grandiose example, though. Most recognition experiences don’t need a company-wide ceremony. Virtual parties, experiential gifts like axe throwing, or a nice lunch out are also great occasions to share verbal recognition and swag. 

You can also kick things up a notch by gamifying the entire recognition experience. Digital kudos systems allow employees and managers to recognize each other by giving away points for a job well done. They can then use the kudos points to buy merchandise from the company store, which ensures employees get exactly what they want for their hard work. 

Exclusive buttons, pins, or clothing for certain milestones are also great for gamifying the experience, creating a crave-worthy collectors’ culture that boosts engagement.

Reinvent Recognition With Head-Turning Promo

Everybody wants to feel like they’re doing a good job. Promotional products give employees a tangible token of their hard work. Blend recognition and promotional products to help employees feel seen, appreciated, and valued. 

We have nothing against pizza parties, but when it’s time to foster authentic engagement, go with promotional products for HR. Your Boundless Brand Consultant will help you create the most effective promo campaigns to reenergize your team. Change your company culture for the better: See how powerful promo can Create Brand Love™ moments.

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