Best Employee Surveys

Engaging Employees: Providing Experiences Versus Things

Everyone buys "things." Last year in the U.S., we spent $5 billion buying "things" online during the 24-hours that was Black Friday. But, there is also a shift of thought that places higher value on accruing experiences over material belongings.

Provide experiences vs. things to improve employee engagement

Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, conducted a 20-year study to prove that our experiences truly are more valuable than materials possessions. 

“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” states Gilovich. “You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”

With a little bit of thought and effort, an employer can provide an experience that will have a huge impact on how connected team members feel to their employer, enhancing employee engagement.


Free Employee Engagement Checklist


Paying it forward for employee engagementPay it Forward

One of our Best Places to Work winners traditionally threw an elaborate holiday party. While the party was undoubtedly a fun experience, it was predictable. So one year, the company cancelled the holiday party and decided on another approach. Just before Thanksgiving, the company gave each employee a gift card to the local grocery store to be used for holiday food.

Nice, right? In addition, the company gave each employee $50 in cash and said, “Go out into the community and do something nice for someone.” There were no rules and the employees could do anything they wanted with the $50, as long as it helped someone else. The only requirement was that they had to be prepared to tell the company what they did with the $50 when the company got together for the holiday potluck lunch (the new holiday party). 

As you can probably imagine, the stories people relayed about what they did with their $50 were amazing. Some volunteered in the community and some organized efforts to donate to those in need. Many were brought to tears and all felt a real sense of pride and belonging. This was not only a great experience for each individual employee, but also a great experience for the company as a whole.

The experiences you create for your employees can make a huge difference. As you move forward in your quest to improve employee engagement, look for ways that you can create a memorable experience that is different than what you have always done, or somehow evolves a nice gift into a lasting memory. Not only will experiences excite your employees, but they have the power to bond employees to one another and to you, their employer. 


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It's powerful to know what your employees think! You can identify problems like poor supervision, communication breakdown, and mounting plans to leave your company before expensive turnover affects your business.
Use this checklist for a quick read on your employee engagement. 
Download FREE Employee Engagement Checklist

Tags: Employee Retention, Employee Surveys, Employee Engagement, Employee Satisfaction, Employee Recognition, Employee Engagement Ideas, Employee Incentives

Lauren Eisenhauer
As Director of Marketing for Best Companies Group, Lauren is responsible for implementing the company's brand, content, social, and digital strategies. Lauren gained her expertise through years of experience working in the marketing and advertising field, most recently for digital marketing solution provider, Listrak. Lauren studied Professional Writing and Marketing at York College of Pennsylvania. She currently resides in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with her husband Joe and their three children, Katie, Evan, and Beau.
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