In lieu of parties, please send gifts

Companies are upping their employee gift budgets as in-person holiday parties get canceled once again.

VRBO corporate branded gift

Companies are upping their budgets for holiday employee gifts.

Photo: Whitestone Branding

As the pandemic rolled in, companies have leaned more toward sending out elaborate holiday gifts to show appreciation in lieu of swanky holiday shindigs. And the benefits have been twofold: Employees feel recognized by management and no one has to pretend to enjoy their co-worker’s karaoke rendition of The Little Drummer Boy.

Holiday gifts from employers might also increase employee engagement:

  • A recent survey from Snappy, a personalized corporate gifting company that allows employees to pick their own gifts, looked at the effects gifts have on workers. No surprise, many responded that it helped boost their engagement.
  • The biggest finding? Gifts have the potential to encourage retention. 59% of the over 1,000 survey respondents said, “they would be more likely to stay at their job if they received meaningful holiday gifts from their employer.”
  • While some might expect employees to prefer benefits like a bonus or a raise at the end of the year, over half of the survey respondents (52%) said what they were most looking for was appreciation or recognition.

From the looks of it, companies have been listening. Joseph Sommer, president of Whitestone Branding and Aster Gifts, has seen the interest in corporate gifts explode since the start of the pandemic, especially around the holidays. The company, which specializes in corporate gifting, has seen its revenue more than double in 2021 and its growth is up 154% year-to-date, said Sommer. The reason? Holiday gifting budgets have ballooned as corporate event budgets have gotten smaller amidst the pandemic.

  • “So here's what we've seen: In the past, if a company was only going to spend $5,000 on swag for an event, now that they don't have travel they're not paying for airfare or hotels, they're not paying for food or catering. More budget is allocated to the swag,” Sommer told Protocol.

Not only have budgets gotten bigger, but the breadth of the types of gifts employees are receiving has changed. Gone are the days when you would simply get a mug with your company’s logo slapped on the side.

“I think what used to happen was a company would say, everyone's coming to the holiday party, and we will have either a water bottle or a Christmas ornament that is at the gala, or the end of your holiday party,” said Sommer. “But now people are in their homes and companies really want to show their appreciation in a different way.”

According to Sommer the most popular corporate holiday gifts being ordered this year run the gamut, but clothing reigns supreme:

  • Holiday apparel gifts have been the most popular, including everything from Arc’teryx and North Face jackets to ugly sweaters. Sommer shared they have also gotten a sizable number of requests for full-piece onesies.
  • Overall, what’s popular for gifting tech employees has remained relatively the same over the years. He refers to this as the “Swag Five:” the traditional piece of apparel, a journal, a tech accessory, like a power bank or a pop socket, a water bottle and a bag, like a tote or a backpack.
  • Redemption sites, much like what Snappy offers, have also become popular for holiday gifting this year. Employers are able to set up a site with the gifting companies on which employees can go online and pick a gift that they actually like. “They’re customized to be on brand to the businesses that we're working with and they really allow their people to have a selection of what they would want to receive, which is just a little bit more personal,” said Sommer.

Sommer is also seeing more holiday gifts tailored to people working from home. At the time of the interview with Protocol, he shared that Whitestone had just sold 500 Google Nest Hubs to a company for its employees. Definitely not your parents’ corporate gifts.

So what shouldn’t you get your employees for the holidays this year? Gift cards. 56% of people said they forgot to use the gift card or lost it before ever redeeming them, according to Snappy’s survey. Save that Olive Garden gift certificate for the cousin twice removed who you forgot you were seeing over the holidays.


Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

Keep ReadingShow less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

Keep ReadingShow less
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep ReadingShow less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

Keep ReadingShow less
Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.


Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

Keep ReadingShow less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories