The Worst Holiday Gifts You Can Give Your Employees

It’s usually HR’s job to come up with the annual employee gift. Most companies are lame and will do the exact same thing every year. If they don’t give a turkey on Thanksgiving, they’ll definitely give out turkeys at Christmas. If they did give a turkey at Thanksgiving, you’ll likely get a ham or a fruit cake for Christmas.

Can I just say Christmas, instead of the “holiday season” or list all the possible options? My family is Jewish, but we get it, almost no company will ever recognize Chanukah, and if they do, it’s usually and insulting, “Oh, isn’t that the Jewish Christmas?!” Ugh. Most of the American workforce follows some Christian-based religion that celebrates Christmas, so it’s just easier to play along with the majority.

At some point, usually right around the pagan holiday of Halloween, someone in HR will raise the question to leadership, “Hey, what are we doing this year for ‘Christmas’ for the employees?”  What they really are asking is, “How much money are we spending per employee for some gift that looks more expensive than what it really is?”  Depending on the organization, it’s a wide range!

Here are the worst holiday gift ideas to give your employees:

  • Company Logo Portfolio – you know those fake leather bound binders with a legal pad inside. Twenty years ago those were so hot! Now, they’re sad. If you give this out as a gift you should be shot. “Oh, great, thanks, a pad of paper I can’t wait to take a picture of this and post it on my Snap making fun of the lame company I work for!”
  • Company Logo Bag – Any bag really. Duffle. Messenger. Backpack. The only time this isn’t lame is when it’s a really nice bag. Meaning the bag, minus your stupid logo, better cost at least $100 per bag. Your $12 limit per employee just makes any bag you choose, sad. Oh, it’s a Herschel bag, okay, you’re good, send me one to!
  • Any Company Logo Item Your CEO Wouldn’t Buy For Themselves – Let’s face it no one wants a crappy polo shirt, or cheap hoodie, or water bottle made in China. If your leadership team wouldn’t buy this on their own and use it, don’t buy it for your employees. If your CEO is a cheap SOB, ignore what I said above and just skip logo items altogether!
  • Any Mass Pre-packaged Food Items – You know what really sucks? Getting a gift basket of elf-sized trial-sized food items made to look gourmet that were probably made seventeen months ago.
  • A Charitable Gift in “My” Name – I love being charitable. I hate when some tries to be charitable on my behalf. You don’t know what I support! I might hate sick puppies and I don’t want money going to them. That’s not your call. My favorite charity is my kid’s college fund! Are you giving me money for that?

Employee gift giving, especially the bigger your organization is, is a tough game.  You don’t want to be cheap, but if you have 10,000 employees, that one endeavor becomes super expensive! The best thing to do is just stop it all together!

You go through one negative year of people complaining they didn’t get their lead-based painted candy corporate logo candy dish, then the next year no one remembers. Instead, let your hiring managers throw potluck lunches and have some fun. People will remember those, have more fun, and they might actually interact with each other!



The Sackett Rules for your Annual Holiday Office Party

Oh, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, err, office party time! And you know what that means, inappropriate behavior and awkward moments! But don’t fear, Uncle Tim is here to save you with a few simple rules.

Each year at the greatest technical recruiting company on the planet, HRU Technical Resources, we throw an annual holiday party.  They’re kind of legendary and I can neither confirm nor deny that we have our party in a bar next to a strip club. Next to, not in.

As you can imagine, we’ve had to set up some rules over the years. Feel free to use these or adapt them for your own office party:

  • The company will pay for your ride home if you’ve been drinking. Don’t use the force, that only works if you’re a Jedi and no matter how much you drank, you’re not a Jedi.
  • Don’t talk shop, unless there’s money to be made, then talk all the shop you want.
  • If you don’t show up and claim you weren’t feeling well, but you were actually at work that day, we’ll basically make up stories about the real reason you decided not to show up.
  • Attendance isn’t mandatory, please don’t come if you don’t want to come. We want to have fun and if feel you have to be there for some odd reason, you’re not fun.
  • Former employees are welcome to attend unless I hate them, then don’t have them attend.
  • Don’t corner your boss when you’re drunk and ask for a raise, unless they hit on you in an inappropriate manner, then completely ask for a giant raise.
  • Talk the newbies. It sucks bringing your spouse or significant other to a company party and then no one pays attention to you. Go out of your way to involve the new folks into your conversation and get to know them.
  • Don’t be the last to show up, or the first to leave. Wait, what?
  • Drink all you want. Remember, everyone is always watching.
  • Don’t hook up with a co-worker at the party. None of us want to see that, at least wait until you get in your Uber and give the driver a show.
  • The company will pay for your ride home. Don’t be an idiot.

Many HR leaders and pros don’t feel it’s appropriate for a company to have a party and provide alcohol. I get it. I’m good either way, you have to know your culture and what they want and be willing to set limits.

I’ve worked in giant companies and small companies and all of those companies had holiday parties with alcohol. You’ll have issues. Be prepared on how you’ll handle them. Help your employees out before they get themselves in trouble.

I always felt it was my job as an HR leader to take on that role within the business. I didn’t want my leaders being the ‘bad’ guy, so I took on that role when it was time to pull someone aside. They appreciated and they knew I wouldn’t hold a grudge on the employee who maybe went a bit too far.

Have an enjoyable holiday office party season!


Notes to HR Vendors #6 – Client Holiday Gift Ideas

I’ve done a few presentations titled something like, “HR Tech Buyers Guide”, “How to Buy HR Tech”, etc. The presentation is designed for HR and TA practitioners to help them become better buyers of HR Tech. To understand the crap that HR and TA Tech vendors do and say to get you to buy stuff you might not need, want, or will use.

The interesting thing about these presentations is that half the audience turns out to be the actual vendors themselves wanting to hear what it is I’m telling the real HR and TA leaders! It’s smart for the vendors. It helps make the better sellers as well. Well, at least some that actually listen!

Based on these interactions I decided to build a series of what has come out of interactions with the vendors themselves, aptly named “Notes to HR Tech Vendors”. Look I don’t alway have to be creative! Enjoy!

Notes to HR Vendors #6 – Client Holiday Gift Ideas

There two ways this post can go, 1. A post about the gifts you actually give that are awful, 2. A post about gifts you could give that people would actually enjoy. I haven’t figured out which way this one will end up, so here we go…

About this time every year I start receiving gifts in the mail from HR and TA tech vendors. Ironically enough most of the HR and TA companies I’ve highlighted on my widely popular and over-shared weekly tech review, T3, rarely send me anything, even though they share with me constantly how many sales they’ve actually made because someone read about them on this blog. But, I’m not bitter, I did it for me, not you.

The gifts I start receiving are from the vendors I’m actually paying. Makes sense. They want to keep getting paid and figure if they send me of their ‘popular’ desk calendars I’ll for sure sign up again next year to use their product or service!

It’s fashionable in the HR and TA blogging community to post pictures of the gifts we receive from vendors, thanking them for being so nice. This isn’t the real reason we post these pics. The real reason is to shove it in the nose of the other bloggers who didn’t receive the gift in a petty one-ups-manship of who’s someone better because they got a logo mug filled with stale candy and you didn’t.

I personally hate this game, but I didn’t create it, I’m just a player. Hate the game, not the player!

So, what are the best gifts you could give? It really depends on the margin business you’re in. If you’re selling background check services, you’re probably not spending much on client gifts. If you’re selling annual HRIS enterprise level software, you might be handing out Mini-Coopers for all I know.

If I was in charge of gift giving to your clients, here’s what I would suggest:

Free Consulting Service and/or Product. Here’s the thing, you know what your clients suck at, probably better than they do. Help them fix something, something they would usually pay for, but you have the expertise to solve it with little effort.

Something Personal to your Main Client Contact. I have a client who loves chocolate. I send her chocolate. I don’t send everyone chocolate, because Ted, another client, doesn’t like chocolate, but he loves craft beer. It takes a little more effort, but it means more. (Side note for HR Vendor Executives – this is also a good test to find out if your sales folks have been building relationships! If they have no clue, they have no clue!)

Development Opportunity for the individual or their team. I once had a vendor ask me to do a half-day workshop with a corporate recruiting team. It was the vendor’s gift to the client for being a great client. I had this happen with another vendor who had me come and have breakfast with a TA team and share ideas and thoughts on how they could improve. I’ve also had vendors invite me to a leadership conference on their dime.

Anything sweet that can be shared. No fruit isn’t sweet! I’m talking candy, cookies, etc. That stuff is magical, it disappears almost instantly in an office setting! Fruit get’s thrown away in about two weeks.

A great bottle of wine or spirits. If your client is a drinker, they’ll appreciate this more than you know! Most of that appreciation will come around 7pm on a Friday night, and they’ll remember you! I can tell you CareerBuilder sent me a great bottle of wine once. Many vendors have sent me bottles of Gin from all over the country. I appreciate those vendors the most!

A Note to their Boss. What!? It’s simple and cheap. A handwritten note to the executive they report to, or even above them all the way to the CEO, saying how great it is to work with a smart and caring partner, someone who is constantly trying to make your organization better, and I thought you should know.  Explain what makes them better than other peers in their field. That gift will give back in many ways!

Something they wouldn’t normally buy themselves. High-end Sunglasses, Wireless Beats, Google Home, Amazon Alexa, etc. For a hundred bucks you get a “Wow! OMG! Thanks!” You get remembered. I personally had a vendor give me a Northface jacket with their logo on it. I wear it often!

There you go from free to a few thousand dollars, all will make a statement, all will make people remember you when it comes time to budget more money for your product and services. If you want to know what won’t work, hit me up after the holidays and I’ll tell you the worst gifts I got!




I’m All In On Black Friday

Okay, it’s a little-known fact that I’m a big Black Friday shopper! I’m not sure the psychology of why I love Black Friday shopping, but I do. I’m sure if I sat down with a therapist it would go back to I grew up with much less than I have now, so being able to buy things at a cheaper price is exciting to me, even when I’m at a point in life where it doesn’t really make a difference.

You can take the kid out of the hood, but you can’t take the hood out of the kid.

My kids are now 20, 18 and 13. I’ve been Black Friday shopping since they were babies. I distinctly remember standing in line at Kmart in Omaha Nebraska on Thanksgiving Day (the first time Kmart ever opened on a Thanksgiving Day) to get some super cheap games of some sort that my boys were into.

They opened the doors, I, and many others ran to the back of the Kmart while yelling at the workers to find out where the games were located. I got the shelf and just grabbed as many as I could. I got home and had like three or four versions of the same game, but they were so cheap I thought we would find other parents who would need these.

I think we moved those stupid games to like the next three houses, never finding a home for them, and I’m sure they ended up at Goodwill eventually. The sad ending to a crazy moment of Black Friday shopping, that actually happened on a Thursday!

This year I’ll be going out once again on Thanksgiving eve to do some “Black Friday” shopping, even as Black Friday has seemed to jump the shark. I’m looking forward to it way more than my wife and sons! I mean now I can buy stuff I’ll never use or need for myself! Cole Haan Outlet look out, I’m coming for you!

I just told my wife last night, “did you see the prices on the TV’s? We should get one!” She, smartly, said, “we don’t need a TV”. Yeah, but, they’re practically giving them away! Come on, who doesn’t need a 60″ LED in their bedroom!? We can move the 42″ into the bathroom!

This is the crazy of Black Friday, and I’m all in! If you’re out on Black Friday – ping me on the Twitters at @TimSackett and we can share war stories!

Happy Thanksgiving, HR and TA Friends!

I’m super thankful for 2016. I have to say in 2016 I honestly believe I’ve met more HR and TA leaders and pros in this year than any other single year in my professional career!

I’m constantly told, by well-meaning folks, when I go to a new place something like, “Well, Tim, the people here are great, but from an HR (or TA) perspective, we’re probably 3-5 years behind!” Almost every single place I go! Big city, tiny country town, foreign countries, big company, small company, startups. Everyone says the same thing!

What I find is really two things:

  1. You think you’re way more behind than you actually are.
  2. Those who are actually behind, really don’t care or have given up on their profession and/or their organizations.

Those who really care about HR and TA are rarely ever behind. They might not have the same resources as other companies, but their thought processes on what is great HR and TA is spot on. Also, I rarely find HR or TA professionals or leaders who truly feel they’re on the cutting edge of innovative HR and TA practices.

The fact is, those who are on the cutting edge of HR and TA are less than 1%. If you go to HR and TA conferences you probably get to hear from these folks, and that makes you feel behind, but 99.9% of those sitting with you in the audience are right where you are! Also, just because someone is from a big, popular company, don’t think they know about HR or TA than you do!

Most of the truly great HR and TA leaders I meet aren’t from giant brands. They’re from medium to smaller organizations and they’ve had to hustle to get their shops in order, they’ve had to be innovative to compete, and they’re much more willing to push the envelope of technology to move their organizations forward.

So, today I’m giving thanks. I thankful for all the new friendships I’ve created over this past year. I’m thankful for all the old friends who call me out on my bullshit. I’m thankful for having this community of people who care so damn much about their organizations and their people. It’s uplifting to work in this world every day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Ultimate Gift Guide for Boss’s Day! #MakeBossesGreatAgain

Does anyone really celebrate National Boss’s Day?  It seems like something made up by some drunk employees one night and then the next day they realized it went too far!

What’s next National “White Man’s” Day? Oh wait, my black friends, women friends, Native American friends, Hillary, etc. say that’s every day! Or was that last week for Columbus Day? I get confused, they keep changing what we can and can’t celebrate.

I have to say I’ve been a ‘boss’ for (well, let’s face it I was born a ‘boss’!) twenty-some years and the only Boss’s Day gift I’ve ever gotten was being taken out to lunch back in the 90’s! Ever since then I was told it was a bad thing to be a boss. I needed to be a leader and leaders don’t get gifts, we give gifts!

I can’t enjoy being white. I can’t enjoy being male. I can’t enjoy being a boss. The struggle is real!

So, since I can’t enjoy Boss’s Day I decided to develop a list of gifts I would like to receive on Boss’s Day is we lived in let’s say Trump’s America! I’m sure part of his political platform is to Make Bosses Great Again!

The Ultimate Boss Gift Guide for Bosses Day:

Free Back Massage Coupons! Can you imagine anything more magical than giving your well-respected boss a nice good old fashioned in office back rub! Yeah, I thought so!

Liquor! Hey, this boss in-office bar doesn’t stock itself! Top shelf don’t try and drop off anything you’d find on the rail, no boss wants second tier liquor!

A nice tie! Just kidding, you should be fired if you give your boss a tie on Boss’s Day! Unless that tie comes with an invitation to tie you up! Now we’re talking boss language!

Signed copy of “Mean Business” by Chainsaw Al Dunlap!  You kids might have to look up the career of Chainsaw Al, it’s brilliant and inspiring for real bosses. Every boss loves a good bookshelf filled with books they haven’t read but one that scares the hell out of any employee who sees the titles!

Your Employee of the Month parking spot! Just kidding, again! Ha! Suckers, I park in covered parking or the driver drops me off up front. Keep your Row 1 parking spot, your 2007 Honda Civic looks really nice there.

Boss’s Day! It seems like it only comes around once a year. I’m not quite sure how that happened, you would think bosses would have made it monthly!?

So, remember today isn’t about you, it’s about your Boss! Make them feel special. Treat them with respect. Kiss the ring.

The Most Average Place on Earth

I was on Spring Break last week and I took my wife and two youngest sons to California. First, let me say, SoCal was pretty great! 70’s and Sunny, like 8 days in a row. I don’t think I’ve seen 70s and sunny for eight straight days in Michigan, ever! We stayed in Hermosa Beach. It was awesome. Perfect California vibe.

We also did a day at Disneyland and California Adventure.

I would say I’m a casual fan of Disney. I’m not a crazy Disney person, you know who you are. My sons are 19, 17 and 12. We haven’t been to Disney in about ten years. The last time we went was to Orlando and Disney World. We had a great experience.

This experience was fine.  Do you think Disney would like as a review? “Yeah, it was fine. It cost about $1000 for one day for a family of four and it seemed pretty fine…”


The weather was great. Disney didn’t provide that. That was California and Delta Airlines.

It started off with me entering the Disney parking garage and paying $10. $10 to park? I’m about to pay $169 per person for one-day hopper passes and Disney feels like I should also pay $10. I would have rather paid $179 for each ticket ($40 towards parking), and not have paid anything for parking!  It’s the principle of it. You’re killing me to enter the park, at least, let me park for free.

The reason we go to Disney is because it’s supposed to Magical! That magic includes how you are treated, the cleanliness of the parks, how helpful the workers are, etc. You leave going, “Holy crap! Now that is customer service!” I left saying, “It was fine.”

The cost of stuff at Disney isn’t an issue for me. If you go to Disney you have to know you’re giving up a year of college for your kids. It’s a trade off so many families make on an annual basis. It just is what it is. For that huge cost, I do expect to the ‘classic’ Disney customer service.

I’ll give you some examples of things I was part of that showed me Disney has dropped off considerably:

  1. When you go on a ride at Disney those workers who are manning the ride are really into it, or at least, they should be. The workers at Disneyland were similar to the workers of any theme park I’ve been to in the last ten years. For that matter, they were similar to any fast-food workers I’ve come into contact with. I’m here. I’m getting paid to do this job. Next.
  2. Part of going to Disney is waiting in line. You have a lot of time to watch what’s going on. The details are what used to make Disney great. We were going on the Buzz Lightyear ride and the line was going out into the walkway. Disney likes to keep people in the line maze, so the guy in charge of Buzz Lightyear stopped to passing Disney workers from another ride to ask for help in extending his line. Both looked at him like, how dare you ask us! The one even said, “this isn’t my ride, I don’t know how to do that.” He was good, knowing he had guests watching, he said, “if you just watch my post for ten seconds I’ll take care of it.” She agreed and he ran and took care of it. She then complained to her coworker the entire thirty seconds he went to take care of this problem. This is not the Disney I expected.
  3. At one point I needed to use the restroom. I stopped a Disney worker and asked where I could find a restroom. He gave me directions. Go down that road, take a right, etc. Okay. My Disney expectation was this worker would have shown me where to go, at least, part way. “Let me show you.” Instead of, “Take the third right at the next intersection.”

For those who haven’t ever been to Disney, this might seem silly. I would say Disney expects more. Thus, I expect more when I go. My $1000 expects more ($10 for parking, $700 for tickets, $200 for food and drinks and $100 for souvenirs).

After spending 14 hours at the two parks on one day, I left feeling like Disney is no longer the most magical place on Earth. It was more like the most average place on Earth. My wife and kids felt the same way.

So, why does any of this matter? If you position yourself as “great”, as “the best”, as “magical”, people expect you’ll actually be that thing. Universal Studios doesn’t have this issue, but the experience is almost exactly the same. Under promise, over deliver. Disney is in an over promise, under deliver problem.

The one bad thing about marketing yourself as ‘magical’ is that people expect the experience to be, magical.

How is your office celebrating St. Patrick’s Day?

First, do you even know what the hell St. Patrick’s Day is?  I’m guessing if you’re not Irish Catholic, you have no freaking idea! Here’s some knowledge:

“The revelry, of course, is all in the name of Saint Patrick, who was born in Britain but sold into slavery in Ireland as a child. He eventually escaped but after becoming deeply religious he decided to return to Ireland to spread the word of Christ. Legend has it Saint Patrick was responsible for making the shamrock synonymous with Ireland after using the three-leaf clover to demonstrate the Holy Trinity. He’s also been attributed with driving snakes out of Ireland.”

Okay, so now you can put into context why you wear green, pinch butts and drink green beer…

Originally, St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland was a religious holiday and people would go to church, and pubs would be closed. As the Irish came to America they used St. Patrick’s Day as a holiday to celebrate their heritage. Now, 34 million Americans claiming to have Irish roots celebrate each St. Patrick’s Day. Also, the 4.7 Million actual residents of Ireland celebrate as well.

It’s so American that we took a great holiday like St. Patrick’s Day and turned it into a fake holiday and an opportunity to sell crap! Kiss Me, I’m Irish!

How’s your office celebrating St. Patrick’s Day?

Since the holiday as turned into mainly a drinking holiday, my guess is most organizations struggle with how to really celebrate. I mean who doesn’t want a green beer when walking into the office at 8am, but it makes for a really long day, plus NCAA games begin at noon. Yep, that’s right, the first day of Basketball Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day begin on the same day in 2016. Ugh, I’m going to have a green tongue for a week!

My guess is most offices will be pretty cleared out by noon, today.  Basketball games, plus beer = half day PTO requests!

But, for the those folks who are staying around to keep business moving, enjoy the green Kool-Aid and green cookies in the breakroom that HR ordered. But, only two cookies please, last year we ran out.