Look, if you wait till Christmas to give out gifts, you're doing it all wrong. Gifting is something that you should be doing 24/7!

Ok, I'm not saying that you should be leaving bouquets of flowers on your employees' desks every single morning. My definition of a gift is pretty broad. To me, a quick phone call to say "thank you" can be a gift.

My point is, consistently giving gifts (tangible or not!) is the perfect reminder that you care about your employees as human beings. That is exactly how I build great relationships with the 200-odd employees in my company, as well as other people in my network. In fact, I would even say that gifting is my biggest networking hack.

Here are five kinds of gifts that you should consider giving during Christmas, in 2018, and heck, during any time of the year:  

1. Recognize a job well done.

This is pretty straightforward: human beings are wired to desire praise and appreciation. The more acknowledgement you provide your team members, the happier they will be. Every so often, I give an employee a giraffe statue to recognize the fact that they have a huge neck and huge heart (meaning they'd do anything for the company.) Yes, I know it's cheesy, but people love it! On a more regular basis, during our Morning Mojo calls, we also recognize and applaud the best performing salespeople of that week.

When you're doing this with your employees, one thing to keep in mind: be specific. Generic compliments such as "great job" or "well done" are nice, but they're not as effective as "I'm amazed at how you went out of your way to find the best possible deal for our business." Spell out the details of what they do, and you will reinforce their meticulousness to work in return.

2. Give away your precious time.

Being too busy for your employees is an excuse. You have to make time to chat with your employees, even it's a 10 minute chat. That's how you maintain a personal touch with them. For example, I often call up my employees who have just closed their first big sale to encourage them, as this really pumps them up for more to come.

Of course, as your company scales, it'll be impossible for you to spend time with each and every one of your employees. So make sure you instill the same idea in your managers, so that they also dedicate time to connecting with their teams.

3. Personalize your gifts to show you care.

Take note of your employees' needs and wants -- or even anticipate them -- then gift them something that is truly meaningful. This does take some time and effort, but it can significantly deepen your relationship with your employees.

If your employee's chair is showing signs of breaking down, get them a new one. I also like gifting mugs, posters, or other items that are customized with my employees' favourite quotes or mantras. Another unique gift is learning products: ask your employee what skill they would love to learn or improve, and then buy them a book, course or workshop that helps them get better at that exact skill. (Credit to Michel Falcon, a $10 million restaurant owner, whom i learned this from.)  

4. Delight your employee with an unexpected surprise.

Who doesn't love being surprised with a present? The unexpectedness of this gift will definitely make your employee's day (maybe even week).

You don't need to get too fancy here. Just identify wherever your employee loves to shop, be it Walmart, Victoria's Secret, or Amazon, and get them a $20 gift card. If they're a huge foodie, vouchers for the hottest new restaurant in town work too.

5. Celebrate milestones and festive events.

Yes, I know I dissed Christmas gifts earlier, but gifts to celebrate festive seasons as well as professional milestones are still important. This is one of the easiest, low-effort ways to strengthen a relationship.

At my company, we gift $100 gifts during our employees' first year work anniversary. If you're a startup with limited resources, consider pooling resources with your team to celebrate the special occasion together.  

No matter what budget you might have, here's definitely a gift that you can give. Just remember that your employees are the people who have slogged their guts for you, day in and day out.

Published on: Dec 20, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.