A survey in the most recent SHRM (HR industry mag) - hope I didn't lose you already - showed 60% of respondents planning to axe 'morale and team building' from the 2009 budget. There was already no money for fun employee things, right?
Celebrating is important. You know.....acknowledging accomplishments, team building, yelling, and calling attention to people (often awkwardly). It builds culture and reminds everyone we are all on the same ship. Anniversaries are especially important to acknowledge - that's a pretty sweet milestone. In the past, I've seen companies go out of their way to celebrate birthdays. I remember a great Seinfeld episode where Elaine flips out after attending dozens of birthdays and cakes. But come on - people have birthdays just for being born, there isn't much of an achievement there.
So anyways, with lots of reasons to celebrate and no money here is what I propose....get more crazy sunglasses. I'm sure my fellow Bug Lab buddies would question the value of glasses for their Anniversary, and maybe even tell you they didn't know we were celebrating. But I know they actually take their glasses home, show them off to friends and bring them to parties.
Truly, sunglasses are fun to have around the office. Aren't things you would never buy yourself kinda nice to have? Will, our new intern, got a 'welcome' with these sweet blue sparkly sunglasses.
Little, silly (ok 'junk') can be fun. Everyone loves the Fart Machine II (at least for the first 4 or 5 minutes. Bacon Band Aids or an A-team 'I pity the fool' talking key chain are perfect for just about anybody.
No one is saying these gifts have particular value to the employee. I think giving each employee just what they wanted would be pretty hard. But the gifts do say "hey, we are acknowledging you" or "everyone look". What's wrong with that?