This is part of the series Lessons from the Backseat…When my children were little, they had joint parties, but as they got older each one wanted their own celebration. With each party came the inevitable question – what about the birthday loot bags? Twice a year I was thrown into a tailspin of figuring out what and how many items to place in each goodie bag, whether the bags should be gender specific and… how much money to budget. 

When Aris was turning nine, I decided to step up my game – surely it was time for loot bags with useful educational items – perhaps a mini puzzle and a rubix’s cube or a book for each child?  

Off I went with my daughter Lauren to Asda, the mega store in the U.K. I was browsing and asking her opinion on a few items that I was contemplating when she interrupted me sharply, “Mom, what are you doing?” Without further ado, she led me to the candy aisle, grabbed a multipack of candy and said, “This is what kids want. Give them what they want.” With that, she grabbed several different varieties of candy and dropped them into the cart. Problem solved. 

That moment stayed with me for a few reasons, particularly because of my role in internal communications and employee engagement.   

How often have you seen this scenario play out – a small team gathers to brainstorm ideas of how to reward employees, how to engage them and which channels to use to reach them? The challenge is always to be innovative, to do something new, game changing, and exciting. But at the core of it all, is there any real focus on giving people what they want? 

Don’t get me wrong, this is business after all, and it is also necessary to shift things up sometimes, to use new channels and to continually aim to surprise and delight your people. But are you paying attention to the research? Did you ask them what they would like, and do you know what is most important to them? 

It is essential to have your finger on the pulse or you might spend more than you need to in terms of time and resources. Often, less is more. There I was looking at books and puzzles when some Haribos gummies were perfectly fine! Even worse, you might miss the mark completely and lose a valuable opportunity to deepen commitment and gain engagement.  

One of the key things that I’ve learnt along my journey is that everyone wants to know that they matter, and you don’t need to spend loads of money for that to happen. This is true at home, in relationships and in the workplace. So, I encourage you to invest time in communicating and go deeper to truly gain understanding. Do the research. Ask people what’s important to them. And when they tell you – act on it.  

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