National Administrative Professionals Day, celebrated on April 27th this year, is an opportunity to build employee engagement by recognizing the key staff who keep the office running smoothly, but it can also be rife with potential minefields: what to give, who to gift, and how much to spend. In many offices, administrative professionals are often the ones who know the answers to those very questions, which is why this national day of recognition presents a uniquely thorny problem for HR departments, department heads and executives.

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In a modern, technology-assisted work environment it can be difficult to determine who’s considered administrative staff. That can lead to confusion and hurt feelings when someone isn’t recognized and even greater damage when someone didn’t realize that they were viewed as support staff. Keep these tips in mind when deciding who to recognize as administrative professional staff:

Tip #1: Don’t be blinded by gender.

Outdated stereotypes can die hard, so double-check that your perception of who’s an administrative professional and who’s not hasn’t been subconsciously influenced by gender roles.

Tip #2: Treat everyone in the role equally.

This isn’t the time to insinuate subtle differences between similar roles that haven’t been expressly communicated beforehand. Salaries, titles, bonuses and office locations already make hierarchies crystal clear in most organizations. Gifts, on the other hand, are an opportunity to say thank you and build engagement with employees as individuals.

Tip #3: Look to their career path to determine whether they see themselves as “administrative.”

For example, an entry-level analyst certainly performs support tasks for more senior staff.  However, the long-term career path for that analyst leads directly to the boss’s desk, not to positions of advanced office management or administrative support.

When selecting an appropriate gift for your administrative staff, keep the following in mind:

Tip #4: Don’t give anything worn close to the body.

This includes jewelry, perfume, and items of clothing.

Tip #5: Stay away from flowers.

Flowers are viewed as a highly personal, romantic gift – think Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day – which is not the message you wish to send to a colleague. In addition, flowers ranked dead last in terms of recipient gift preference on the 2020 Business Gift Strategy Report.

Tip #6: Avoid company-logoed items.

According to the Business Gift Strategy Report, employees who received logoed items as gifts were 33% less satisfied and more than 20% less likely to report feeling appreciated than employees who received non-logoed gifts. There’s a time and place for company-logoed items, but your employees (and clients, for that matter) consider logoed items more of a marketing vehicle rather than a gift, with only 15% of business gift recipients agreeing that gifts of logoed items “makes them feel special.”

Tip #7: Plan to spend $50, depending on your relationship to the recipient.

Across the US, $50 is the average price point for a gift on Administrative Professionals Day. If you have a dedicated executive assistant who supports only you, however, a gift up to the $75 range is in line with expectations. Conversely, when recognizing front desk or other shared administrative staff, a gift in the $30-$40 range is considered appropriate.

Tip #8: Do give items that stress the “professional” in Administrative Professional.

This might include membership in a professional organization or admission to a relevant industry conference. Items such as leather journals, pens, & desk accessories can also add luxury, convenience or fun to their professional work day. Coffee gifts are also a great idea!

Tip #9: Gift cards are a safe choice.

You can’t go wrong with all-purpose gift cards as a way to recognize employees on almost any day. Gift cards are the top choice of employees of all ages and genders, although particularly so for women over 40.

The only potential downside of gift cards is that employees don’t classify them as “very memorable.” Why does this matter? Because gift recipients who report having received a gift they consider “very memorable” are 34% more likely to report feeling more connected to the gift giver and 28% more likely to report wanting to work with the gift giver longer as a result of the gift.

Tip #10: When in doubt, give the gift of something you like.

It’s universally flattering to a gift recipient to know that the giver is sharing something they like, and even more so when that person is the boss. This can include anything from favorite treats to favorite office tools, but the key is for you to communicate why this item is your favorite and why you thought they’d like it, too.

Tip #11: Consider April 27, 2022 an opportunity to celebrate all of your employees.

Especially if you didn’t take advantage of the lesser-recognized Employee Appreciation Day celebrated in March, you might use this occasion as a “celebrating work colleagues” day and take the entire team to lunch, or give everyone a small gift to say “I appreciate you” or “we appreciate each other.”  Handled this way, you’re able to leverage the opportunity to build employee engagement and boost morale without reinforcing hierarchies.

With these tips in mind, National Administrative Professionals Day can present a welcome opportunity to build employee engagement while avoiding the potential minefields embedded in what, in fact, began in 1952 as “National Secretary’s Day.”

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