And that has made all the difference.
Seriously, swag may not fuel productivity or loyalty, but it does build small ties between people and companies, and amongst people in teams. Why else would I have received so many t-shirts, mouse-pads, backpacks, and coffee cups with company logos on them through the years?
Swag, in the sense I mean herein, isn't a universally recognized word. It's an American colloquialism, so for anyone reading who hasn't heard this usage before here's what swag really is... I use "swag" because I can't correctly spell tchotchke without great trouble.
This is an easy best-practice to implement:
- Buy and deliver promotional items for your remote teams. Ship the stuff there if you have to. Better yet find a local producer, give them the artwork for your company's logo and get the stuff made locally. If your remote teams are in Asia, it's going to be much much cheaper to get the swag made closer to your teams than to ship it from America.
- Make it a point to have swag for release parties or major milestones, preferably with the milestone or release noted on the item.
- Create an "on-boarding swag" kit so that when you hire a new remote team member he or she gets a coffee cup and a mouse pad (for instance). You may think it's lame, but it's a pretty cool gesture for an employee's first day.
- If you give away swag (and you should) make sure you do it consistently and universally. I've had situations where one manager was good about this, and seven or eight weren't good about it. That situation created resentment in the seven or eight remote teams that didn't get t-shirts...