Make It Personal

Originally published in Potentials magazine, June 2007

You may not always want to admit it, but your employees do have personal lives, and the best rewards allow them to better express who they are. Moving beyond the ubiquitous streamlined silver and white surfaces of most digital devices, many of the most desired gadgets and electronic accessories coming onto the market now use color and style, or cater to a specific behavior, to differentiate their owners from the crowd. Giving any one of the following items will let your staff know how much you value their individuality.

In Your Hood

What can you offer someone who already has enough digital gadgets to fill an electronics store? How about a place to store them all that's also a fashionable item of clothing? The ScotteVest Ultimate Hoodie Microfleece is not only stylish, it also offers 11 pockets for gear, as well as special loops to store your earbuds and prevent them from tangling. Geek has never looked so chic. Available at the end of June. $49.99

Self-Styled System

Nothing represents faceless corporate culture more than a nondescript black or gray business-issued laptop. Let your top workers turn heads in the airport lounge with Sony's VAIO VGN-FE890 Graphic Splash notebook, available in either weathered blue, weathered red or charcoal blossom case options. In addition to the funky color choices, this portable PC can be engraved to make a greater personal impact. Equally at home crunching numbers or entertaining its owner on a long flight, VAIO comes configured with built-in wireless networking, an integrated Webcam, a dual-layer DVD burner and a 15.4-inch wide-screen LCD display. $1,005

All Ears

Anyone can use the latest Apple iPod Shuffle's built-in clip to attach the tiny MP3 player to clothing, but Monster Cable offers an alternative that's even more convenient. Its iFreePlay cordless headphones provide a way to get rid of that pesky headphone wire that always seems to get stuck on something at the worst possible moment, and it does so via an iDock that lets you place the featherweight Shuffle directly into the left headphone. All of the player's controls are readily available, and the headphones can fold up when you're not wearing them, so they take up less space in a bag. Workout warriors will appreciate never having to worry again about their Shuffle coming unclipped while they're running their personal best. Rymax; $49.95

Tough Traveling Companion

If your employees crave unique adventures when on vacation, pair them up with the Olympus Stylus 770 SW digital camera. This rugged 7.1-megapixel shooter can emerge undamaged from drops of up to five feet, is waterproof up to 33 feet, can withstand up to 220 pounds of pressure, and still snap photos when the temperature gets as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Available in silver, bronze or royal blue, the Stylus 770 SW packs a 3x optical zoom, a 2.5-inch LCD for framing and reviewing shots, 27 different shooting modes and digital image stabilization to reduce image blur. The last feature comes in handy when trying to shoot photos while rock climbing, whitewater rafting or engaging in some other extreme activity. $379.99

A Personal Connection

Moving between portable devices can be a chore, especially if you don't have your digital and audio on your PC's hard drive already. Sima Products' Hitch USB Transfer Device is designed to be an electronic moving buddy, letting its recipient connect a device to one end of the Hitch and hook the receiving device onto the Hitch's other end. The Hitch then facilitates the transfer of files between the two devices. It works with iPods and other MP3 players, digital cameras, USB flash drives, or any other USB-compatible storage item. The versatile Hitch can even recharge another device if it runs out of juice. Available through Maritz; $149.99

Giving You Direction

Not everyone likes to schlep themselves to a gym in order to exercise. For those individuals who prefer the great outdoors as their workout venue, the Garmin Forerunner 305 is a perfect workout buddy. Its built-in GPS antenna can help exercisers plot their course on a jog or a bike ride, while its heart-rate monitor allows users to optimize the cardio efficiency of a workout. With the optional $99.99 foot pad, it's useful indoors as well; the pad's wireless sensor can beam distance and speed information to the Forerunner. The device can display that information during the exercise session, store it in its on-board memory, so you can track the progress of your workouts, or transfer the data to a computer via the Forerunner's USB cable, where the included Garmin Training Center software can provide further analysis.

Want more great gift ideas? Click here to read 50 Great Motivators and check out some of the hottest award products on the market.

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