With the holidays fast approaching, you're probably thinking about giving each member of your marketing team a company-branded sweatshirt. Or maybe you're thinking of giving each a bottle of wine. Or maybe you're thinking of giving each person some sort of gadget to stick on their desks.

Think again.

Your employees don't want trinkets, or gadgets, or doo-dads. If you want to be thoughtful -- if you want to give a holiday Gift that shows you care about your employees and want to invest in their futures -- give a gift that helps each person develop a skill, helps each person advance in their career, helps each person be better engaged and connected... in short, give a gift that lasts.

Of course to do that, you have to actually know your employees -- and their goals and interests. So if you don't, knowing your employees as people and not just workers is the first gift you should give.

Here are some thoughtful gifts to consider giving:

1. Tickets to a great conference.

Marketing conferences are not just great places to learn; they're also great places to make new connections. Plus, sending an employee to a conference shows you're willing to invest in their skills. It shows you're thinking long-term.

Everyone wants to feel they are part of something bigger than themselves, and investing in an employee's future is a great way to show you want them to grow with your business.

2. Time to work on a special project.

No, not a project you suggest--a project the employee has long wanted to tackle. Take a page from what Google (at least possibly used to do) and let employees use a portion of their work week to focus on a side project that may help your business. While all are unlikely to pan out, those efforts will let your employees flex their creative muscles and feel more engaged in the future of your business.

3. New software.

This one involves a fine line; if you provide new software and pretend it's a "gift," your employees will see right through it. But if you purchase software the employee has long requested -- like a new CRM tool, or the paid version of a social media tool -- it's easy to say, "I could have gotten you a fancy bottle of wine, but I used that money to get something that will make a lasting difference in how you do your job every day."

4. Courses.

Sites like Lynda offer thousands of online courses on business, creativity, and technology. So do local colleges and universities. But don't choose the course for the employee; if you're giving a gift, let each employee decide what they want to learn.

Besides, if you hope to create an organization whose culture is that of constant learning, what better way to do that than by making it easy for your employees to learn new skills?

5. Creative flex time.

A FlexJobs survey reported nearly 90 percent of workers felt flexible hours would reduce stress and improve general quality of life. So while you may not be able to allow your marketing team to work any hours they want, it may be possible to better align individual employee hours with work duties, customer availability, etc. 

How will you know if some degree of flex time will be a gift your employees will appreciate? Ask.

6. "Open" gift cards.

If you can't think of -- or can't afford -- to give a more thoughtful and creative gift, let your employees decide what they will receive. Gift an open gift card: Amazon, Visa debit card, etc. That way one size doesn't have to fit all.

Here's the bottom line. That mug you considered giving? It will be appreciated -- for maybe five minutes. Then your gesture will be forgotten.

But the memory of the experiences you provided could last a lifetime -- and so can their impact on your employees.