People Leadership

Why love languages matter for employee appreciation

May 26, 2022

You may have heard about love languages. It’s a popular concept that describes five different ways that romantic partners express and experience love. But what if that was adapted for the workplace?

Employee appreciation is the act of recognizing and expressing thanks or gratitude for someone’s efforts in the workplace—and how you express it matters. Just like there are different ways to show love, there are also different ways to show appreciation to your employees. This concept was coined by Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Paul White as the five languages of appreciation.

Whether it’s an award, a gift, or some one-on-one time, there are different gestures that make people feel appreciated. For one person, a handwritten thank-you note might make their day. For someone else, that note might just be tossed in the trash. Knowing and using someone’s preferred language of appreciation is essential. Let’s break down the different ways you can express appreciation to your employees.

The 5 Languages of Appreciation

Words of affirmation: Verbal or written feedback resonates the most for employees with this language of appreciation.

Speak this language through:

  • Writing a thoughtful thank-you note for an employee’s contributions;
  • Sending an e-mail congratulating them on a recent success; or
  • Recognizing an employee during a meeting or giving them a shoutout on your workplace communication channel.

Quality time: This involves giving your complete and undivided attention to an employee. This could be through spending time outside work or engaging with them about their goals and ideas.

Speak this language through:

  • Setting up one-on-one meetings and check-ins;
  • Making yourself available to address questions or concerns; or
  • Organizing a team outing, such as a monthly lunch or getting involved in the community together.

Acts of service: Actions speak much louder than words for some. Show your appreciation by doing small helpful gestures for your employee.

Speak this language through:

  • Assisting with a task on an employee’s to-do list;
  • E-mailing a resource you think an employee may find useful; or
  • Offering advice or feedback on a project an employee is struggling with.

Gifts: For employees with this language of appreciation, a meaningful gift, whether tangible or intangible, shows that you are recognizing their contributions.

Speak this language through:

  • Bringing in coffee or treats to a meeting
  • Giving employees a celebratory day or afternoon off to unplug from work; or
  • Sending them a gift basket, company swag, or a gift card.

Appropriate physical touch: This one requires the most caution. Physical gestures can be used to show appreciation, but it’s crucial to respect boundaries. Always ask before initiating any physical touch.

Speak this language through:

  • High-fiving an employee after they complete a big project;
  • Offering a congratulatory handshake; or
  • Giving a fist bump to celebrate a win.

Why languages of appreciation matter

In a time when many companies are experiencing turnover, appreciation goes a long way. Eighty-one percent of employers offer company-wide recognition programs. Yet a 2021 survey found that two of the top reasons employees leave a job is because they did not feel valued by their organization or managers. So, despite the widespread presence of recognition programs, why are employees still feeling unappreciated?

It could be that managers and employees are not speaking the same language. By understanding your employees’ preferred language of appreciation, you can communicate with them in a more meaningful way. Your words or actions will resonate more strongly because they’re based on what they value.

When employees feel genuinely appreciated, it can lead to higher job satisfaction and reduce burnout. It can also be a powerful motivator and help build a stronger company culture. In a 2021 study by Great Place to Work, 37% of respondents said that personal recognition would encourage them to produce better work. People who feel motivated at work were also more likely to feel that promotions were fair and describe their company as having “excellent integrity” and an “uplifting environment.”

Best practices for showing appreciation

It’s clear that employee appreciation plays a big role in an organization’s success. But first, you need to speak the right language of appreciation. If you are wondering how to make your recognition and appreciation efforts count, check out our Guide to Employee Appreciation! In this FREE guide, we offer some helpful tips on how to build a genuine and impactful culture of appreciation in your workplace.

Download now!