90% of businesses in the U.S. have some form of an employee recognition program. Yet employee engagement and job satisfaction have decreased in the past decade. This tells us that existing programs aren’t quite hitting the mark when it comes to making employees feel appreciated. This leaves most HR leaders wondering: how do we design a meaningful recognition program that’s personalized? And as our team grows and becomes more diversified, how can we continue to deliver at scale?
We hosted a webinar with special guest Dr. Paul White, co-author of the best-selling book The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, psychologist, and leadership trainer, to address these exact questions.
Check out the full recording and recap below and, for more great HR Webinars, stay in touch via our Resources page. If you’d like the registration code to take the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory to uncover your primary language of appreciation, email to Dr. White at email@example.com with “Blueboard Webinar” in the subject line
Below is an overview of the 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, as well as Dr. White’s best practices on how to effectively scale your recognition efforts to align with your employees' primary language.
Words of affirmation
46% of the workforce prefers words of affirmation
This language of appreciation is all about using words to affirm the value of a person. There are many ways to practice words of affirmation in the workplace: it can be given in-person or through writing, a quick digital employee appreciation note, and it can also be shared amongst peers - not just from the top-down. A great example of words of affirmation in action is Campbell Soup’s former CEO, Douglas Conant, who turned the company’s culture around by writing over 30,000 personalized notes throughout his career to employees celebrating their successes and contributions.
Tips for Employees Seeking Words of Affirmation:
- Use people’s names to add personalization (be sure to spell them correctly!)
- Be specific about what you value about the recipient
- Explain why their contribution is meaningful to you and/or the organization
26% of the workforce prefers quality time
Quality time can take on many forms in the workplace. For some employees, it’s about having someone’s complete and focused attention. Perhaps it’s a simple matter of closing your laptop during a meeting or asking thoughtful questions during their presentation. For others, it’s about spending time with their peers, whether that’s going to lunch together or doing something together after work.
Tips for Employees Seeking Quality Time:
- Don’t assume that everyone wants quality time with their managers (their manager or superior may be abrasive, or just not a people-person)
- Encourage shared experiences, which can help people bond and form memories together
Acts of service
22% of the workforce prefers acts of service
This language is all about performing small acts that can help make a colleague’s day! For instance, let’s say your colleague is working on a project and faces an obstacle. You can provide an act of service by offering support in areas in which you may have more experience. This will help them complete the project faster, and they’ll be grateful that you took the time to make their lives easier.
Tips for Employees Seeking Acts of Service:
- Don’t confuse words of support with action; the former is much less meaningful to this group
- As a manager, you can practice this language by providing employees with the resources that will help them do their best work
- Don’t forget the small things - even assistance on a minor computer issue can be a huge help
6% of the workforce prefers tangible gifts
Tangible gifts are not to be confused with raises or bonuses. This language is all about gifting to show you are getting to know your colleagues personal interests and preferences. You can do this by chatting with your colleagues about their weekend plans or learning more about their favorite hobbies. Food tends to be a common gift in the workplace, so if you know your employee loves a certain brand of coffee, surprising them with a cup of joe in the morning can be incredibly meaningful.
Tips for Employees Seeking Gifts:
- Focus on experiences, not things. That’s why we advocate for the employee’s choice of experiential rewards at Blueboard
- Personalization is key. The worst thing you can do is give someone with this language a generic gift, an irrelevant gift (Starbucks card to the person who hates coffee), or another piece of corporate swag
- Try pairing tangible gifts with another language for extra oomph (i.e a personalized note). Only 6% have gifts as their primary language, but it is often their second or third preference.
Personalizing employee gifts can be hard. It’s a lot of pressure on the manager to decide what will really excite the employee. Hear Jill’s story here, who transitioned from a manual restaurant gift card program to Blueboard experiences in celebration of Vungle employee anniversaries. She saved over 100 hours of admin time chasing down employee requests in their first year alone.
The smallest population group, less than 1% of the workforce, prefers physical touch
This language may seem out of place in a work environment, but it’s actually not! Appropriate physical touch is all about spontaneous celebration and can take the form of a handshake, fist bump, or a congratulatory hug. It’s about giving and receiving appreciation in a way that’s comfortable and agreed upon for everyone involved.
Tips for Employees Seeking Appropriate Physical Touch:
- Allow the recipient to define what’s appropriate
- Follow your own EQ, reading employee body language and engagement before you approach physical touch - and be open and accepting if you get rejected
- Keep cultural differences in mind; some may be more comfortable with certain acts of physical touch over others
Best practices for scaling your personalized employee appreciation efforts
Once you’ve identified the primary language of appreciation of your employees, how do you scale your employee recognition program to align with these preferences? Dr. White shared a few best practices that he has used with his clients, who range from small companies to global corporations:
When you roll out an employee recognition program, it doesn’t have to be through the entire company - especially if you work at a large enterprise. Start small with a department-wide pilot and let people volunteer to participate in the program. This gives you a great opportunity to test and iterate your program with an intimate group of employees who are enthusiastic about it.
Use socialization to build awareness.
Let your program grow organically by generating internal buzz. You can do this by calling out and recognizing employees during team gatherings or sharing the experiences of those who have been recognized in the past. These tactics will build awareness for the program, encourage employees to share and celebrate with each other, and amplify the great work of your people at the same time. For more ideas for socializing your program, check out these best practices for building recognition program awareness.
Be mindful of your remote workforce
Don’t forget about your remote employees! Thankfully, Dr. White’s studies have found that the breakdown of language preferences are pretty similar for remote employees as they are for face-to-face employees (although quality time bounces up a little). So it’s simply a matter of being extra mindful of small things like taking advantage of video conferencing services for employees who value quality time or remembering to physically send meaningful tokens of appreciation to those who prefer tangible gifts.
For those looking for personalized employee recognition ideas, we’d love for you to browse some of our experiential employee rewards here at Blueboard. Learn more about how the 5 languages of appreciation in the workplace can benefit your team. To learn more about Blueboard and get in touch with our team, simply Request A Demo.
Stay tuned for more valuable webinars and upcoming events here on our Resources page - we can’t wait to see you again online!