The Language of Appreciation

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Student giving apple to teacherMotivation is a tough nut to crack. Study after study has been done to try and get a grasp on what exactly motivates humans. Everyone it is different, but there are some universal motivators. Clarity produced an infographic on employee motivation, and the research from it shows that 64 percent of respondents stated that praise and commendation from a manager was their leading motivational factor. This information shows that while money is definitely a motivator, it is not at the top of the list.

Engaged and motivated employees do wonders for a business. If it is true that engaged employees are 26 percent more productive than unengaged employees, why then do a mere 25 percent of companies have an employee engagement strategy?

We’ve found that recognition is the number one factor in motivation, but it goes deeper than that. Seventy-nine percent of those who quit their jobs state that lack of appreciation was their reason for leaving. Appreciation without recognition is useless. A manager can think that someone is doing a great job, but unless the employee knows it, they could be on their way out the door.

Managers need to learn to speak the language of appreciation. It’s cost effective, lowers turnover rates and gets employees engaged.

The following are known as the “5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace” from a book on workplace appreciation:

Tangible Gifts

These don’t have to be a costly box at a ball game. The key ingredient here, once again, isn’t money, it’s thoughtfulness. Everyone can sense ingenuousness. Thoughtful, small gifts go a long way in showing employees that they are appreciated. A book, their favorite coffee, or a lunch will all do.

Physical Touch

No need to call HR. This can simply mean doling out handshakes for a quick congratulations. A head nod during a quick pass by their office isn’t enough. And it might sound cheesy, but a high-five never hurt morale. The boundaries are pretty common sense. A slap on the back for a job well done is acceptable; it is obvious what’s not.

Quality Time

One-on-one time between an employee and a supervisor does wonders for opening up communication. Group settings can be intimidating for some and hamper engagement in the conversation. In a Badgeville infographic, the study found that 68 percent of respondents claimed that recognition as an individual, over a team, was more motivating.

Acts of Service

Step up to the plate. It has happened to all of us: we’re drowning in a task or project, only to see our manager with feet on the desk and Facebook on the screen. Helping employees through everything from everyday tasks to heavy-duty projects is a great way to lead by example. You are proving that you’re engaged and invested.

Words of Affirmation

The most simple and most overlooked opportunity to show appreciation is through either written or spoken words of affirmation. Verbally acknowledging a job well done not only displays appreciation, it encourages them to repeat the behaviors that got them recognized. But again, people can sense when someone is being fake. A simple “good job” in passing won’t make the cut. Specifically acknowledge what they did well and how it impacted the team or company.



By Maren Hogan