In my past life in corporate world, I was fortunate to work for a company that took great pride in recognising employee’s for the efforts and achievements. Stars, hero’s and legends were all part of our terminology and company culture and to be recognised with these was a great honour. These awards were allocated with big fanfare (think loud music, confetti, customised cupcakes etc) in front of a large group or possibly the whole company.

And whilst most of the people recognised were grateful for the recognition of their hard work, there was always one or two that appeared to be really uncomfortable with the whole situation and looked like they just wanted to ground to open up and swallow them whole.

It is well documented that showing appreciation to your employees directly impacts employee engagement. What if though, our traditional methods of employee recognition is not working.What if, despite our best efforts to provide recognition, we struggle to retain our employees and they leave feeling unappreciated.

Employee recognition is not a one size fits all.

In our efforts to do the right thing, we may in fact be missing the mark..

In the same way, we vary in how we prefer to receive information (conversation, demonstration, email etc) we also vary in the way we like to receive love and affection from our significant other. If you think about it, employee recognition is actually just another version of showing someone affection. So, it makes sense that we all have different needs in this regard.

As Buckingham and Clifton state in the book Now, discover your strengths “Individualisation is key”. If you want to hit the mark and have your employees feel valued, then you need to tailor the recognition specific to the employee. A glass door survey found four out of five (81%) say they are motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work” 

Now, before you go freaking out thinking I’ve got 30 employees and I need to come up with 30 ways to recognise them, the information below will get you rolling. And the good news is that if you are a leader, recognition doesn’t always have to sit entirely with you. Feeling valued by your colleagues can rank equally as high. If you’re really unsure you can always discuss these with your employee in your regular catchups. However, they may not know their preference, they may just know what they don’t like. Start with what they don’t like and make suggestions based on the following for what you could do instead.

Gary Chapman and Paul White refer to the following ways to express appreciation in the workplace in their book of the same title.

5 Languages of Appreciation in the workplace

  1. Words of Affirmation – this is the more traditional approach. Using words to praise another person. However, often we say “thank you for a great job done” instead of thank you for getting this in on time under so much pressure or “I appreciate your tenacity on seeing this through” The more specific you can get on this, the better. Also consider whether they like 1:1 or group recognition.
  2. Quality Time – This isn’t about quantity of time, its about quality of time. You show your appreciation by giving your most valued resource time. It isn’t about proximity its about undivided attention.
  3. Acts of Service – People pitching in to help without being asked to. As Gary Chapman says, they have a view of “don’t tell me you care; show me, actions speak louder than words. ” They feel valued when they receive help.
  4. Tangible Gifts – This one is self explanatory however the key is matching the right gift to the right employee. There is no point giving rugby league tickets to someone thats not into sport. According to a study by Paul White of 100,000 employees, only 6% of employees choose Tangible gifts as their primary appreciation language and 68% report that it is their least valued appreciation language.
  5. Physical Touch – This one is a bit controversial on the surface. However, it does have its place. It can be as simple as a hand-shake or a high five for a job well done. Or a pat on the back in times of stress or a hug when tragedy has struck. It is totally individual and culture dependent.

Whether you’re a team member or a leader, consider the above in the context of how you currently give and receive appreciation. I’d love to hear your feedback. Is your organisation currently hitting the mark or missing the mark with showing appreciation?