Employee attrition is at an all-time high. There are many obvious reasons why employees are leaving their jobs in droves, including, a poor cultural fit, unclear expectations, and lack of training.
However, there is 1 non-obvious reason that compels employees to leave, which many leaders overlook: appreciation.
Neuroscience has proven that employees crave 3 things in their workplace: that they are safe, that they belong, and that they matter. When their workplace addresses these three needs, their productivity doubles.
Harvard researchers discovered that the single highest driver of employee engagement is whether or not workers feel their managers are genuinely interested in their well-being. Less than 40 percent of workers felt so engaged.
Further, a survey by OfficeTeam found that nearly 50% of workers would leave their jobs if they didn't feel appreciated by their managers.
"There is a wide variety of ways to show employee appreciation that can go far toward keeping employees satisfied, engaged, and retained," says Allyson Willoughby, former senior vice president of people and general counsel at Glassdoor.
The 5 Languages of Appreciation
1. Words of Affirmation.
This language involves positive verbal or written expressions of appreciation, as well as recognition. A study by Make Their Day and Badgeville, found that 83% of participants found recognition for contributions more fulfilling and meaningful than a reward or gift.
How to Do it: Publicly acknowledge a job well done, in an all-hands meeting or company newsletter, and hand-write them a note that they can keep.
2. Acts of Service.
For some, going above and beyond your required duties can show employees, co-workers, and clients that their bosses and co-workers value them.
How to Do it: Offer to help with a stressful project, assist with a technology issue, or pick up and deliver someone's documents from the printer.
For clients, consider hand delivery, arranging travel plans, or giving discounts to make them feel appreciated. Additionally, helping with a task or moving an appointment that prevents someone from getting home to their family is one of the best ways to show you value someone.
3. Quality Time.
In a culture where time is precious, setting aside quality time is a great gesture of appreciation.
How to Do it: For clients, select personal ways to connect, instead of limiting communication to impersonal methods such as email.
For employees, schedule a lunch or coffee break, where you give them an opportunity to speak with you in-person about their chosen topics.
4. Receiving Gifts.
For some individuals, material gifts and money are the most effective ways to express appreciation.
According to the results of an employee appreciation survey by Harris Interactive and Glassdoor, 75% of employees say receiving a pay raise is a valuable form of showing appreciation, while 46% say they would enjoy unexpected treats and rewards such as snacks, lunches, and dinners.
How to Do it: Provide on-the-spot cash bonuses, tied to specific outcomes, for a job well-done. Or present an employee with a gift certificate to a nice restaurant, a store that aligns with their hobbies, or a weekend getaway.
5. Physical Touch
Finally, there are some individuals who value appreciation expressed through physical touch. Handshakes, fist-bumps, high-fives, and pats on the back are all part of a healthy workplace, says Alexander Kjerulf, author of Happy Hour is 9 to 5: How to Love Your Job, Love Your Life, and Kick Butt at Work.
According to Kjerult, appropriate touch "helps create better relationships at work. It promotes closeness, inclusion, intimacy, and trust among a group of people when their daily interactions also allow them to touch."
Of course, it's essential to use proper business etiquette to remain professional, as well as consider personal boundaries, with this language of appreciation. Further, this language is typically a secondary language to one of the other 4 languages.
How to Do it: Being sensitive to boundaries, and considering your personal connection with the other person, decide what type of physical expression is most appropriate for your relationship. It may be a handshake or a hug.
So, which language should you use to create the healthiest, most productive, and most engaging relationships with your employees, co-workers, and clients?
The answers may not be obvious. You may want to observe how they show appreciation to you and to others, as people often communicate in the way they prefer. You may have to take the time to see how they respond to each approach, which is a small trade-off and a worthwhile investment to engage, reward, and retain your most important asset: your people.