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Employee Recognition

How To Improve Recognition at Work Using The 5 Love Languages

Amanda Cross

Are you struggling to connect and appreciate your employees or coworkers? Do your grand gestures go unnoticed while small praises in passing get more traction? Every employee at your job feels recognition and appreciation differently. One of the best ways to improve the recognition at work is by understanding each employee’s love language.

What Are The Five Love Languages?

The five love languages (also known as the five languages of appreciation when dealing with work) are based on a book written by Dr. Gary Chapman. Chapman believes that “relationships grow better when we understand each other.”

We all have a different way that we like to show and receive love or appreciation. Once you understand the five love languages, you can know how you like to receive appreciation and how your colleagues like to receive it.

In the book, Networking For People Who Hate Networking, Devora Zack talks about the golden rule, “treat others as you want to be treated.” Zack shares that this isn’t a great rule because everyone approaches the world differently. Instead, she introduces the platinum rule, “treat others how they want to be treated.” Once you understand the appreciation languages of those around you, you can recognize their accomplishments in a way that they can value and understand.

1) Using Words Of Affirmation To Improve Recognition At Work

The first love language is words of affirmation. When using words of affirmation, you affirm and encourage your coworkers. Many employees need to hear that they are doing a good job. Words of affirmation are often overlooked because they aren’t as grand as something like a physical gift. Words of affirmation are typically free, and it’s often what your employees are missing from you at work.

Words Of Affirmation Employee Recognition Ideas

If you want to connect with someone who appreciates words of affirmation, you have to use your words. You don’t have to be an eloquent speaker or writer to use this style of employee recognition. If your team member enjoys words of affirmation, they’ll be touched that you shared your thoughts, even if they were tough to put into words.

  • Start each one-on-one meeting with a few minutes to encourage and affirm your employees on what they are doing right.
  • Use NectarHR’s recognition feed to share thoughtful and thorough recognition about an employee.
  • Get everyone in the office to write down one sentence about their positive experience working with a particular person. Put all their responses on something meaningful and custom, like a blanket or pillow.

employee recognition program

2) Using Quality Time To Improve Recognition At Work

Quality time is another often overlooked but free to use love language. If someone values quality time, they just want to spend time in your presence, hanging out or chatting. When everyone is busy at work, it can be hard to nurture employees who value quality time. Make sure that you put time on your calendar to invest in this appreciation language, even during those rough weeks.

Quality Time Employee Recognition Ideas

Figure out which of your employees value quality time so you can tailor their experience at work to that love language. You’ll likely need to spend a bit more time with those employees if you are managing them. Quality time is easy to skip when you get busy, but these employees won’t find value in a gift card or a high-five.

  • Spend a little more time with these employees during one-on-ones. If time allows, spend an extra five minutes catching up, watching a fun video, or connecting on an issue they’re having.
  • Host regular team building activities to build a stronger bond amongst your employees. Let your team members who enjoy quality time pick the activity.
  • Invest in and mentor your employees and spend time guiding them along better career paths.

3) Using Acts Of Service To Improve Recognition At Work

When is the last time you’ve gone out of your way to help someone at work? Employees with acts of service as their love language value the small acts you do to make them more comfortable at work. Whether you agree to help them win an account at work or buy them a coffee, they’ll feel appreciated.

Acts Of Service Employee Recognition Ideas

Acts of service come in all shapes and sizes. Your employees don’t need grand gestures. They need to know that you care. Acts of service can easily slip into physical gifts if you aren’t careful. Acts of service truly means that you are going out of your way to help your employees. Don’t farm these activities out to other people.

  • Ask your team members what their biggest struggle at work is, and make a plan to alleviate that stressor (so they can focus on what they love.)
  • Recognize your employees by gifting them a service that will make their lives easier (free car wash, healthy meals for a week, babysitting, etc.)
  • Be there to help employees when they need things like help moving, something stored at your house, a new recipe to try out, anything you can help with!

4) Using Gifts To Improve Recognition At Work

Gifts are typically one of the easiest ways to recognize employees at work. Even if you don’t personally like gifts, you probably think about gifts first when giving recognition. While gifts as a love language seem easy, you need to make the gifts you give meaningful. Your employees need to understand that what you share is coming from the heart.

Gift Employee Recognition Ideas

When dealing with gifts, make sure you are appropriate. Gifts are easily associated with monetary value, and the wrong gift can put your employees in a challenging position. For example, you shouldn’t be giving away gifts worth $500 for randomly completing a project. You also want to ensure that you aren’t showing favoritism through the gifts that you give employees.

  • If you are good at painting, knitting, or some other crafty hobbies, consider making your employees a homemade gift.
  • Celebrate milestones and anniversaries with appropriate gifts that speak to each employee.
  • Create customized swag for employees to reward them for doing a good job.
streamline birthday recognition

5) Using Physical (Appropriate) Touch To Improve Recognition At Work

Last, let’s talk about physical (appropriate) touch at work. Over the last few years, contact at work has been seen as unfavorable. Appropriate touch is still possible, though. An affirming handshake or pat on the back can truly make a difference and help you connect with your employees.

Physical Touch Employee Recognition Ideas

One of the most important things to remember when using physical touch as employee recognition is to read the room. If your employees aren’t comfortable with any of these activities, you should stop.

  • Pat your employees on the back after an excellent presentation.
  • Do a group huddle after a long day at work that ends in a team chant.
  • Create a high five line to get your team psyched for a big event.


Employee recognition tied to the preferred love language of your employees can be powerful. There are so many ways to recognize your employees for a job well done. Ensure that you take their feelings and feedback into consideration when figuring out how to support and applaud your employees. Don’t lean too heavily on gifts if your employees just want to be told “good job,” and vice versa. Your employees are telling you how they want to receive feedback and recognition every day. Listen and treat your employees how they want to be treated.

Actionable workplace tips & insights for fellow people lovers

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