How Speaking the 5 Love Languages Applies to Employee Recognition Programs

If you’ve ever spent Sunday brunch alone at a cafe, you’ve probably overheard a book club nearby passionately exchanging opinions about the “5 Love Languages.” Written by Gary Chapmen, The 5 Love Languages emerged this time of year in 2009, which might explain why it’s popping back up on my radar! When exploring the text, however, it occurred to me that the type of advice Chapman intended for married couples hoping to deepen and expand their levels of communication could be equally helpful in nourishing positive, inspiring relationships between office mates at work. You know, the types of relationships that build camaraderie, trust, and heightened levels of employee engagement.

[blockquote type=”pquote” content=”“All of us blossom when we feel loved and wither when we do not feel loved.” –Gary Chapman.”]

At Kazoo, part of what we say we do is “foster happiness at work,” but in reality, that breaks down to fostering positive relationships between co-workers.  Through an effective recognition and rewards system, employees rise to eagerly and authentically motivate, encourage, and celebrate each other’s strengths. When accomplished effectively, an employee feels like a valued, integral part of the team.  In a substantial way, they feel cared for, and greatly care for their achievements at work, the people they work with, the clients they serve—sticking around even through the hard times. Just like in a marriage!

Returning to the Love Languages, Chapman examines that, when there’s a successful exchange of communication, it usually means that each other’s “Love Languages” are dually being spoken.  According to Chapman, they way people communicate their appreciation for one another breaks down in the following five categories: Quality Time, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Physical Touch, and Words of Affirmation.

There is no doubt that recognizing who speaks what language can transform your company into creative powerhouse of happy, motivated employees. And while “physical touch” may seem like an obvious office snafu, we’ll go into YEI-recommended ideas on how your employee recognition programs will benefit by speaking to all 5 types!


Quality Time

Ever notice which handful of employees immediately light up upon the onset of team-oriented activities?  These are probably folks who value “Quality Time” as their love language.  They are fluent in Happy Hours, one-on-one meetings to discuss projects with higher-ups, mid-day cafe outings with another co-worker, and team-building jaunts to the ice skating rink.  They make time in their schedule for the people they care for, and feel cherished when others do the same.  Incorporating rewards into your recognition systems that reflect opportunities for bonding is the best way to keep these employees motivated.  YEI ideas: offer monthly one-hour coaching sessions or classes from key leaders in company regarding special areas of interest.  Treat teams to an afternoon at an art exhibit, or science museum, to inspire brainstorm sessions that spawn fresh, unprecedented ideas that would grow a company’s visibility within the community.


Acts of Service

These people are the epitome of “Show, don’t tell.”  Instead of saying “I appreciate you,” these people are more likely to make sure the coffee supply is always full with your favorite roasts and creamers.  They volunteer to fix equipment that breaks, even if it’s not their job.  When a co-worker needs a ride to the office party, those who speak the language of Service are there.  Think of them as your company’s First Responders.  The best way to engage these unique individuals is to include ways they can serve into your employee recognition programs.  YEI ideas:  stay socially conscious by scheduling opportunities for employees to volunteer at organizations they love, like local animal shelters, or like we just did with Habitat for Humanity.  Schedule a “Random Acts of Karma” day, where all employees are encouraged to do something unexpected and helpful for a co-worker.


Receiving Gifts

It’s the person who, every employee birthday and holiday, shows up with a handful of goodie bags.  To them, gifts are a symbols of appreciation, ripe with opportunity to show the connection they value so highly.  It is not uncommon for the line of thought of a gift-giver and receiver to be: “I was listening to you when you said you loved cooking, so I got you this knife set.”  Gifts show forethought and special care.  For the gifters of the office, it is best to include topical and specific objects into your recognition programs that an employee can redeem for herself, or for the ones whom she cares for deeply.  YEI ideas:  gift cards to local, health-sensitive restaurants for your gluten-free, vegan co-workers.  Or, redeem reward points to host a team happy hour!


Physical Touch

Let’s extend “physical touch” to the larger realm of Tactile Opportunity.  These are the folks who undoubtedly extend a handshake or hug to those they encounter, no matter the setting.  When they speak, they gesture and animate, smack their knees after a punchline, hi-5 their co-workers, or pat someone on the back to emphasize a job well done.  Kinetic learning is their primary mode of operation, therefore making it more likely for someone with such sensitivities to even create mini models or 3-D graphs of their ideas at work. They love elaborate presentations, where hands are being raised and other people feel included.  To motivate your kinetic office mates, include opportunities into your recognition programs that activate the type of liveliness that comes with a tactile experience. YEI ideas:  team sports activities, like soccer or bowling, that involve high-energy engagement.


Words of Affirmations

This one’s probably the most widely utilized when recognizing employees at work, and we definitely recommend it as a universal love language to pair with the others.  For those with affirmations as their mother tongue, reacting to others’ strengths immediately with words of why they’re so great is highly common.  For example, when a co-worker gets promoted to a new position, the person who speaks in affirmations would congratulate them with words of why they’re so awesome:  “With your stunning eye for innovation, there was no question you’d get the job as Art Director! Can’t wait for you to lead!” They leave cards, post-its, and other notes with similar exchanges.  Conversely, these people need affirmations in return to feel they are in line with what the company considers a noteworthy job.  Most of all, they value affirmations with lasting power.  YEI ideas:  buy a community chalkboard for the breakroom, where employees can write reasons they love their co-workers and company.  We take 30 seconds each Friday at our team lunch to talk about things and people that inspired us during the week.  Of course, Kazoo’s software makes the act of giving recognition as easy as posting to social media or sending an inspirational text!

[blockquote type=”pquote” content=”“Each person has the potential of making a positive impact on the world. It all depends on what you do with what you have. Success is not to be measured by the amount of money you possess or the position you attain but rather in how you use both. Position and money can be squandered or abused, but they can also be used to help others.” –Gary Chapman.”]

Which is exactly why we believe that investing in our employees’ happiness—and learning the language of how to best recognize their strengths—is the fastest, most effective way to sustain long-term company success.


What is your love language?  Write to us, and let us know!


For more creative ways to vamp up your employee recognition programs, check out our awesome affordable alternatives to Top Fortune 100 engagement ideas.  And for a dash of happy inspiration, here’s our latest short video where we interviewed a group of Millennials and asked them “What Does Happiness at Work Means to You?” 

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