human resources specialist

The Science of Appreciation

Lately, the subject I’ve had the most conversations about is Engagement. Fortunately for me, this is a topic I am passionate about. As a self-professed HR Management Junkie, I can (and do) spend many an hour discovering and evaluating new ideas to further my own understanding and aid my practice. While brainstorming for a potential solution to an engagement issue, I came across some new research on the challenges and benefits of increasing engagement within the workforce via ‘authentic’ appreciation.

While I realize that expressing appreciation is not a new idea (hopefully we already engage in it without thought multiple times daily), the depth to which Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Paul White have delved into the topic intrigued me enough to want to share it.

Although most work places have some type of employee recognition or rewards program, the research conducted shows that many workers are still not feeling appreciated or valued. The programs are perceived as generic and impersonal and can inadvertently have a negative impact by placing recipients in uncomfortable situations. To avoid this, Chapman and White recommend using non-financial recognition as an avenue to increased employee satisfaction and engagement. Sounds too good to be true! But, it’s not.

I have long been a proponent of MBWA – Management by Wandering Around. If you are not familiar with the concept, it was brought prominence by Tom Peters who credits the leaders at Hewlett-Packard for making it part of the HP Way. But I digress…. A component of MBWA is acknowledging individuals and thanking them for their work. Sounds easy, doesn’t it…..

But is it? According to Chapman and White, there are 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, they are:

  • Words of Affirmation – appreciate verbal praise
  • Quality Time – appreciate a personal conversation
  • Acts of Service – appreciate help with a task or deliverable
  • Tangible Gifts – appreciate a special cup of coffee or the like
  • Physical Touch – encouraged by a handshake, fist bump or high five

Chapman and White postulate that everyone has a primary and secondary language of ‘appreciation’ and that the primary language is the one that employee/recipient feel the most encouraged by. Therefore, in order for the recipient to feel truly appreciated, the appreciation should be expressed in the ‘language’ understood by the recipient. This means that leaders need to learn different ways to communicate appreciation. This is “Authentic Appreciation”.

Some of the reported results are decreased absenteeism, increased retention and a happier work force. Although I have not seen any metrics to tie it to increased business results, it appears that authentic appreciation leads to increased engagement. If nothing else, making an attempt to better understand your colleagues and appreciate them is always a good thing.

Looking for support in developing Employee Engagement programs that effectively motivate your team and drive employee retention, satisfaction and performance? Salopek & Associates‘ team of experienced CPHR consultants work across Canada with organizations to develop HR processes and programs to help develop your people and business. Contact us today to chat about your challenges regarding employee engagement and learn how we can support you and your organization.



Human Resources Today – How To Take Employee Appreciation To The Next Level At Your Company

Tom Peters – Excellence: MBWA

Appreciation At Work – Improving Staff Morale Through Authentic Appreciation, Paul White

Chapman, G. & White, P. The 5 Languages of Appreciate in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People

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