What Do Your Employees REALLY Want?

03 Oct 2016

Employees want to be appreciated. They want to know that they matter. 

If you wait until an annual performance review to acknowledge your employees, they may have already forgotten what they did. Most people don’t even remember what they ate for breakfast yesterday. Time is of the essence when it comes to showing appreciation. Let your employees know now that they did a great job. Don’t wait—because that extra bit of cheering does wonders for your bottom line.

The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.

-WIlliam James

Ask most people about their job and it’s quite predictable: They don’t feel valued. So the best way to keep your top talent is to regularly—and authentically—give them a pat on the back. Simple validation has the power to bring a huge smile to their face and a deeper commitment to your company. 

And by the way, there is no such thing as “too much recognition.” So lather it on thick—like BBQ sauce on ribs.

Appreciate Creatively

Add substance and variety to how you display your appreciation for their hard work. 

Consider, for example, the "5 love languages"—i.e., the five most common ways that human beings know that they're loved. Some people need all five, while others make due with just one or two. But knowing your love languages is key. They are:

  1. Receiving gifts
  2. Quality time
  3. Words of affirmation
  4. Acts of service
  5. Physical touch

What do these love languages—which are most often used to describe romantic relationships—have to do with appreciating your staff?

Absolutely everything.

Because even in the workplace, these are five ways you can express your gratitude and recognition. For example...


How about tickets to the next big game or a bottle of red wine? If you have an employee who always works with headphones on, they might appreciate a subscription to Spotify Premium. You can also add some pizazz to your employee’s desk with a cool desk calendar. Gifts make your employees feel special.

Quality Time

Quality time is giving someone your undivided attention. You can invite your employee out for a on-on-one lunch. Show your employees you care by hosting them at your house for dinner one night. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy (think pasta or pizza). Bringing the team together for an evening of casual conversation can be a great way of spending quality time with your employees.

Words of Affirmation

Verbal compliments and encouraging words are powerful communicators of appreciation. Write a thank-you card telling a staff member how much you appreciate their work. Take time to acknowledge employees in front of everyone else. People want their work to have meaning. And when you are slacking on verbal recognition, it’s essentially the same as ignoring their existence.

Acts of Service

If you find out that your employee is moving this weekend, offer to help them move. Or if they are driving to go take care of their parent in the hospital, have lunch delivered to them so they don’t forget to eat. Random acts of kindness don’t need to just be limited to your family; you can extend the circle to your employees so that they can feel valued by you.

Physical Touch

OK, so I’m not asking you to go around and start touching your staff—because that would be creepy. But you can bring a massage therapist into the office once a quarter for all your staff. You can also give a gift certificate to a spa.

If you diversify your appreciation in these five ways, you are bound to make all of your employees feel appreciated in the way they feel most appreciated. Some staff crave words of affirmation, while others want some swag. Best to cover all your bases, and in this way, give your employees what they really want: value, meaning, and appreciation.