How to create a culture of gratitude and speak the 5 languages of appreciation

In last week’s post, we discussed the scientific benefits of gratitude—how research studies show that practicing gratitude produces healthier and happier individuals and workplaces. This week, we will take it one step further to discuss how you, as a leader, can apply these concepts to transform your entire organization. Leaders who effectively create a culture of gratitude simultaneously create a culture of engagement, where employees feel valued and motivated, resulting in stronger productivity, profitability, retention, customer satisfaction, and more. So how can you create a culture of gratitude?

Start with these six steps:

  1. Commit to practicing gratitude on a regular basis individually (on your own). This will enable you to recognize the value of the practice and more naturally weave it into your organization. Read my last post for tips on how to do this. People follow leaders whose words and actions align. If you want your employees to embrace the concept, then lead by example. 
  2. Incorporate gratitude into team meetings. A simple five minutes on the agenda will ensure you maintain the practice. With a previous team, we created a traveling trophy (it was a cheap, funny statue from a thrift store). At each team meeting, whoever last received the trophy took time to thoughtfully recognize another team member and pass the trophy to him/her. The trophy continued to travel as a new team member was recognized each month. Encouraging your employees to regularly recognize each other is important. In fact, studies suggest that 70% of employees claim their peers are the most critical component of creating an engaging workplace. 
  3. Remember to say “thank you." In my last post, I mentioned a research study that was conducted on university fundraisers. Intentional gratitude offered by the fundraisers' leader produced 50% higher productivity. It's simple but powerful—thank your employees for their efforts and do it often.
  4. Make it a practice to tell employees one thing you appreciate about them in every one-on-one meeting (note: you should be holding one-on-one meetings with direct reports on a weekly or bi-weekly basis).
  5. Ensure you move beyond recognition to appreciation. Recognition focuses primarily on external behavior and employee performance, but appreciation values the whole person. “Appreciation is about people and their value,” says Mike Robbins, author of Bring Your Whole Self to Work. “You create an environment where people feel valued and appreciated for who they are, not just what they do.” 
  6. Avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. Each person’s language of appreciation is different and we risk miscommunication if we assume everyone likes to receive a card, a coffee, or public praise. The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, by Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Paul White, can help you identify each individual’s language of appreciation and learn how to adjust your communication and actions to better connect with them. Reference this guide to learn how to "speak" the five different languages: 
Languages of Appreciation.png

As you take these steps, do so with authenticity and sincerity—simply checking the box won’t drive a culture change. When you create an environment where people feel valued and appreciated, they will show up in new and powerful ways, motivated to fully engage and bring their best selves to work each day.


Abbey Louie

Abbey uses over a decade of talent management experience to help organizations drive business results through effective leadership practices and enhanced employee engagement. She is passionate about empowering individuals and teams to be their best. She's also a mom to two sweet girls, a wife to one good man, and a fan of running and hosting dinner parties.