Do You Know Your Employee’s Engagement Language?

By Jay Forte

In 1992, Gary Chapman wrote The 5 Love Languages, a book that illustrated how everyone primarily feels loved in one of five ways. Knowing our love language, and the love language of the important people in our lives, helps us better understand how to share what we need and how to better understand what others need from us. This awareness has changed countless relationships.

Since we spend so much time with the people we work with, it made me think about the relationships between manager and employee, one of the most critical performance relationships in any organization. Despite the importance placed on the ability for managers and employees to connect, the Gallup Organization’s State of the American Workforce report showed that nearly 70% of employees are disengaged in the workplace.

Perhaps even more disheartening is that disengagement levels are so high because of ineffective relationships between managers and employees, something that is seemingly so easy to fix. According to the Gallup, one in two employees who leave an organization leave because of their manager.

Perhaps the primary item missing from these manager-employee relationships is language. It’s not just about communicating; it’s about communicating effectively.

What if we could identify the engagement language that an employee needs so a manager can get it right more often? Knowing that we are all different and unique, why would we think a one-size-fits-all approach to connection, engagement and to making employees feel valuable would be effective?

I think there should be four types of employee engagement languages:

  1. Words of appreciation – some employees look for a compliment or supportive applause; it activates their inner higher performer. When an employee who thrives on being noticed for his or her hard work and contribution receives words of appreciation, it creates a great sense of personal value.
    • THINK: Who on your team needs this?
  2. Personal time – some employees like and need the one-on-one time with a manager. They feel valuable and important when their manager intentionally makes time to teach, guide or support in a personal way. Though all employees should have access to their manager in an intentional way, some employees are more actively engaged by personalized attention and time.
    • THINK: Who on your time needs this?
  3. Awards and gifts – some employees are more competitive than others and find trophies, awards or gifts more engaging. These can become tangible representations of effort, validation and applause that encourage and drive engagement.
    • THINK: Who on your team needs this?
  4. Development opportunities – some employees crave doing more, like having more responsibilities or having a larger influence. Selecting them for new and challenging activities, tasks and responsibilities activates and engages them.
    • THINK: Who on your team needs this?

Our greatest impact, influence and connection with our employees can only happen when we take the time to really know them. But how can we do this if we don’t take the time to know our own abilities and liabilities? Gaining clarity about our own attributes can help us more easily tune in to others. And doing this can help us learn their engagement language to better activate their engagement and inspire greater effort.

Important Questions from a Coach

1. What is your employee engagement language?
2. What is one thing you can start doing today to become more in tune with your employees’ engagement language?
3. How can you effectively touch each type of engagement language for your employee(s) or team?


Parts of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn, March 3, 2017.

Consider reading How to Succeed in Changing Times

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Be Impressed With Your World

By Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

Life is full of surprises, but the unfortunate reality is that we often miss them because we don’t pay attention to what happens in the little moments. We get stuck in habit mode and end up doing the same things over and over. No wonder life can seem boring.

When we’re stuck in our habits and playing life on repeat, we can find ourselves getting caught up in our little (and big) dramas.

So how do we get out of this rut? By learning to appreciate the unexpected. It could be…

  • The rainbow that appears after an afternoon rain.
  • The opening in traffic that lets you move ahead of the traffic jam.
  • The smile of a person who holds the door for you as you enter a store.
  • Your favorite flavor of gelato that makes you think of your trip to Rome.
  • The toddler who sits next to you on the plane and wants you to read a story to her.
  • The support of your colleagues who covered for you while you took your sick son to the doctor.
  • Brilliant fall foliage on a tedious business trip.

Tune in. Pay attention. Watch. Be impressed, amazed and astonished by what shows up. Look past the challenges and the disappointments and instead focus on the amazing. It’s always there, waiting for us to see it. By refocusing your perspective to see the opportunities, possibilities and options, you will find there is more right than wrong with you and your world.

You have been taught to find the problem, solve the challenge and focus on what needs repair. As you learned this, you can also learn to focus on the opportunity, the success and the things of high value. You choose what to focus on. One will drive you crazy, the other will make life remarkable.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. What impresses you most about your world?
  2. What can you do to see the opportunities and possibilities presented to you?
  3. How can you remind yourself to be continually impressed and surprised by life – both the ups and the downs, the challenges and the opportunities?

If you only listen to others, you will always find reasons to be unhappy, afraid or disappointed with your world. The world after all, seems pretty negative. But, you have a choice. You can choose to focus on what’s wrong or you can choose to tune in and pay attention to what is amazing in this moment, on this great planet, with other amazing people.

I choose the latter.


Consider reading Catch and Release.

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