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Staff turnover, or ‘employee churn’ is a leading issue facing businesses today, even against the backdrop of economic uncertainty and impending recession. Despite the high societal incentive to remain in post for many workers, more people than ever are engaging more actively with their own wants and needs in the workplace – something which fuelled the UK’s own brand of ‘Great Resignation’ at the start of 2022.

As a business, how can you meaningfully approach the costly issue of staff turnover? And how might ‘love languages’ come into play?

What is a Love Language?

The concept of the love language was popularised in the early 1990s by self-help guru Gary Chapman, in his book that aimed to help families and couples better understand their relationships with one another. He theorises that there are five distinct languages that we all figuratively speak, but one of which we prefer the most.

These languages range from acts of service to words of affirmation and even the giving of gifts, highlighting that sometimes we appreciate different things – and appreciate things differently. A loved one may be expressing their love in the form of physical touch, where you might prefer, or even expect, to receive love through quality time spent together.

How Do Love Languages Apply in the Workplace?

But how might this apply in the workplace? Chapman has adapted his framework to numerous different areas and themes over his decades-long career, which also saw him take love languages to the professional sphere. Here, ‘love’ might be substituted for ‘appreciation’, with employees and employers beholden to the same behaviours and pitfalls a personal relationship might experience.

Business card provider instantprint documented this through a survey of workers in the UK about their own love languages – as well as the ways in which those love languages translate in professional settings. They found that 53% of workers could identify their love language, with 33% of those preferring quality time and 28% preferring physical touch.

While certain love languages were more commonly preferred than others, the correlation between these and more favoured examples of office appreciation was not exact. Though the giving and receiving of gifts is a rare language amongst workers, receiving a pay rise is the second most popular form of workplace appreciation to receive.

Utilising Love Languages for Employee Retention

instantprint’s survey not only asked employees what their preferred love languages and forms of workplace appreciation were, but also the workplace appreciation they received – giving a clear picture of the disparity between employee desires and employee reality. While 29% of workers preferred to receive acts of service in the form of consistent feedback, only 19% of workers actually received this.

The lesson for employers here is to pay more attention to the specific needs of staff, on an individual basis as well as a holistic one. If your employees are not receiving the appreciation they are do in their preferred language, they are less likely to be deriving enough satisfaction from their work to stay. In adopting a more transparent form of conversation with employees, you can make effective changes that more equitably recognise staff wants and needs.