Nov 12, 201210:46 AMLeader to Leader
with Terry Siebert
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: An employee engagement perspective
(page 1 of 2)
In discussions with business owners and organization leaders over the last few years, one of the recurring themes is that they are always looking for the kind of people who will take ownership of their jobs, and are also searching for ideas to foster that same sense of ownership with their existing team. What they want and need is an employee group that is 100% engaged in their jobs.
It is not surprising that “employee engagement” is such a hot topic in today’s business environment. Many of the organizations that we work with actively survey their employees to measure “engagement.”
Just to establish a working definition, employee engagement is when your people think through on their own or in a team what the business needs, connect to their part in it, and have the focus to carry out what has to be done regardless of the problems along the way. Their minds and hearts are in the game.
So, in the spirit of employee engagement, here is a fresh look at Maslow’s five-level hierarchy of needs. Remember that Maslow developed a view of human needs where people could move up levels only when the current level is satisfied.
Level 1 – Survival
This is the level that deals with the most basic of human needs: food, shelter, etc. It is not a level where employee engagement plays a strong role.
Level 2 – Security
In a business context, this is the level that refers to pension plans, health benefits, vacation days, etc. At best, positive changes in these areas are temporary motivators. However, if a company starts taking away or decreasing these benefits, it can be very demotivating and have a tremendous negative impact on employee engagement. We had a perfect example of this in Wisconsin when the Legislature passed Act 10, which took away collective bargaining rights for thousands of employees.
Level 3 – Belonging
This is the level that addresses a social need – the feeling that one is part of something bigger. In a business context, those who do not get this feeling from their place of work are not only not engaged, they will get it from somewhere else (their softball team, their church, their service club, etc.) or look for a new company.
Level 4 – Importance
Maslow indicated that this was an intrinsic sense of importance. No business can make people feel important, we can only foster and nurture an environment that supports this feeling. Engaged employees feel that they are a vital part of the success of their organization, and their efforts show it.
Level 5 – Self-Actualization
Reaching this stage, the emphasis is on what you can do for others. Recognition is not needed because it is established from within. Maslow contended that only
15% of people reach this level.