Most of us who made it through psych 101 in college—even if it WAS by the skin of our teeth—know something about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Years ago, the famed psychologist broke all human needs down into categories: those of basic survival and our more advanced needs. But this recent post from Jim Brennan on Compensation Café set me wondering: How can we use that model of needs to better understand our employees’ needs at work?
Specifically, where does survival end and engagement begin?
How we answer might mean the difference between a cadre of hostile disengaged workers who are basically camped out in your cubicles, and a cohesive group of higher-functioning team members who are pitching in and working together for the common good.
You see, Levels 1 & 2 in Maslow’s hierarchy are survival levels. Without them, we would not be able to live at all, because hunger, cold or stress would do us in. Likewise, in the workplace there are certain must-haves. Very few people would come to work without financial renumeration. And even fewer would come to work if doing so put their personal safety or health at risk.
But what about Levels 3, 4 & 5? Well, these are the engagement levels—the levels Maslow highlighted that make our lives worth living. They are also the levels that make our jobs worth having. (The “psychic income” that Derek Irvine talks about so often,).
Here’s another way of understanding it:
|In Maslow||In the Workplace|
|Level 1 – Physiological Needs
||Basic survival needs: water, air, food, and sleep.||Base pay and compensation|
|Level 2 – Security Needs
||Safety and security needs: Safe shelter from the environment and hostile forces.||Job security. A safe and secure working environment.|
|Level 3 - Social Needs
||Need for relationships: belonging, love, and affection.||Positive relationships with
co-workers and managers
|Level 4 – Esteem Needs||Need for things that reflect on self-esteem, personal worth, social recognition, and accomplishment.||Adequate recognition and reward programs|
|Level 5 – Self-actualizing Needs||A need for self-awareness, personal growth and the fulfillment of potential.||Effective talent and performance management|
The takeaway? All of your employees have social, esteem and self-actualization needs. If you’re not working on building positive social connections and cultures within your workforce, creating avenues for reward and recognition, or effectively managing your talent, then your employees are not engaged.
They’re only just surviving working for you.