This article on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and its correlation to the workplace was originally published in June 2019. All relevant content and statistics have been updated as of December 2020.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs establishes a hierarchy of basic human needs. Maslow’s table prioritizes, in ascending order, the fundamental means of survival — food, clothing, shelter, safety — as they progress to the more sophisticated, intangible necessities for achieving internal growth — a sense of belonging, self-esteem, self-actualization. As individuals move up the pyramid, they become more social and productive; each need contributes further to their full growth and potential. You can apply this same concept to the workplace. What are the basic elements your organization needs to provide for your employees to keep them engaged in their work? What will you need to provide further to maximize individual contribution to the company and increase overall employee satisfaction?
The first step is to determine the bare necessities to achieve success for your organization, individual departments, or specific roles. It’s essential to understand the consequences of ignoring these needs as you aim to build a highly motivated and engaged workforce. 90% of employees say when you meet their needs, they’re more likely to stay with a company. As they progress through each stage of the pyramid, you’re not only gaining loyalty, but the employee’s independence, confidence, and autonomy are bolstered along the way, too.
Bonus Material: Download Maslow's Hierarchy Pyramids for your onboarding, development, or company culture strategy!
An employee’s physiological needs are the tools and information required to get their job done. This stage is critical for progressing to the next stages and shouldn’t be overlooked, but if it’s the only thing you provide, your employees have no way to progress. An employee stuck at the bottom of the pyramid is a disengaged employee—the kind who only shows up for the paycheck.
Successfully meeting these basic needs while also providing a clear track to move up to the next stage requires a robust onboarding program that can shorten the employee’s time to productivity and provide them with the training to make it to the next level. 82% of new hires are more likely to stay with a company longer than three years if they go through exceptional onboarding.
Tip: Meeting the physiological needs of your employees doesn’t need to be complicated! Some ways to fulfill this pyramid level include paying employees on time, establishing an easy-to-use method for requesting time off, or offering benefits such as money management workshops.
During the Great Recession and its immediate aftermath, job security was a grave concern to a nervous workforce. But, today, with the current unemployment rate sitting at its lowest point since 1969, employees’ priorities have shifted from being able to keep their jobs to the benefits packages their employers can offer them. With a younger workforce placing a priority on work-life balance, safety to the modern worker means they have support for growing families, room for accidents, or can take a few extra days of vacation after a stressful, busy season.
Almost 60% of workers want paid family leave, and more than half of workers expect flexible or remote work options. And with ⅓ of all donations on GoFundMe’s website going to cover medical costs, a good health insurance program is critical to employees' sense of well-being in the workplace. Employees today need to feel supported, trusted, and cared for to reach the pyramid’s next stage.
Tip: Much of an employee’s safety needs are met by remaining consistent with pay and benefits. Offering a reliable form of health insurance and providing stable and consistent income can alleviate many of the stressors employees face within their personal and professional lives.
Organizations with a strong company culture outperform their competitors by 20%. But, employees need to feel as though they belong in that culture to stay engaged. One symptom of isolation, Imposter Syndrome — when you feel you don’t have competence for your role — affects 70% of people. Companies need to combat the sense their hires might have that they somehow haven’t earned the job they were given or don’t fit in with their colleagues.
True “belonging” means your employees are empowered to embrace their unique qualities and are themselves at work. Feeling isolated or hiding aspects of their personalities leads to increased worry at work, blocking them from building the esteem they need to progress.
Tip: Finding employees who mesh well with your organization’s culture will help ensure you fulfill employees’ needs for belonging. Using an ATS, you can screen candidates before interviewing them to see whether they would be a good fit for your organization.
Once employers have met the needs of the first few stages in the pyramid, they can begin to focus on professionally developing their team. Confident, competent workers who are independent self-starters are what managers look for in promotion candidates. Those who require little direction, possess the esteem necessary to take responsibility and accountability for their projects, and strive for improvement will be the chosen ones, and recognition is the top-cited motivational factor for producing great work. 79% of workers say they’ve left a job for lack of appreciation. Acknowledging good work when you see it, and rewarding those who produce it, is critical to meeting employees’ needs.
Tip: The best leaders work to coach their employees and support them in their professional development goals. Take some time to discuss your employees’ career goals and find methods of helping them achieve those objectives.
The pyramid’s peak — the self-actualized employee — continually and willingly aims for improvement, seeks challenges, and pursues meaningfulness in their work. 9 out of 10 employees state that they would be happy working for less money if they felt their work provided meaning to their lives. The top of the pyramid means fulfillment and is the ultimate career goal for every employee. It should also be the goal of management to help every employee reach the top of the pyramid into self-actualization. Self-actualized employees are the ones who think outside of the box, are highly productive, and are the most engaged among your workforce. Helping your workforce reach this stage doesn't just serve the employee, but the entire organization.
Tip: Check out how ClearCompany’s Employee Engagement Suite helps to supercharge your employees’ engagement levels.
Understanding and meeting your employees’ needs through each stage of the pyramid takes a strategic effort and an organized plan. ClearCompany has the tools you need to get a clear picture of your unique organizational needs. We’ve compiled this downloadable guide to creating your own Hierarchy of (Work) Needs. Still looking for more information? Reach out to one of our experts or sign up for your free demo of our comprehensive software suites.
As a Marketing and Event Manager, Meredith coordinates best-practice content and brand-awareness events for ClearCompany. With her career in HR tech, Meredith works closely with HR practitioners and is passionate about providing them with the tools and information they need to succeed.