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Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in Employee Engagement

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We often seek guidance from psychological frameworks to create a workplace where employees are happy and productive.

One of those theories is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs framework, which emerges as a beacon offering profound insights into what truly motivates employees.

This blog reveals the transformative power of Maslow's hierarchy of needs in employee engagement to create happier and more successful teams.

Let's start the blog by grasping the fundamentals of the model.

The Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs Model

We are all familiar with Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory. This theory focuses on humans' fundamental needs in a five-tier pyramid model.

Abraham Maslow proposed his theory "Maslow's hierarchy of needs " in his 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation" in Psychological Review.

Maslow classifies the needs that humans need as follows.

  • Physiological needs

  • Safety needs

  • Love and belonging needs

  • Esteem needs

  • Self-actualization

The sequence in which these needs are classified has its significance and is not coincidental.

According to Maslow, humans must meet their physiological needs first before they meet their safety needs. And when these two needs are met, humans intrinsically move to seek love and belonging needs and so on.

Humans seek higher goals and desires to live a healthy and meaningful life. Or try to meet the needs at the individual levels to complete the hierarchy.

A Brief Look at the Hierarchical Levels

1. Physiological needs

These biological needs are essential for survival, such as food, air, water, shelter, clothing, warmth, sex, and sleep.

They are generally the basics and the most important for optimum human function. One can only survive or move to the next level if these needs are met.

2. Safety needs

Once the physiological needs are met, safety needs become more critical. At this level, people seek safety and security to protect themselves, experience predictability, and control their lives.

These needs are met by family and society at large, for example, by having emotional security, financial security, social stability, law and order, health, and well-being.

3. Love and belonging needs

After the physiological and security needs, people long for deeper human bonding and love from their surroundings. The need for interpersonal relationships triggers in this stage.

Examples are friendships, intimacy, trust, acceptance, receiving and giving affection, and love.

4. Esteem needs

The fourth level of Maslow's hierarchy of needs emphasizes esteem needs. We can classify it into two categories-

  • Esteem for oneself- It is rooted in independence, mastery, dignity, or personal achievement.

  • Esteem from others- You also boost your esteem when others acknowledge and respect you.

5. Self-actualization needs

Maslow describes this level as the desire to accomplish everything that one puts their mind to, to become the best possible self. It is to become aware of one's true potential and consciously use it for self-fulfillment, personal growth, and peak experiences.

The perception of this level varies from person to person. Some might fulfill it by becoming a world-class athlete. Others might find it in expressing creativity through diverse art forms.

Maslow's Hierarchy And Employee Engagement

As Maslow's theory explains, all five needs are critical and intended to track human growth and development. We can apply the same theory to understand employees' engagement and why maintaining hierarchy levels is essential.

However, it's essential to recognize the sequential progression of employee needs within the organizational context to bridge into the workplace version of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Let's get deeper into it.

You need certain things to feel good about being at your workplace and doing your job well, right? But the essential thing you need from your job is money. Money pays for your needs, like food and rent.

Once you have enough money, you want to feel secure about your job and be reassured that you'll still have a job tomorrow or next month. Also, constantly worrying about losing your job makes it hard to focus on doing your best work.

But interestingly, once you have money and feel secure about your job, you still want more from your work. You seek belongingness, a healthy work culture, cooperative colleagues, and supportive bosses.

Finally, you start looking for recognition for what you put into your work. You want to feel like you're making a difference and growing professionally and personally.

Now, let's understand each stage in detail concerning Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Theory.

Physiological Needs

In terms of the workplace and employee engagement:

Physiological Need = Money + Tools and Resources

When an employee starts a new job, their salary matters most. That's like the foundation of a building. Another thing that they require to meet their physiological needs is the tools and information they require to complete their tasks.

While this step is commonly seen as basic, paying attention to it is crucial because it lays the groundwork for moving forward. However, if it's the sole focus, employees may feel trapped at the bottom and become disengaged, merely showing up for the paycheck.

Safety Needs

Safety Needs= Safe Work Environment + Work-life Balance

In the next level of Maslow's hierarchy in employee engagement comes the 'safety needs.' Although safety for a modern employee always meant job security, it has recently changed its scope. After the COVID-19 pandemic, employees now look forward to a safe, hazard- and stress-free working environment. Moreover, they now look for workplaces that support maximum work-life balance.

Reports say that 74% of millennial employees now expect paid family leave, and half of them are looking out for remote jobs.

Thus, employees now want to feel safe and supported; otherwise, employers risk lower retention and engagement rates.

Improve employee well-being by offering mental health support programs and resources. According to SHRM's 2022 Employee Benefits Survey, a staggering 90% of employers claim to provide mental health coverage. It can include access to counseling services, stress management workshops, and mindfulness sessions to help employees navigate ongoing challenges and uncertainties.

Belonging Needs

Lack of a sense of belonging is one of the top three reasons employees quit during the current Great Resignation.

Belonging = Love + Camaraderie + Inclusion

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace have gained immense significance recently. 42% of employees consider it a top priority while choosing their employer.

Today, DEI has extended itself into DEIB where B stands for belonging.

Employees feel safe, supported, and valued when they feel they truly belong. They're unafraid to share their thoughts and ideas, knowing they have the support of their colleagues and leaders.

It marks the beginning of a highly engaged workforce, where team members actively contribute and make a tangible impact on the organization's success.

Promote belonging by organizing team activities that foster inclusivity. From group projects to team lunches, creating chances for personal connections enhances engagement and productivity.

Esteem needs

At this engagement stage, employees want to feel valued and find meaning in their work. Only then will they put effort into their work and be less likely to quit.

So, how do you help your employees meet this level?

Recognition is a powerful motivation for employees to feel a sense of purpose at work. Implementing a peer-to-peer recognition system where employees can recognize and celebrate each other's accomplishments would be even better.

It reinforces a culture of appreciation and strengthens team cohesion and morale.

Also, you could ask for and act upon employee feedback frequently.

Read our blog on: Effective Employee Feedback Examples To Drive Growth

It will keep them engaged when they feel that their opinions are valued.

Helping your workforce reach this stage doesn't just serve the employee but the entire organization in terms of profitability.

Self-Actualization Needs

They often term this stage as the "room to grow."

Employees who reach the self-actualization stage are already engaged and inspired. They are hardworking, curious, and creative—they tend to think outside the box. They want to improve their skills further and become subject experts in their respective fields.

All they need is a little more push to reach their optimum efficiency. Help them unlock their potential by guiding them to recognize their strengths and providing avenues for skill development. Foster meaningful connections through mentorship initiatives and informal coffee meetups across departments.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, adopting Maslow's hierarchy of needs in employee engagement offers a strategic blueprint for companies striving for overall success.

While survival is possible without employee engagement, true profitability and success depend on a happy, committed, and cohesive workforce.

By understanding and addressing the higher-level needs of employees, such as a sense of belonging, recognition, and employee development opportunities, businesses can cultivate a culture of engagement that fuels growth and achievement.

This article is written by Susmita Sarma, a digital marketer at Vantage Circle. She was involved with media relations before shifting her interest to research and creative writing. Apart from being a classical music buff, she keeps a keen interest in anchoring and cooking. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com

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