How Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs influences employee engagement

By Scancapture Ltd

02 Sep 2014

You may have heard about a work issue called employee engagement? Some of you will understand what it is, and others may view this as a HR buzzword that doesn't really mean anything to you or your team at work.

By Scancapture.

For the past few months we have been working with the great Michael Finnigan at i2i exploring the psychoanalytical side behind Employee Engagement. The story starts with the eminent psychologist Abraham Maslow and his much lauded (and later criticised) hierarchy of needs model.

Maslow argued that individuals needed to satisfy basic needs such as warmth, safety and security in order to then realise their own personal growth and development. The same theory can be applied to how an organisation treats and engages with their staff.

For many people the basic needs of a job are that the salary allows them to pay the bills and live a lifestyle they have become accustomed to. Having a sense of financial independence is innate in almost all of us with very few people brave enough to run a risk and disregard monetary reward in favour of other factors. For many of us this is SURVIVAL.

Next comes a sense of stability and what is commonly known as job SECURITY. Given the volatile nature of the job market, most people fear the thought of losing their job and the prospect of having to join the unemployment line. Whilst the concept of a ‘job for life’ is all but dead, people generally crave security and structure in the workplace – and much like salary would put this above other aspects of a job.

Let’s face it, whilst we may like to think we’re motivated by other criteria, the two questions we often ask when reading job ads are “what’s the pay?” and “is it a permanent position?”. When these two things don’t meet our needs the job instantly becomes less attractive to us.

Many larger employers have no issues satisfying those needs, especially when it comes to higher level positions. A big company recognises the importance of attracting the best talent. But what do you do once you have them? This is where Maslow’s needs theory really comes into play. The next level in the needs hierarchy is a sense of BELONGING and holding trust and acceptance within a group.

Organisational structures generally follow a team principle so creating a sense of camaraderie should just come naturally right? Employees need to feel like they are part of something bigger but that they are also valued and their contribution is valuable to the business. This can only be achieved by instilling those beliefs from the top-down whilst also creating a sense of parity between staff and senior management.

This leads us on to the thing that really enables individuals to engage with their job and the company they work for – a sense that their contribution is IMPORTANT. This feeling of significance, especially within a large company is absolutely vital if a member of staff is going to feel any real affinity and advocacy towards their paymasters. If you make your staff feel as though they are integral to the company’s values and goals then that’s when you have reached the high engagement holy grail.

But how do you achieve this? And how do you take engagement even further? One of the key things as an employer is displaying a genuine concern and interest in your staff’s progression and development within the company. Most people harbour some kind of ambition and want to move forward so the important role of the organisation is to harness that ambition and facilitate an individual’s growth. When employees have access to opportunities this is meeting their SELF-ACTUALISATION needs and will enable them to be highly successful and become an asset to the organisation, inspiring others along the way.

But how do you determine where on the Needs spectrum your employees actually are? At Scancapture, we have created a new employee engagement survey programme that answers the question - where would the employees from my company sit? The survey from Scancapture will not only give you this information but also allow you to rank your staff on the Needs Hierarchy and provide detailed guidelines on the actions required to move them up the ladder from ‘just surviving’ to highly engaged, productive individuals.

Enjoyed this? Read more from Scancapture Ltd

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