SelectOne Blog

The Hierarchy of Needs in the Workplace


The Big Idea

We all know large constructs such as culture, values, community and generational dynamics are all important at a gut level but what do they really mean for most companies and why are they so important?

Let’s turn to someone from the 1930’s who might provide some insight: Abraham Maslow

I am assuming most people have a general idea of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (or do now thanks to Wikipedia). Maslow basically asserted our behaviors are motivated by a set of needs set according to escalating needs fulfillment. He proposed a more human explanation of motivation rather than the mechanical ideas of Skinner – stimulus/response – or the more exotic ideas of Freud – unconscious desires.

Lately, the hierarchy seems to be popping up everywhere - seminars on selling, webinars for new technology tools, books on just about any management theory you can imagine. The aspect of the pyramid is powerful as a framework to explain ideas that aim to self-actualize a product, service, experience or one’s self. It’s easy to see how the Hierarchy of Needs is so readily analogous to workplace situations today when we talk about organizational values, culture and social responsibility.

Practical Application

As a company, we are in the unique position to listen to employers and candidates every day and that is really the grist that powers our blogging mill. We want companies and job seekers alike to better understand how to actualize themselves. Here’s food for thought using the power of the pyramid:

Physiological - Fulfillment of basic needs: water, food, warmth, and air.

A bright setting that caters to basic needs and provides essentials for employees. We have toured high-growth start-up technology companies in bigger cities that spend close to $30,000/month on food and drinks and amenities for their employees. A well fed army travels a long distance;

 Safety - Provide a secure setting that is free from fear, protected from the elements and has order.

This can be as simple as terminating a bad manager or as complex as examining the basic mindset of executive management toward its people. Safe people are able to focus on grander pursuits;

Social - Love, friendship, intimacy, and social bonding.

This is so easy. At SelectOne, we have a culture committee and do things as a group once a month - your people are the lifeblood of the company and it is imperative to have fun with them and to play well together so they work together better. This creates organizational purpose and commitment;

Esteem - Achievement, mastery, self-respect, and respect of others.

Over the past 30+ years that I have worked with people, this is the #1 reason good people leave poor or just complacent companies. Create opportunity for growth; let your people know they are good; give sincere compliments for jobs done well; don’t be afraid to ask your people to stretch out of their comfort zone to achieve bigger things; celebrate excellence at all costs;

Self-Actualization - Realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, inner growth

While this is inherently a life-long, inner journey for us all, as a company the only way we can help actualize our staff is by providing a continuous learning culture via books, seminars, promoting community service and thoughtful discussion.

Maslow’s paradigm is still going strong today and is useful for coalescing many different ideas in the workplace. I like to see it through the prism of the hierarchy of us which is really true for every company and how it chooses to help elevate its people to a higher ultimate purpose in the world.

Enjoy your journey and always remember, the path to actualization is achieved one step at a time.

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