American psychologist Abraham Maslow first published the hierarchy of needs theory in 1946. In his paper, he created five categories of human necessities which, according to him, need to be checked to fulfil one's existence and achieve self-actualization. This idea is useful for creating a work environment which takes workers' needs into account, and improves employee satisfaction. In this article, we will break down the theory and demonstrate why it can be a useful human resources strategy for building a sense of fulfilment and gratification in work environments. We will also examine how to create a flowchartusing these ideas to identify how and which parts of this approach can be helpful, depending on the occasion.
Maslow classed the five needs in a pyramid, with the basic ones at the bottom, and vital to achieving those on the top. That's where the idea of hierarchy comes in. Depending on their level, each employee will have different motivations, and will always try to resolve the demands of the stage in question, in order to “climb” to the one above.
These are essentials for the survival of every human being, including shelter, food, water and good health. Without them, any level of well-being is impossible. If someone is stranded in a lifeboat, for example, their motivation will be to find food above all else.
These are the things that make people feel secure in their lives. There are two ways of interpreting this: the physical aspect of being safe from threats and disease, and the financial aspect, i.e. having enough economic stability to guarantee a place to live, a stable source of income, and enough savings to deal with potential emergencies. For example: an unemployed person with no income may see the bills start to pile up, and their primary concern and motivation will be to get a job and secure their safety needs.
This is the most social element of Maslow’s pyramid. Being part of a community and having a support groupis very important for communal creatures such as humans. In this category, Maslow includes needs such as intimacy and authentic friendships.
As the famous poem by John Donne says: no man is an island. Loneliness and alienation can lead to depression. So anyone lacking that primary human connection will not be able to climb further up the pyramid of needs without it.
Here is another hierarchical level which is rooted as much in the social condition as in individual perceptions. This category is concerned with how people perceive themselves and how others perceive them.
The key here is respect, both from others and from yourself. Once you have it, you can grow in confidence and independence.
This is the top tier of the pyramid. Self-actualization needs involve living life to your full potential. It is the most personal category of all, since everyone has differing life goals, values and desires.
These needs require a sense of purpose, achievement and contentment in order to bring about fulfilment.
This theory is a great tool for identifying and organising aspects that are missing in order to elevate one’s own sense of well-being. In the workspace, it acts as a guide on how to guarantee motivation and gratification among workers.
The first tier of the pyramid is just basic stuff, but the "love and belonging" and "esteem" needs, when applied to one’s profession, can be heavily influenced by one’s environment. By creating a sense of community among employees, and engaging them in playful activities, bonds are likely to be formed, and third-tier needs fulfilled.
Esteem needs can be met by always acknowledging when someone does a good job. Giving rewards and praise are excellent strategies for letting employees know that their work is appreciated, thus boosting their confidence and desire to achieve more.
As for the top tier, these are very personal needs, as we have seen. But there is some room for manoeuvre, depending on the occasion. When an employee wants to acquire a new skill - learn a language, for example - it may be a good idea to invest in it, if doing so will improve their job performance and the company can afford it.
Of course, every work environment has its own unique quirks, and this must be considered when applying Maslow's theory. Keep in mind the hierarchical aspect, and build a flowchart to pinpoint what you are missing - once this is resolved, you can move on to the next issue. In this way, you will be sure to improve employee satisfaction and motivate your workers.