The Hierarchy of Needs for Employee Engagement

Has your company cracked the employee engagement piece yet? Very few companies that I’m aware of seem to be happy with their levels of engagement and are constantly looking for new ways to tackle the issue.

Our friends and staff survey specialists at Scancapture have looked at employee engagement from a psychology point of view in the graphic above.

Do you remember Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs theory was fully expressed in his 1954 book Motivation and Personality. According to Wikipedia, the hierarchy remains a very popular framework in sociology research, management training, and secondary and higher psychology instruction. So why not apply it to employee engagement.

Maslow’s idea was that people have to satisfy basic human needs like eating, being safe and comfortable in your environment before you can start thinking about personal growth and intellectual development.

So how can we apply this in a workplace context? Let’s start from the bottom:

1. Survival

The updated model replaces the physiological step with survival, this means trading your time and effort in exchange for money so that you can keep your lifestyle ticking over and have food on the table. This step is, of course, integral to any type of career progression and personal development; without funds, you will struggle to move up the pyramid. There are of course a minority of people who are happy with taking risks, some would call them entrepreneurs, such as jumping ship to pursue your dream without having the money for it.

2. Security

Security is up next and it corresponds to the original safety need for Maslow. When we talk about security in the workplace, it’s job security — most people fear being laid off and having to look for something else. There are no longer jobs for life, not even in public service, but that doesn’t mean people have given up on wanting a stable career path. Two very important aspects of security would be whether a job is a fixed position and of course what the salary is — the answer to both of these should be satisfactory to the job seeker.

3. Belonging

Most big companies can hire people on a permanent basis and pay them well, at least when they require experienced people. Once somebody does get job security and a decent salary, what do they want next? Maslow would say love and belonging, in the workplace we’ll settle for belonging; holding trust and acceptance within a group. People have a need to be part of something bigger than themselves, typically something along with purpose as opposed to making more money.

4. Important

Almost at the top, we find esteem as a requirement for Maslow, in our pyramid, this has been converted into importance. An employee has to feel that they’re making an important contribution to the organization. As long as everyone within the company knows how their job fits in with the bigger picture and how they help to push the business forward, they ought to feel their work is important.

5. Self-actualisation

Finally, we’ve reached the apex of our hierarchy of needs, and just like with Maslow we’re in the market for self-actualization. Most people have high ambitions but only about 15% reach this level of being highly engaged. The individual who has achieved self-actualization will inspire others to do their best and always ask what they can do for others.

RELATED: 10 Shocking Stats About Employee Engagement.

By Jörgen Sundberg

Founder of Undercover Recruiter & CEO of Link Humans, home of The Employer Brand Index.