How to respond to employees' needs and engage them

Written by Simon Stapleton, Andy Dean and Tim Evans on 16 July 2019 in Features
Features

Does Maslow's work link to a more engaged business? Simon Stapleton, Andy Dean and Tim Evans can tell you more.

Reading time: 4m 30s.

Business and psychology have a direct correlation in that management and organisational applications are linked with human psychological requirements.

Abraham Maslow’s conceptualisation of human needs (1954) stated that individuals have to satisfy basic desires: warmth, safety and security, love and belonginess, and esteem; the organisational version of this same theory can be applied to corporate culture in the attainment of organisational goals and objectives.

Physiological

Physiological needs refer to our most fundamental, biological drives such as food, shelter and oxygen; the most primitive needs which determine survival.

On an organisational level, employees within a business require wages to maintain a reasonable standard of living, rest times during/between shifts, alongside a safe working environment to perform at their most productive.

An exhausted employee is unlikely to make an adequate contribution to a business, while similarly, employees pushed to the point of dehydration or hunger by their jobs are likely to become disenfranchised and disengaged from the working environment, and will underperform as a result.

Safety

Maslow proposed that the fulfilment of physiological needs enables people to look beyond this elementary level and instead focus on the need for security. In a literal sense, a workplace, which is physically safe, results in a workforce with peace-of-mind that it’s protected from harm.

An important consideration for any company to bear in mind, is that just as individual members of a workforce can self-actualise, so too, can an entire organisation by aligning itself with an objective which extends beyond solely generating profit.

However, within a business setting, this need extends beyond the literal and further encompasses the emotional wellbeing of staff.

Employees want to function in the working environment safe in the knowledge that their wellbeing is taken care of and that their positions are secure; adequate medical and retirement benefits, for instance, provide workers with a sense of security which spares them from stresses that would otherwise compete for mental space within their daily jobs.

It’s an employer’s prerogative to establish and maintain a stable working environment in which employees feel recognised for their hard work and feel they have job security, at present, alongside overarching financial security over the long-term.

However, these measures ensure focus is maintained, further boosting productivity and job performance as well as levels of high engagement overall.

Love and belongingness

While the first two levels of the hierarchy should be part and parcel of a working environment, the next class of needs can often prove more complicated to apply within a corporate setting; implementing a workplace culture where employees feel they matter and belong.

An employee who feels unfulfilled or doesn’t belong within a business is more likely to disengage and feel unaligned with the values of a business. Yet, an employer can bypass this by facilitating an environment where people work in teams and are able to collaborate freely.

 

It’s also important to remember that employees connect on a social level; encouraging employees to engage in social activities at work as well as outside of the workplace such as through company-sponsored events, will help to strengthen social bonds between colleagues and promote a sense of belonging which can have wider impact.

A recent survey by Center for Talent Innovation found that employees who feel they belong are 3.5 times more likely to be productive, motivated and engaged. Providing employees with regular feedback is also crucial in fostering a sense of belonging, as this type of evaluative information can provide a reminder to employees that they are well-regarded and important.

Esteem

With employees spending an average of 35-40 hours a week in the workplace, feeling as if they fit in and are a valued part of the organisation are important motivating factors.

At the esteem level, workers want to feel appreciated, important and gain a sense of accomplishment in their professional lives, and a business can achieve this in various ways. For example, recognition through bonuses, awards and promotions goes a long way to making employees feel acknowledged for a job well done.

Self-actualisation

While prior needs are reasonably broad and commonly rooted in human nature, the final part of the hierarchy mainly concerns what is unique within the self; therefore, one employee’s self-actualisation is unlikely to be akin to another’s.

A business can assist in enabling employees to reach this apex by acknowledging the growth employees are likely to experience if they should undergo ‘self-actualism’ and are prepared to adjust accordingly. 

An important consideration for any company to bear in mind, is that just as individual members of a workforce can self-actualise, so too, can an entire organisation by aligning itself with an objective which extends beyond solely generating profit.



Traditional employee survey methods haven’t yet found a way to align to the true feelings of people and are barely scratching the surface. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can help shape our deeper understanding of what employees are after in a workplace, allowing businesses to drive engagement, productivity and success in the future.

But when we are asked an important question about how we feel in the office, we shouldn’t be made to think as the conscious bias creeps in and we go against our emotions, in favour of a rational thought. Our feelings are what drive our actions and thoughts, not the other way around.

Gaining feedback based on the gut feelings and sentiments can be achieved with the help of neuroscience, where we employ the power of affirmations, not questions.

 

About the authors

Simon Stapleton, Andy Dean and Tim Evans are the co-founders of Truthsayers®. 

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