Abraham Maslow was born in 1908. Just 35 years later, he would change the world of psychology forever with his theory that became known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
The principles of the theory were strong then, and they are strong now, as they can still be used within modern workplaces to help managers and human resources staff to better understand and motivate their employees.
What is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?
In its most basic form, the Hierarchy of Needs is a five-step process of gaining what we want in life. This process is depicted as a pyramid, not unlike the food pyramid, with five portions from bottom to top.
Maslow suggested that it’s a form of motivation, with each next step appealing to the individual to help them strive further up the hierarchy. Most importantly, the theory suggests that each step cannot be achieved until the one below it has been accomplished.
On the bottom row is the most basic needs – the physiological ones such as food, water, warmth, shelter, air and sleep.
Level two is comprised of safety needs including freedom from fear, law, stability, security, and order.
Level three, still continuing up the pyramid, is the need for love and belonging, which comes in the form of friendships and relationships of all forms.
Level four is needs of esteem. This means humans need status, prestige, self-respect, independence, achievements, and respect from others.
Finally, the fifth and final level is that of self-actualisation, which is the need for personal growth, realising one’s own potential, and self-fulfillment.
How can you use Maslow’s Hierarchy in the workplace?
This pyramid of needs can be used as a tool to help you first understand your workers, then motivate them.
Consider each employee individually and try to establish where on the pyramid they sit in terms of their work.
If, for example, they do not feel secure in their job due to changes in management or unstable office politics, you may need to address these concerns before the staff member can improve.
Staff members who are new to the workplace may be a good example of someone who first needs to achieve level three (relationships and belonging) before they can start making achievements, earning respect and feeling independent. For this, you could organise corporate bonding sessions to help ensure those bonds exist within the work environment.
As you move further up the pyramid it may be harder to identify the needs of each staff member. If you notice that a worker doesn’t have a lot of self-respect, or hasn’t had any ‘wins’ (achievements) lately, it might be a good time for some positive feedback and a reminder of the great work they have done.
Remember, your job is to help them meet each level of needs so that they can achieve the fifth level, which is arguably the ideal level for a priceless employee, as they will continue to strive to meet their own potential and to continue growing and learning.