Hierarchy of…employee satisfaction


Jez Styles recently posted an interesting article, applying Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to employee performance and satisfaction. I’d like to respond to that because I think it is a really important concept.

In case you’re not a fellow psychology nerd, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs basically is a pyramid that asserts the most important and foundational needs a person requires are physiological, then safety, then belonging, then esteem/respect, and finally self-actualization at the top. The original idea asserted that it is hard for a person to reach the next level up if a more pressing foundational need is not met. There have been multiple discussions about this idea in the last 50 years and most agree it’s probably not a black and white concept but it is a valuable concept.

Styles does an interesting job applying it to the work environment, suggesting that the employee’s hierarchy of needs are: 1. pay  2. job security  3. belonging  4. sense of value  5. will i grow/develop.  I think this is a commendable application but I do not believe it’s a pyramid.

I’d like to suggest that employees, especially in a millenial and post-millenial society, desire all of these to be met simultaneously. The days are waning where employees just want to “make a buck” (even though those situations are still out there and physiological needs are probably still the most important to meet completely). If you look at it from a productivity standpoint, the most productive employees are employees who have all 5 of those categories met. They are paid well enough to live. They do have job security. They’re constantly reassured that they belong. They believe they have value and are reminded of it reguarly. And definitely not last or least, they believe that they can grow, learn, and advance personally and professionally in their profession.

How often do we as employers and leaders analyze each employee on these five levels and ensure that they’re being done right by us? Do we stress certain areas more than we ought to and neglect others? How can we provide better balance to our most valuable asset, our workforce? Important questions to analyze and balance is paramount.

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